Lisa's Mum answers your CX questions

Earlier, I promised to write about things you'd like to hear about on request. @bikesanddogs on Instagram asked me about the differences  between European and American CX racing. It's a good question, and one that requires a considered response, so I've called Lisa's Mum* to the plate. *Lisa's Mum, world-renowned road cycling expert -turned CX afficianado, former understudy to the Paul Sherwen/Phil Liggett Tour de France commentary team, currently completing PhD on Everesting.

Lisa's Mum likes European CX racing because she enjoys mayonnaise, frites, and second-hand cigar smoke in equal measure. She also enjoys being paid to START races, rather than finish them, because it appeals to her je ne sais quois air of casual indifference that characterises many Euro CX pros racing in February. Before world champs (typically the last weekend in January), riders are dead keen. You can tell they're frothing for a good world champs by how narrowly their eyes slit when asked if they want dessert. AFTER world champs, however, one turns up, one collects one's start money, and one turns one's pedals in anger. Then one retires to the campervan and eats speculoos. 

In America, people seem to be keen ALL THE TIME. Very few gallic shrugs have been observed in Sacramento thus far. America is also the home of the hand-up, a tradition dear to cross riders everywhere, and slowly making its way into Australian CX racing when the commissaire is not looking.* Last year at Cross Vegas a young Focus compatriot of mine almost paid for his trip with handup money, although he did have to drink a lot of bourbon. Luckily, he is Australian.

*@bikesanddogs I notice you did not ask about Australian racing, presumably because of shyness. Fortunately Lisa's Mum can tell that you are really bursting to know about the emerging CX scene down under

European racing is also COLD. Cold enough to require three layers of merino before breakfast. Cold in a 3-pairs-of-kit-at-each-race type cold. Cold enough that you don't take gatorade to races; you take soup. Lisa's Mum was not present at the 2013 world champs in Louisville, Kentucky (where it was so cold that water froze on bikes as the pit crews were blasting them), but appreciates that the US enjoys a spectrum of racing conditions not seen in Europe. The first world cup in Las Vegas next week, for example, is forecast to be around 40 deg C, a temperature not seen in Belgium since Sven set fire to his enormous campervan at Superprestige Hoogstraaten. This means that European riders must learn to master foreign actions like mounting bidon cages and wearing short sleeves. Time will tell how this will go. 

Lisa's Mum is open to receiving more questions from her public so that she can flex her CX grey cells. Hit her up at @LJridehappy on Instagram/Twitter, or pop a comment below. 

Cross Vegas, baby!

I'm writing this from the plane en route to Los Angeles. It's around 11am Melbourne time but almost 6pm Californian time, which makes it almost G&T o'clock. It's been a big week, and I've spent most of it looking forward to a complimentary in-flight G&T. The week leading up to an overseas racing trip is always action-packed, not just because of all the bike stuff to sort but also because it's a mission to get work to an acceptable level of chaos before leaving the country. I never forget how lucky I am in weeks like these. One of the reasons why I stepped back from road cycling, apart from pasta fatigue, was its incompatability with my real job; now, thanks to technology and an amazing boss, I can go to World Cups and check in with work between races.  I am travelling with The Amazing Paul, who has worked harder than I have this week, fuelled largely by the promise of burritos and file treads once we hit California. So far this morning T.A.P has managed to talk our way into the Express customs queue, magic 60kg of checked-in luggage into 45kg and have two short macchiatos lined up before I could say 'Tourist Refund Scheme'. 

Our race schedule looks like this:

  • 12 Sept: Sacramento GP, CA
  • 16 Sept: Cross Vegas World Cup, NA
  • 19 Sept: White Park CX, NH
  • 20 Sept: Sucker Brook CX, NH
  • 23 Sept: Midnight Ride of CX, NH
  • 26 & 27 Sept: Gloucester GP, MA

Both Sacramento and Cross Vegas we raced last year, and we're looking forward to coming back. I haven't raced in New England before, so all the races after Vegas will be a new experience. I'll do my best to keep you updated. Drop me a comment if there's anything in particular you'd be interested in hearing about, otherwise it'll be all craft beer and tyre pressure. 

Ride happy (race 'cross)

Boels International Classic Heerlen

Although I do love racing, today I had one of those days when I looked in the mirror and thought, why can't I be like those normal people who sleep in on the weekend and go have brunch? Why do I keep doing this?

My mum last week helpfully reminded me that there must be something about it I enjoy, because I keep doing it. And after every race I usually find that something. But before... That's when I have my brunch moments.

Today, despite the initial brunch moment, was a really good day. I finished 6th in a smoking field, won by Sanne Cant, followed by Niki Harris, Ellen Van Loy, Helen Wyman, Sanne Van Paassen, then me. All these girls are top-10 World Cup material so I'm super stoked. It's really encouraging to see steady improvement, and although I'm still a long way off getting my campervan it's a huge boost to be steadily working my way up the field. I've got a goal of a top 20 at worlds 2016 which I think just might be doable with a bit of hard work this year.

