Smile because it happened

It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that I announce that the chapter of my life as a professional cyclocross racer has come to an end.

The past three years of racing CX have been some of the happiest of my cycling career. It has been an honour to be national champion and a privilege to work with the best people and equipment in the world. The CX community around the world has been like a family to me. All these things make the decision to leave professional racing a difficult one. This announcement is the end of a long decision making process that I made in consultation with my sponsors and the A-team. It hasn’t been easy, and I want to thank them for their understanding and support during a challenging time.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my health for the past few months. After failing to recover from my last European season I’ve realised that my body is no longer able to cope with the demands of a full CX season. In the past two years especially, between working full time and trying to train full time, I have been pushing my body beyond what is sustainable, and it has simply hit its limit. I have been through more tests and seen more specialists in the past few months than I’d care to relate. At the end of the day, what my body needs is time to recover fully. It is frustrating, but my health needs to take priority.

While I’m sad to be leaving this level of sport a year earlier than I’d have liked, I am excited as well. I cannot tell you how much happiness cyclocross brings me, and once my health is back on track, I’m looking forward to racing domestically and for fun. I’m looking forward to adventures with my mates, to sleep-ins on rainy mornings, and to spending time with the people I love. Standing on the sidelines for the next few months is going to be tough. But seeing cyclocross flourish and grow, particularly in Australia, gives me great joy, and I plan to be a part of that for a long time to come.

My elite cycling career has spanned almost ten years, first on the road and then CX. I never expected to start an elite cycling career at 25, and I never would have imagined I’d still be here at 34 in an entirely different discipline. This journey has been unexpected and brilliant. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s given me some incomparable moments. More importantly, it’s brought lifetime friendships and experiences that will stay with me forever. The women’s Giro d’Italia, the 2011 AIS survival camp, my VIS family, racing on the Australian road team, and those bloody ergos Donna dreamed up before my first CX national champs win… these memories stick with me like a hook that I can hang onto at times when I need strength. Likewise, the people I’ve been privileged to work with have taught me more than they’ll ever realise. There are too many to name them all here, but I need to give special thanks to the Supercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski, Neil Ross, Harry Brennan, Nick Owen, Wendy Braybon, Dr Andrew Garnham, Ryan Moody, to my Belgian crew of Christian, Frank, Dirk and everyone at Hof Ter Kammen, to the Fields of Joy crew, to DC Cunningham, Paul Larkin, Scooter Vercoe, John Groves, Murray Fenwick, Marcus Speed, and to Gary West and Ben Cook from my SASI days. I also want to recognise my awesome sponsors: Rapha, Focus, Curve, SRAM, FMB, Kask, Salice, Tune, Feedback, Horst Spikes and SQlab, and to those who have supported me in the past, particularly VIS, SASI,, Apollo, Perfect PIlates, Fitzroy Revolution and Swiss Eye. These people have given me the freedom and opportunity to race at the highest level with the finest equipment in the world. I am extremely fortunate to be able to choose who I work with and to be able to work with the best. Every time I jump on my bike I remember how special that is, and how much fun it’s been. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

Ride happy.

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Okamoto

Pic: Mark Gunter

Pic: Mark Gunter

Pic: Jarrod Partridge

Pic: Jarrod Partridge

Pic: Pim Nijland

Pic: Pim Nijland

Timing is everything

So today I woke up sick. Not something you want to happen two days out from a world championships! So instead of heading to Zolder to do course practise today, I'm in bed, dosed up with cold & flu medication and trying not to think too much about the weekend. It's terrible timing, but these things happen in racing and there's not much you can do once you're sick - just wrap yourself in cotton wool, watch terrible daytime TV and try to get better.   

I'm hoping I'll be well enough tomorrow to go to course practice but that's a decision for tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a picture of Cipo showing what exceptional luft looks like. 

Ride happy.

