New year, new team

As I blow a thin layer of dust off the keyboard and retrieve forgotten login details, it occurs to me that it's been a while since I've last checked in with Ride Happy. Clearly, some things need updating… 2014 was a big year. It included some great adventures, professional opportunities and most importantly for me personally, some good results overseas. The challenge for Cross riders in Australia is that it's very hard to work out whether you're any good. World champs last January showed me what I already knew: that racing in the Belgian mud required a totally different skill set to Australian CX racing. It wasn't until I raced in China and the US in September that I got to race against an international field in familiar conditions, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I wasn't crap. Finishing 2nd in a C1 event (the Qiansen Trophy in Beijing) - C1 is the level below World Cup - was a career-best result out of any discipline I've raced. Cross Vegas wasn't the race I wanted it to be, but 17th in that field while sick was encouraging. I'm a long way from chucking in my day job and running away to Belgium, but I'm excited about stepping up some more and, hopefully, continuing to put distance between myself and crap.

2015 is looking really cool. I've signed with a new team, Rapha-Focus, which is a professional dedicated CX team and means I'll be able to spend more time doing what I love. Both Rapha and Focus have been great supporters of CX in Australia from the beginning and I'm excited about all the cool stuff we're going to do this year, including racing domestically and overseas, riding awesome bikes and and wearing lovely gear. I'm being coached by the best in the business, including the Supercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski, and skills gurus Neil Ross and Pat Fitzpatrick (trust me, I need all the help I can get). And the amazing Paul Larkin is back and we're planning all sorts of adventures, which makes me happy.

I'm not racing world champs this year. I'd have liked to, but work commitments had to win this time. Instead, I'm heading over to Belgium for 3 weeks in February to catch the end of the CX season and, importantly, to get 6 UCI races-worth of Belgian racing in the same mud that we'll get at 2016 world champs, which is a big target for me. The last couple of weeks have been challenging and I've been struggling with fatigue and health. I'm hoping that's behind me now, but the reality of my life now is that I cut things fine, and that every so often I don't get the balance right. When I get it wrong, I don't have the same recovery mechanisms that I'd have if I were a full-time athlete. I had a great block of training over Christmas but it was probably too good, and I went into road nationals carrying more fatigue than I expected. The result was that I pulled the pin pretty early, which was disappointing but a better option than riding around digging holes and making up numbers. It was really touching to get so many messages of support, so thank you, it means a lot. I got some tests done last week and things are looking up, although I need to recognise that coffee and retail therapy are not legitimate forms of recovery.

So, in case my vomit of enthusiasm hasn't spilled onto you yet, I'm excited. I never expected that my racing career could extend beyond road cycling and I feel super lucky to have found a sport that is unquestionably rad and brings me so much happiness. Most of this is due to the great people I have in my corner, so thank you to Rapha, Focus,, Neo Pro Imports, SRAM, FMBPerfect Pilates, Kask, Bike Gallery, and in no particular order to Donna Rae-Supercoach, Neil, Pat, Paul, Grover, Allister, Nadine, Pikey and Bowie. And thank you to my Mum, whose enthusiasm for cowbells is matched only by her bemusement at my pre-race warmups.

Finally, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a moment to share the radness of Cyclocross. If you haven't tried it, you should. There's something about riding around in the mud that unleashes your inner child and creates a happiness that I've not found in any other type of racing. It's family-friendly, time-friendly and regardless of your ability you will have fun. You will find it a great opportunity to bleed from your eyeballs if you are so inclined, but if you aren't, that's OK too. You may even win beer, and if you don't win you will probably be offered one during the race. The pros are nice. The bikes are cool. I promise you that you will like it.

Ride Happy.





Cross Vegas: not my day

20140911-073632.jpg It's hard to come halfway around the world for a race that doesn't go well. It's part of racing, and it's what makes the good times even better, but it still sucks.

I got sick straight after China and have been struggling to get better. No big deal, just a head cold, but in a sport like cross not having your legs and lungs coming to the party means race over, in the most unpleasant way. So both Sacramento and Cross Vegas were very tough races for me, mentally and physically.

It's been a great trip though- one of the best- and the result from China gives me a lot of confidence. At Cross Vegas I pulled my foot from the pedal at the start (bad) but by the end of the first 400m was back in 7th wheel (good) before my body said no (bad). It's encouraging to be able to come to a field like that, have a bad day, and still finish 17th in a world-class field of 80 riders. I can take a lot of confidence from that. This past year has been a huge step up for me and I'm really enjoying it. For now it's back to work and enjoying an off-season, because it's been a long season and my body needs a break. But the experiences of this year, from chasing down the back of the field at world champs to finishing 2nd in a UCI C1 in China, have encompassed a lot of change and development and I'm keen to keep that going.

Thanks to all the people who have made this season such a success for me: Donna the Supercoach, Neil Ross my skills coach, Paul Larkin my no.1 right-hand man, and to sponsors, SRAM (esp Rob Eva), Perfect Pilates, Swiss Eye, Kask, FMB, CCCC and now Rapha-Focus. I'm excited to be joining Rapha-Focus - being part of a CX-specific team is a great opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it. I've even joined Instagram especially!