The course was slippery and muddy- it was forecast to snow but we got away with hail which thankfully cleared before race start. I got some advice from Stefan Wyman, Helen Wyman's husband and mechanic, on tyre pressure, and he recommended I go with 13/14 psi which worked really well. I was running FMB super muds on one bike and FMB slaloms on the other, and they were amazing.

A huge shout out to my pit crew, Christian and Dirk, who kept my bike changes smooth. shouted encouragement and generally worked a lot harder than I did today. And of course Focus - if you haven't tried their 2015 Mares do yourself a favour and test ride one. They are awesome. And finally Rapha- their winter collection has saved me from pneumonia many times over. I'll do a post a bit later about clothes and race wear, because it's a whole world of costume changes here on race day, and has to be seen to be believed.

Tomorrow- last race of 6- Oostmalle. Sandy and cold. And then like a good student after a set of exams I'm going to go and drink beer.

Ride happy.

The road to CX worlds

Cyclocross worlds are 3 days away and I still can't really believe I'm here. It's all seemed just a crazy plan for so long now that I almost managed to convince myself that it was. But here we are. After I won nationals, I remember someone asked me whether I'd consider going to world champs and I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud. But then I talked to the Supercoach, and she reminded me that here was a type of racing for which it was possible to train in limited time, and that here was a new challenge that would keep us all happily occupied for the Summer. And so the plan began.

My preparation over the past few months has been really interesting. It's been the product of teamwork between a whole lot of people, both at the VIS and outside, and sharing this will hopefully give you an insight into the amazing people I get to work with. I feel very lucky.

Most of you reading this will be aware that cyclocross is huge in Europe, where kids practically exit the womb riding bikes. At local club races, riders rock up in giant camper vans with their photos plastered all over them. Being a cyclist is not only a legitimate occupation, it's kind of like being an AFL footballer at home. Actually, I feel exactly how a Belgian cyclocross rider would feel if they rocked up to play in an AFL grand final. So, from the beginning, we had our work cut out for us.

Just your local Belgian rider trying to fit in


Our biggest challenge, though (and there are LOTS) was time. Because I didn't have time to learn to be a complete cyclocross rider, we instead pulled apart the Hoogerheide race course 4 months ago and focused all my preparation solely on tackling that course. It became kind of like a war game, which I love, and it's certainly kept us all challenged. Nick Owen, our physiologist in the cycling program at VIS, tracked down You Tube clips and 3D maps, and together with Supercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski we worked on standing start sprints for the 300m starting straight and stair runs to replicate the 30%, 30m hill on course. Harry Brennan, who is my strength & conditioning coach at VIS, planned a gym program that incorporated a mix of strength work and plyometrics to get better at running over obstacles. In terms of physiology, I've had to change the type of rider I am, from a multi-day tour specialist on the road to a 45-minute CX specialist in the dirt and mud. It's meant having to improve my power and explosiveness, which for me requires a lot of work because it's not my natural skill set.

The second piece of the puzzle was improving my dirt handling. I love mountain biking, but I'm not naturally a technical rider, so I have to work pretty hard on my skills. My cross bike has gone everywhere with me over the past few months! I have a regular MTB crew ride every Wednesday before work, and for the past few months I've been riding my CX bike on the singletrack, chasing the guys on their MTBs. I also raced a couple of stages of Forrest Festival on it which was pretty fun.

The next piece of the puzzle was getting some CX-specific skills. Over Christmas I went to Adelaide and did some skills work with Neil Ross, who is one of the best MTB coaches in Australia, and a CX guru. He designed a skills session that replicated parts of the Hoogerheide course, and we used loose dirt and dry leaves to replicate riding in snow and ice. He also taught me some neat shouldering & blocking techniques which are unique to CX.

Running away from the guy wanting fan cards


In terms of race preparation, I couldn't come over to do a whole world cup season due to work, so instead I did a bit more crit racing and enjoyed being able to train outside in an Australian Summer rather than slog through a European winter on a wind trainer. Mostly it went to plan, although my plan to get a sneaky 45min hit out in the national champs road race went slightly awry. I raced a UCI CX race in China in September, which was a good introduction to the standard I can expect at international level CX racing.

Getting a slightly longer hit out than planned at road nationals


Over here in Bergen op Zoom, I've got a killer support crew consisting of the amazing Pete Young, logistics expert and Head Pirate, and the awesome Paul Larkin, who has come all the way over to be my personal mechanic. These guys do all the hard work and all I have to do is ride my bike. I am super lucky.

So sorry again that this is such a boring post. It's been a fantastic journey over the past few months, and quite an adventure. On Saturday we'll find out what worked and what didn't. I'm excited.

Ride happy.