(PS - the cover image is by Marc Deceuninck, who is always a friendly face at CX races here. Thanks for the shot Marc!)

Cold beer and file treads

20140907-143744.jpg We're on the road again, this time driving from Sacramento to Las Vegas for Cross Vegas. Yesterday was the inaugural West Sacramento CX Grand Prix, and all three of us had a roll. Pete opened his international racing account in style, Paul put some guys into the tape, and I tried not to eat grass.

California has blown us away. From coffee in San Fran to trails in Tahoe and the friendliest people we've ever met in Sacramento. If you are going to Cross Vegas next year, drop past the West Sac CX Grand Prix. Do it.

This pic is from the Bike Dog Brewery, which hosted the launch today of Squid Bikes. Some of our Sacramento buddies who we met yesterday insisted that we couldn't leave without some jars of home made pickles and jalepeno jelly. I love California.

The Good Karma Haircut

On Thursday I got a haircut. My hairdresser is a Japanese gentleman in Ivanhoe named Hiro, who apart from being a great hairdresser is a life drawer, photographer, and gentle lover of life. He reminds me of a small boat, gently rocking in the ocean, buoyed by nature and happy to go wherever the winds take him. Hiro also assures me that his haircuts are unique in that they impart Good Karma. This I love. As it happened, this week I was in particular need of some Good Karma. In no particular order, highlights included being nailed at work, moving house, dealing with a spineless prick, and spending more time than I cared for curled in a foetal position vomiting. Don't get me wrong, my life is generally awesome, but this week was not-in-any-way-pretend-it-was-awesome. With the exception of a lovely dinner with a friend it was absolutely shit. Hiro's haircut came at just the right time.

Hiro's Good Karma kicked in the moment I arrived in Ballarat on Friday night and reconvened with the VIS chicks (@VIS_Chicks, for all you Twitter folk). It is a rare treat for all of us to be around at the same time and national champs is one of those times. The 2013 roster comprises Jo '2nd at NATIONALS!!!' Hogan, Chloe 'The Enforcer' McConville, Kendelle 'Timmy' Hodges, Taryn 'Star Recruit' Heather, Jess 'Jallen' Allen and myself. Led by the Donna 'Supercoach' Rae-Szalinski and Ryan 'Diamonds' Moody, it is a fun crew to be a part of. They always make me laugh and going on tour with them is one of my favourite things in the world.

The decision to race nationals was one made 3 and a half weeks ago when I was caught off-guard during the VIS training camp and there were too many witnesses to back out of it. Actually, it wasn't a decision so much as a case of trickery and entrapment, but that will teach me for taking on a freshly-caffeinated Supercoach. (As you may recall I committed to taking the Summer off racing after  a certain bike race in East Timor...)

And so, following my week riding the porcelain express I arrived at the start line sporting a PB for number of pre-race poos (not good) and a secret stash of toilet paper in my race bag. Things would be fine, I thought, so long as I could do a couple of laps, look after Jo and bow out gracefully. But the thing about road racing is that, much like ordering off a chinese-only menu, you never quite know what you're going to get. When Lucy Coldwell from Holden Racing went off the front in the first 400m I figured I could cover the move early, then I'd have done my bit and could exit the race with a clear conscience. But then we were joined by Jessie McLean from Orica-GreenEdge and Bec Werner from SA Specialized and suddenly all the major teams were represented. So the bunch stopped chasing, and suddenly our gap was out to over 2 mins (we hit 3 mins 14 at one point) and we were 65km into a 106km race, the four of us still out there. And I was shitting myself (fortunately only figuratively).

Knowing my predicament, the rest of the VIS crew were on the job and shortly after I imploded JoJo arrived on the scene leading the bunch up the climb, joined by Taz and McConville. Jo's 2nd place capped off some pretty awesome teamwork by all the girls. You don't always see the full story of a bike race if you're not in it, and behind the results sheet lie strategies, efforts, counter-moves and mind games. Every one of us worked our asses off for one collective purpose. I was pretty stoked to be a part of it.