So thank you everyone for watching, cheering, heckling and riding with me. Let's do it again soon.

Ride happy.

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.

Enter the Dragon: A mostly true account of China CX

Best auspicious greetings honoured reader! This post be welcoming in heart and hope for longtime forgiveness of not earlier posting. Be that I have faced many adventures and much happiness in past week; no facebook make hard work of updating you my beloved reader. But fear not the iron instagram curtain, for today I write to you from aeroplane on way to USA, where much tweeting is welcome. So it follows, an account of Qiansen Cyclocross, UCI Cat 1 event, Beijing, China.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks, including a new national title, a new team, and the beginning of a new CX adventure. National champs went well, mostly thanks to all the people who provided help, support, and occasionally counselling: the Supercoach, my skills coach Neil Ross, and the A Team of Paul Larkin, John Groves and Steve from Apollo in Adelaide who kept everything running smoothly. As far as I am aware, no marriages were harmed in the post-race celebrations.

Winning national champs led to invitations to a couple of great early-season races: Qiansen Trophy CX in Beijing and Cross Vegas in USA. With work commitments ruling me out for world champs this coming January, these two races offered a great way of draining my annual leave balance whilst also building on my international CX racing experience.  Racing Cross Vegas in the national champ colours happens also to be at the top of my bucket list, by the way (although to be fair, the list also includes Eating My Weight In Salted Caramel and Marrying A Swedish Prince*, so may not be a great reflection of my life goals).

*Could also be a Baron; I haven’t looked too closely into the Swedish nobility nomenclatures.

Last year, I raced Qiansen Cyclocross and broke my wrist with a suspected ACL in the first 5 minutes of the race. I finished 14th, because it seemed like a good idea at the time and Grover was yelling out from the pits that prize money went down to 15th. This year, the race was upgraded to a UCI Cat 1 event (one level below World Cup), and apart from more UCI points and a stronger international field, offered the chance of redemption over last year’s disaster. I thought it was a great idea. My parents, who had spent the week after last year’s race driving me between x-ray appointments, were less enthusiastic. Fortunately, the only person I really needed to convince was Paul Larkin, whom I consider to be the World’s Best CX Pit Crew and whose support at world champs and national champs this year has been nothing short of brilliant. Paul, having returned from last year’s Qiansen CX race 6.5kgs lighter after a particularly nasty bout of Beijing’s Revenge, went back on his promise never to set foot in China again and agreed to be part of the adventure.

After having been a road racer for so long, one thing I’m learning about CX racing is the unique demands it places on a rider’s pit crew. On a muddy course, you can be changing bikes twice per lap (every 10 minutes or so), and you rely on your pit crew to catch your bike at speed, blast it clean and fix whatever is broken while you’re out on the course. Even on a good day, mechanics work as hard as the riders to prep equipment and fix bike niggles under pressure. Having a good pit crew that is organised, calm and good at working on the fly is essential. You rely on them not just to fix your bike, but to know which pit position is best, what tyre pressure to run, bounce off ideas for race lines and strategies, and help calm your nerves. Fortunately, not only is Paul one of the best, he is also happy to bring single origin coffee beans and put up with riders with OCD tendencies. So we make a good team.

This year, the Qiansen CX ‘event week’ comprised 2 races: a CX race on the Saturday, followed by a demonstration road race in a neighbouring province on the Monday. The CX course was a repeat of last year: fast, twisty and brutally bumpy, with some technical parts that could bring you unstuck if you lost concentration. To add to the excitement, the event organiser had asked Paul and I and a couple of the other riders to take part in the CX amateur race held a few hours before the elite races. Our job was to stay at the front ahead of the local riders for the opening lap, then peel off and let them finish the race. Apparently last year staying ahead of the local riders was quite easy, but no one had told us that those riders had then spent the next 12 months training the house down on that same course. The result was a very effective pre-race workout and a new job for Paul as a human shield, protecting me from getting T-boned by a couple of enthusiastic locals who hadn’t been briefed on the race script.

The CX race itself went well, with nary a broken bone in sight. I’d chosen a spot on the course right after a hard pinch, where I knew everyone would be knackered, as my point to attack if I needed to. In the first lap, I had chased up to third spot and was behind a French girl, Le Fevre, who had come 4th at world champs this year. I could hear her breathing hard so attacked hard just before that point and got a small gap. By the next lap she had caught back on, so I did the same thing and managed to drop her. Ellen van Loy, a Belgian who is ranked 6th in the world, was in a class of her own and won 22 secs ahead of me. I came in 23 secs ahead of former Danish national champion Margariet Kloppenberg who was in 3rd. I was absolutely stoked – it’s a career best result for me, certainly in CX, and maybe for my whole riding career. All those skills sessions paid off Neil!!