My fleecy national champ onesie, thanks to health.com.au


A long time between drinks

I know it's been ages, and I know you've probably stopped visiting, but I'm back. And so is SKINSUIT SUNDAY! Sorry it's been so long. I've been a bit distracted... there is just so much good stuff going on it's hard to keep up. I bought a couch around 6 weeks ago and I got to sit on it for the first time tonight. Hurrah!

This is just a quick update to say please don't lose hope, Ride Happy will return, and with a sense of humour. But I wanted to give a brief update on what's been going on in the past few months:

  • Full time lawyering (I KNOW, just like a real person). I love it. My brain gets a better workout than I do some days, but I still love it.
  • Finishing the Company Directors course: (Funny you should mention that. I should be doing my assignment right NOW, in fact. Yet somehow I am here.) I'm doing the Australian Institute of Company Directors course with the help of a Women in Sport Leadership Grant from the Australian Sports Commission. It's a great program. If you are a woman and want to be involved in sport at a leadership level, get on it here.
  • Joining the Cycling Australia Athletes Commission: I've just been appointed Chair of the CA AC - the representative body for athletes within Cycling Australia. We have a renewed commission and the new kids on the block are a mix of talent and experience across almost all disciplines: Sid Taberlay, Kate Bates, Alex Carle, Tom Leaper, Carol Cooke, Stu Shaw. What an awesome crew. I am really excited - we have a lot of opportunity to make some great changes to the sport. More news on that later...
  • Writing for RIDE magazine: We've been working on a match-fixing and corruption series over the past 12 months (which finished in the current issue) and next issue you can read all about other integrity issues and the Wood Review, which was the review commissioned by the federal government into Cycling Australia at the end of last year. Australia is lucky to have a cycling journal that covers heavy but important issues - the Wood Review is the kind of stuff that is going to shape your sport.
  • Doing up my new place: Actually, that's only partly true. I bought a place, then got the awesome Tony the Builder to find people much better than me to fix it up. Everyone came out happy. And now I get to shop at the eye-wateringly expensive Leo's of Kew, where, as my good mate John Boy put it, you go in to buy a piece of cheese and you come out spending $80... on cheese.
  • Mountain bike mountain bike mountain bike! Riding the new Apollo Arctec 9 is like eating peanut butter straight from the jar. AMAZING.
  • Training... in amongst everything else! We had VIS training camp over the weekend in Western Victoria and I had forgotten how much I missed being around the crew and bleeding from my eyeballs.
OK, past my bedtime. We start the first NRS (national road series) race next weekend - Tour of Mersey Valley in Tas. It will be great to see everyone again. It's been a while since the end of the NRS season and I miss having someone else cook for me the excitement.
A shout out to the people who help me Ride Happy - particularly to Will and Flick from Neo Pro Imports who welcomed their baby son Harry last week! Will sorts me out with Swiss Eye sunnies to make me look trendy.
And a bigger shout out to my Grandma, who passed away last week and who we farewelled in Adelaide on Friday. She was a wonderful lady and rocked a power suit like no one else. I will miss you Grandma.
Ride Happy.

Tour of NZ

Just a quickie because bandwidth here is hard to come by (I think the Palmerston North exchange might have taken offence at my earlier post)... We are 3 stages down out of 5 in the Tour of NZ. Team VIS is going well - Jo 'inaugural Jo Hogan Award recipient' Hogan is sitting 10th on GC, Loren 'Honorary Victorian' Rowney is in the green Sprint Classification jersey, and we have won 1 stage (Loren - stage 2 sprint finish) and come 3rd in another (Loren, again in a sprint finish in today's stage 3!). Special mention to Jess 'Jensy' Voigt and Chloe 'Human Boomerang' McConville for UNBELIEVABLE work in the field. And to Donna and Ryan for keeping us fed, watered and running smoothy.

Highlights so far have included the  awarding of the daily Ride Happy bar award by Donna, Loren's stage win after an epic team effort, and the salty treats Donna bought me. My riding has not been one of those highlights. Neither is the weather - wet and windy. Belgies would love it.

We have some exclusive YouTube footage and action photos but the internet is too feeble to upload them now so you'll just have to wait.

Bring on stage 4 tomorrow!

New bike!

I've just picked up my new MTB from Apollo- an Arctec M. It is a beautiful bike- carbon frame and SRAM XX running gear. Can't wait to try it out! I've said it before, but it is a luxury to have such beautiful equipment to use. We women cyclists may be underpaid and under-acknowledged in media compared to pro men, but we are certainly not left wanting for first-class equipment.

I've got a few plans for MTB enduro racing this year. Let me know if you have recommendations for cool races!

Catch you in Adelaide for TDU!! I love Adelaide this time of year.

Ride Happy


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas everyone! May 2012 bring you health, happiness, and lots of good times on the pedals.

Today I picked up my new bike for 2012. It's a ripper. Thanks again to Apollo for supporting the VIS program. We are very lucky to be looked after so well.

Thanks also to Murray Fenwick from Apollo for giving up his afternoon to help me get everything dialled on it. I can't wait to give it a work out tomorrow!

I love the custom paint job too...