A few people have asked me why I was smiling during the race.  I was smiling because, after the week I'd had, I thought I'd just be making up numbers today. And because this time last year, I was a full-time athlete, in the form of my life, and having less impact on the race than I was now, working full time and having endured The Week From Hell. As I imploded going up the hill after I'd finished in the break and started going backwards, I heard the commentator on the race radio say, 'Well, I would have expected more from Lisa Jacobs' (both a compliment and an insult, if you know what I mean).  But to me, it was such a nice surprise. Thanks to everyone who cheered, because it made my day. Yes, it would have been nice to have had better legs, but that's about it. And a top chick won (the awesome Gracie Elvin, who survived the AIS Selection Survival Camp and just keeps getting stronger). So there were lots of reasons to smile. It was a great day.

Ride Happy.

Lisa's Mum goes to the Canbrrrrrra Tour

[Image (c) Mark Gunter Photography] Last weekend Lisa's Mum visited Canberra for the Canberra Women's Tour, the latest NRS tour in the ladies' calendar. Actually, she meant to go to Floriade but got the dates wrong. Mum does like a good chrysanthemum. Nevertheless, the racing provided a welcome distraction from the disappointment of missing Canberra's most prestigious flower festival.

Canberra Tour for most of us is known simply as 'The Cold Tour'. In fact, even when there were 2 Canberra Tours in Winter, there was one that was Pretty Cold and one that was So Cold That Your Fingers Felt Like They'd Been Slammed Into A Car Door Cold. Faced with the difficult decision to cut one of the tours from the race calendar, organisers wisely chose to retain the latter tour, presumably because they liked black ice and one of them owned shares in Icebreaker. Not that Lisa's Mum was complaining. On the contrary, she took great delight in finding weather that was cold enough to warrant wearing her fleece-lined, wind-proof, water-resistant, snow-proof bib tights. These tights hadn't been called into service since Lisa's Mum's days as an extra in Olivia Newton-John's 'Let's Get Physical' video clip, and she was pleased for an opportunity to bring them out again.

Lisa's Mum was gratified to find that the tour had been scheduled in the middle of Canberra's coldest spell of weather since 1936. It made her feel less awkward about adding anti-freeze to her bidon and wearing fur coats made from endangered animals.Lisa's Mum did wonder, however, at how cyclists in Canberra manage to get through a whole season like this. On reflection, she concluded that the Winters were probably the reason why Canberra breeds so many good professional cyclists. Everyone has an incentive to get good enough so they can bugger off to a pro team and a European Summer.

Mum was also particularly impressed by the standard of racing at the Tour. The 4-stage event was won by Taryn Heather, a South Australian who has the distinction of having raced more world championships than NRS races (well, almost). Taz's return to form after injury and illness is a sign of great things to come. While Taz conceded at the start of the tour that she was only at around 80% fitness, the rest of the peleton quietly hoped that their 100% would be as good as her 80%. It wasn't.

While happy to reunite with the AIS food hall, Lisa's Mum left Canberra feeling slightly disappointed. It wasn't so much the lack of sticky date pudding, but more the fact that the Curse of the VIS Women's Team had struck again, reducing the team to 2 riders. This time it was illness that was the culprit, claiming Jess 'Jallen' Allen, Supercoach, Moody... and slowly everyone else. The Enforcer, not one to shy away from punishment, performed the work of 4 teammates but in the end the VIS Chicks left a broken crew.

Before signing out... a shout out to a good friend of Ride Happy, Jarrod Partridge (aka Mr JXP Photography) who together with Cycling Cafe founder Simon Cadzow is riding the Tour de France on stationary trainers to raise money for Autism SA & The Army of Autism Awareness Angels. You can read all about his crazy adventures here. If you're feeling the cold this Winter, jump in and make a donation for instant warm fuzzies.

Ride happy.

Chanelling the van der Ploegs

Ever since I started riding I've been trying to work out how I can go faster. Can I train harder? Eat better? Change equipment? Sleep more? About a year ago I worked out that I was looking at the problem the wrong way.

To say that riding fast is the key to cycling is like saying that yoga is the key to a long and fulfilling life. It might be part of it, but focusing entirely on it is not going to make you much fun to sit next to at dinner parties give you the outcome you want or make your life better. At the end of the day, we ride bikes because we enjoy it - or once did, or think we should. Sometimes it's easy to forget that amongst all the power meters and carbon fibre and early morning sessions.

This year I've tried something different with my racing. Instead of worrying about the details, I've been channelling the van der Ploegs.

Many of you will know the van der Ploeg family personally. It's hard to be involved in cycling in Australia and not see, hear, or be passed by a van der Ploeg at some stage in a race. The family hails from Mt Beauty in Victoria and 4 of the 5 boys have represented Australia in either mountain biking, cross-country skiing, or both. The entire family exudes a joie de vivre that I believe Chanel is trying to bottle and sell as an exclusive 'No.6' fragrance. It's hard to have a conversation with a van der Ploeg and not feel better about the world afterwards.

I've seen a lot of Paul and Neil this year at races and these guys crack me up. What I love about them is that they epitomise the pure joy of riding bikes. They are immensely talented and don't take themselves too seriously. Most of all, they remind me of how much better racing is when you just enjoy the ride. To give you a glimpse of life inside the mind of a van der Ploeg, this just popped into my Facebook feed:

 Neil van der Ploeg (about an hour ago)
Our plant that "thrived on neglect" died, despite getting nothing BUT the very finest neglect. Be warned, despite their bad ass attitude they really are sensitive plants on the inside and need nurturing, just like all of us. Let this death be a lesson to us all.
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Paul also writes a great blog about his racing adventures in Europe with the Felt-Oztail Bionic MTB world cup team.

So, back to racing. Last week I raced the Santos North West Tour in NSW, which was the most recent national road series tour. It was a 4-day, 5-stage tour starting in Narrabri and passing through Coonabarabram and Gunnadah before finishing in Tamworth. I went as a team of one. I was lucky to be adopted by the Suzuki Cycling Team and treated as one of their own, which was lovely. Amongst other things, it was a rare treat to be able to do the washing and not confuse my knicks with anyone else's.

The first couple of stages I didn't have much fun. I found the racing stressful and insular without teammates. Then I ran into Jenny van der Ploeg after the crit and she was telling me how Neil's team (Search2Retain) had just finished racing Tour of Toowoomba and had to raise funds, get a support crew and convince riders to stay on to race the Santos North West Tour the following week. They did it, because they love racing and they wanted to ride. It made me realise that I could do worse than to channel some of that positivity. I mightn't be able to change the race, but I could change how I felt about it.

The next few stages were a lot better. I worried less about the racing and spent more time enjoying it. I lost the NRS leader's jersey, but made some new friends in the Suzuki crew and had a great time. I think channelling the van der Ploegs worked.

When I think back to my fondest cycling moments, they aren't race results or self-transcending interval sessions or PBs. They are the road trips with my mates to races in the middle of nowhere; the jokes shared around a table in Smiths Gully with a bunch of middle-aged professionals* as the rain pours down outside; the post-race debriefs with the Platypus of Truth. It's these shared experiences that make me remember what a great community the cycling scene is.

Next week we are racing the next NRS tour in Canberra. I'll have McConville and Jallen back, and Supercoach and Moody are looking after us. And - very exciting - Kendelle is coming up too as she gets a step closer to kicking her glandular fever. I can't wait.

Ride happy.

PS - thanks to JXP Photography for the race image above.

*Just for you, Mick

May update - Getting dirty, then getting clean

May has been a big month. I'm a bit behind with Ride Happy posts, so here is a very brief snapshot of what's been going on. We started with Battle on the Border in Qld. I am still leading the National Road Series, although the amazing Ruth Corset is hot on my heels. My mum (NOT Lisa's Mum!) got very excited about this article by Cycling Australia because I talked about how I like having a career to balance out all the pedalling. Parents like to hear things like that.

I've been enjoying some time in Adelaide, training and with family. It really is the best city in Australia for cycling. I have a bike that I keep there now, which makes spur-of-the-moment trips very do-able. It's almost worth flying there just to experience the novelty of not travelling with a bike bag. Some quality secret training too, which as we all know is the best kind.

The following weekend, Ryan 'Diamonds' Moody and I teamed up for the Dirty Gran Fondo MTB in Wandong, VIC, put on by the good people at Big Hill Events. 90km of fire road through Mt Disappointment State Forest with >2000m vertical. That is a lot, particularly on a mountain bike. Diamonds could have dropped me about a million times, but luckily for me stuck around to watch me suffer.

The DGF was awesome, but ridiculously muddy. It was an important race for The Roadie Project, as I've entered Tour de Timor in Sept (a 5 day MTB stage race) and need to be somewhat competent in an international MTB field. Riders could opt to ride cyclocross bikes or MTBs, and there was some pretty compelling evidence to be seen of the growing popularity of CX in Australia. ANOTHER bike for the wish list!

Despite the fantastic atmosphere that is typical of MTB racing, the day was soured for me by the behaviour of one WALRUS, who took me out in the first 5km as we were all jostling for position. This guy decided that he was in 81st place and had to move to 80th pronto, which meant changing his line in a rocky creek bed and clean decking me. That's part and parcel of racing, but what was disappointing was that the guy knew he was in the wrong and didn't check that the person who had just eaten it was ok.  I saw him turn around as I was sprawled out elegantly over the rocks, then keep going (no doubt to chase down 79th place). Fair enough if you are racing for the win but this guy was no winner. I don't mind bleeding all over my nice race shoes, and spending a few days off the bike, and sticking to the bed sheets, but I take exception to spending my Sunday afternoon in a medical clinic and scrubbing out my knee in the shower with a toothbrush, just because some idiot doesn't know how to ride. ALSO, given that there were 120 starters and I finished 20th, I'm pretty sure I passed you, Walrus, at some stage, and I bet as you were chicked you made some stupid excuse to yourself about how this was a training race for you and you were just pacing yourself, etc etc. WALRUS!

Phew! That's my grumpy rant done.

The next exciting thing is that Apollo Bicycles have started a Facebook comp to choose the cover photo for the Apollo 2013 catalogue. They have very kindly put a photo of me bleeding from my eyeballs (below) as one of the entries. The winning photo is the one with the most 'Likes'. You can enter by visiting the Apollo Facebook page here. (Or try here for a link to the photo itself, if you're feeling lucky.)

Obviously, voting brings you extremely good luck and it's been proven that voters are better kissers.
Another cool thing that's happened lately is that I've started a new job as an in-house legal counsel in Melbourne. I've had a great year of exploring new opportunities and this is an exciting new chapter in my career. Again, this got my Mum very excited.
I've also started a board role with Lacrosse Victoria, which is a new and exciting challenge. And I had a great opportunity last month to sit on the Cycling Australia Selection Review Panel for a world champs selection appeal. I'm getting a lot of enjoyment from working with sports, and as I go I realise how much athletes can contribute positively to sports governance.
But... one of THE MOST exciting and newsworthy events lately has been that Lisa's Mum now has her own regular column in Bicycling Australia magazine! That's right, Lisa's Mum has sold out. She will still be appearing in Ride Happy, but this time if you send her a letter you may just see it in the next BA issue. Her first appearance is in the next issue (out in the next few weeks). You can also grab a copy of RIDE Magazine for something more serious - the current issue (#56) has the first of a four-chapter series I've written on corruption, match-fixing and cycling. Corruption in sport has the potential to be bigger than doping, and potentially more damaging.
OK, that's enough talking, and time to get back pedalling. Thanks to everyone who has kept me smiling over the last few months. You know who you are.
Ride Happy.

Cheats, match-fixing and the integrity of sport

Last week, Mark Arbib stepped down from his role as Federal Minister for Sport. It was a role he had held since September 2010. Under his charge, elite sport in Australia flourished. The AOC loved him, largely because he ignored the recommendation of the very-expensive-and-extensively-researched 2009 Crawford Report to stop throwing money at Olympic sports. Instead, Sr Arbib committed $14m to Olympic sports and created the $4m 'Green and Gold Project' aimed exclusively at funding Olympic and Paralympic sports at the high-performance level. He'd be the favourite man in Australian elite sport, if that position were not already taken by Gerry 'Mr Jayco' Ryan.

As he left office, (ex)Senator Arbib wrote an article in Melbourne's Sunday Age reflecting on his role and the challenges facing sport. He stated that, while doping had been the 'great shadow' cast over sport in the 80s and 90s, it is match-fixing which now poses the greatest threat to sports' integrity. Cheating, he said, erodes people's confidence in sport. So long as there is gambling in sport, there will be corruption. Australia is leading the way in fighting corruption in sport at a domestic level,but at an international level there is not yet any comprehensive anti-corruption framework. Arbib called for an international body to be formed to co-ordinate information sharing between governments, sporting bodies and betting providers: this is what we need to properly fight match-fixing.

Corruption in sport is a hot issue. It is a hot issue because people like sports betting. Match-fixing, and the abuse of insider information - both of which distort betting outcomes - undermine the integrity of sport and can involve significant fraud. In sports where betting is prevalent, like AFL or cricket, match-fixing has the potential to cause significant disruption in a market. Globally, the sports betting industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars: corruption can be profitable and hard to detect.

In most sports, we call match-fixing 'cheating'. The idea of determining the outcome of a sporting event by anything other than athletic ability is abhorrent. So when a football player misses an easy goal, a jockey steers his horse to the outside barrier, or a cricket player bowls nothing but wides, and we find out that they were offered money to do it, we scream blue murder.

Except in cycling.

In cycling, deals are made all the time. And they generally involve money, because cyclists race for money. Riders in a breakaway agree that one will take the intermediate sprints and the other the stage win. Two friends agree that one will win this week and the other the week after. Vinokourov famously (allegedly) offered €100,000 to Alexandr Kolobnev in the final kilometres of last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège to sit up so that Vino could take the win. At the 2009 Australian road championships, Mick Rogers reportedly offered eventual winner Peter McDonald thousands of dollars to let him ride away on the last lap. When I first started bike racing, my friend rocked up on the start line of a local crit to see three other girls already dividing up the placings and prize money between them.

This kind of fixing is not seen as wrong because it's part of the strategy that earns cycling its reputation as a game of chess on wheels. It doesn't involve an entire team or field. It may not work due to other variables in the race. And, largely, it affects few beyond those people directly involved. The agreements are made between riders on the spot, not pre-meditated. The objective for the rider offering the fix is to get a better result, not to distort a betting outcome. For these reasons, it's difficult to categorise this behaviour as corrupt. But it does affect the outcome of competition. So why do we not mind?

If we look at the two major challenges that Mark Arbib identified in his article - doping and match-fixing - and apply them to cycling, it is clear which one has been the bigger problem. Historically, doping has been the method of choice by which professional cyclists distort competition outcomes. The economic rationalists of the peleton can see that it's easier to make one rider go faster than anyone else than it is to fix agreements with every single cyclist in a 100+ bunch. So the importance of an agreement between two riders on whether or not to sprint fades into insignificance when compared with the fundamental, inarguable wrong of doping.

Until the 1920s, doping was considered a normal part of professional bike racing. As the competitive landscape evolved, doping came to be viewed as detrimental to the integrity of the sport. Now, doping in the professional peleton - if we believe the reports - is becoming less and less prevalent. There are biological passports. There are surprise drug tests. If cycling is not winning the war on doping, it is at least making progress. When - or if - it does win that war, does that mean that the 'gentlemen's agreements' that we currently consider to be a normal part of cycling is the next frontier?

Law-makers in Australia are moving to introduce nationally-consistent legislation criminalising match-fixing in sport. The NSW Law Reform Commission has just proposed an amendment to the NSW Crimes Act which, if passed, would impose criminal penalties on conduct that corrupts the betting outcome of an event. Under the proposed law, conduct would be illegal if (a) it is undertaken to obtain a financial advantage as a result of betting, and (b) is contrary to the standards of integrity of the sport.

As long as making fixing agreements is 'normal' is cycling - that is, so long as it is not considered contrary to cycling's integrity - then it will be seen as a tactical decision rather than cheating. And until cycling generates the kind of betting revenue that sports like football and cricket do, it is not likely to attract attention from regulators. But when it does, the sport will change. Because it is a fine line between strategy and corruption... and today's gentleman's agreement is tomorrow's conspiracy.

Ride happy.

Mt Gambier 100 Mile

The Mt Gambier 100 mile is such an epic race it made me wonder why I hadn't raced it before. At about the 125km mark, I began to realise why. This is a cracking hard race. It's a handicap, so you are sitting at your limit trying to catch the group in front of you, and trying to stay away from the group behind. For the 155km race, we averaged over 38kph on a windy course. I am smashed.

This race didn't suit my strengths at all. It was flat and windy, and I suffered like a small dog with a Masters degree in suffering. Despite that, it has gone to the top of my must-do races for next year. Here is why:

  1. An awesome atmosphere: The whole town came to the party. The police shut down the main street; there were people dressed in costumes cheering along the side of the road; and the local paper gave the race so much attention you felt you were really part of something. At the end of the race, a bloke I'd never met before came up and told me that he'd won the race 70 years ago. How awesome is that?!
  2. A weekend of racing: Like Tour of Bright, this is an event where people travel from all over to have a hard, fun weekend. You can race both days and the organisers put on a dinner on Saturday night. (And unlike Tour of Bright, you don't need to enter 6 months in advance!)
  3. Excellent organisation: Everyone was friendly. The race starter had made an effort to know the riders and gave the crowds a running commentary at the start. No one yelled at me for pinning my race number 3cm to the left of centre (Victorian commissaires take note). The presentations took place quickly and with good cheer.
  4. Local hospitality: If it hadn't been for Robert's pre-course briefing, feeds at each of the feed zones, and post-race assistance, Chloe and I would have been dead women walking. We were really well looked after - particularly by Rob, but by everyone we talked to. It was really touching.
  5. Prize money: I don't like to give this as a reason to race, but the Mt Gambier Triathlon & Cycling Club had put an enormous effort into raising enough sponsorship to make the prize purse fricking HUGE. And they deliberately allocated significant prize money to women to encourage more chicks to enter.
  6. A thrilling finish:  Scratch caught the front runners with 1km to go on a downhill finish, with SASI's Glen O'Shea taking out the win. Well done, handicapper!

Melissa McKinlay took out the women's race with a fantastic ride. My teammate Chloe McConville was fastest woman (look out Honda Tour!).

Chloe and I were sorry we had to head back to Melbourne on Saturday and miss the Kermesse racing on Sunday. Next year we want to make a weekend of it. I'd love to see more women racing next year. The race organisers have put a lot of effort into making sure that the women have a generous prize purse and get equal attention in race build-up and presentations. This is a huge demonstration of good faith - now it's up to us chicks to show that we're worth it.