The road race on Monday was fun (especially on a CX bike with road tyres). The 11-hour bus trip was less fun, but still better than a broken wrist or a 6.5kg weight loss program, so Paul and I proclaimed this year’s China trip a success and set sail for USA.

If Northern Californian CX racing is synonymous with file treads and cold beer, Qiansen CX was characterised by SSCs and an oversupply of all-you-can-eat buffets. Of the 5 nights we were there,  there were 4 banquets, one featuring a Chinese version of the Spice Girls miming to traditional Chinese instruments. We felt very welcomed, if slightly overfed, and the hospitality of the event organisers reflected the region’s enthusiasm for growing CX and cycling in China. Next year they are talking of making it a world cup event: if it happens, it will give Aussie riders access to the highest level of racing in the world without having to endure 30 hours of travelling to do it.

Phew! That’s enough for now. I started this post on the plane from Beijing to San Francisco, and now Pete, Paul and I are in a log cabin at Lake Tahoe, getting excited for some CX riding tomorrow on the trails here. Next race: Sacramento GP on 6 Sept, then Cross Vegas on 10 Sept.

Ride Happy.

How to watch CX world champs

For those playing along at home, here's a great article by on how you can follow world champs live. If you have other methods which work well in Australia feel free to add it to the comments below. The race is at 3pm Hoogerheide time on Saturday, which is 1am Sunday in Melbourne. Thanks everyone for the support and well wishes. I'm going on a social media lock down now until after the race, so see you on the other side.

Ride happy.

Fan mail

One thing that cross races seem to have in spades is crazy fans. Mel and I have had our fair share of interest from friendly locals wanting fan cards and photos. Some of the locals we've met have been lovely - sending pictures of the races and coming and chatting to us when we're freezing on wind trainers. Others have been a bit... well, unusual. I got this message on Facebook a few days ago (I've changed the name):

hello Lisa

i am Pieter von Trump from Hoogerheide the Netherlands where you gone ride next weekend but i have a question and i hope i can get a answer on it

i think you get this question a lot more

do you maby have a cyclingjersey for me i am a collector of it and i hope you can give one.(it musn't been a team jersey i can also be a selection jersey)

i hope i hear something soon

kind Regrads Pieter von Trump

I didn't reply, but a couple of days later I got another message, exactly the same. And then today I got a third message, just with a '?' Pieter was most insistent that he have a jersey. I'm not sure how successful his technique is but Mel got exactly the same messages so perhaps it's a finely tuned game plan.

Not wanting to disappoint Pieter, I replied today:

Ssup Pieter

Sorry I haven't replied earlier. I don't have any spare Team Australia jerseys, but I have a jersey I got from Around the Bay In A Day once that might fit you. It's back in Melbourne but you are welcome to pick it up and I can chuck in a Lampre bidon that I found too. 

Here's a cat video I found on You Tube that I thought you might like. Sorry it's not as good as a jersey but it is pretty cute.

Pieter replied straight away:

yeah it was a fun video yeah it is fine but what do you mean with that about that one jersey 

LJ: Around The Bay In A Day is a prestigious one day race held in Melbourne each year. It is quite hard and for some people it takes two days.

Pieter: a oke it's fine when you think i can pick it up is i come Friday to the training, saturday to the race and i can come also maby to the hotel if it is not to far from the hotel

LJ: Oh no the jersey is in Australia. Sorry, I don't have any team jerseys. I need them to wear. But the Around The Bay In A Day jersey is pretty cool. Here's another video though.

Pieter: a oke i understand

I am not sure when Pieter is planning to come to Melbourne for his jersey but perhaps if he has luck with other riders he won't need to. Full high fives for his chutzpah though. Why don't we have passionate fans like this in Australia??

Cyclocross World Championships: the rise of the Babushka

A long overdue post. We have been in Bergen op Zoom, NED, for around a week now. So far we have clocked up:

  • 24hrs of plane travel (and 60kg of bike luggage)
  • 2 Belgian CX races (and 1 win!)
  • 1 case of food poisoning
  • 1 jar Speculoos
  • around a million loads of washing
  • some new friends in Hoogerheide

I have been meaning to write a post for so long but I've just finished a couple of interviews and I'm sick of telling the same story again. (You can find a much better article here anyway.) So here are some photos.. and all the exciting details will follow later.

Ride happy.

PS - Hi to Donna's ice hockey chicks - and thanks for the cheers!


Winning in Desselberg, Belgium


We ran around 50% of the Desselberg course - muddy as, bro


Australia's first CX team at a world championships


Look out Hoogerheide... the Aussies are coming

2013 Australian CX championships

Phew! Sorry it’s taken me so long to write this up. If it weren’t for the horrendous conditions today at Falls Creek you’d have been waiting another week to read this. So hurray for global warming (anyone? Anyone??). Last week was the 2013 Australian CX championships. You can read more about them here, here and here.

Last year was the first year Australia had run a national CX series, and it was loads of fun. The series generated so much happiness that this year we had not only a national series, but a national championships as well. This meant that not only could we all wear onesies for an extra day in the year, but that we could fight it out for the honour of wearing a national champion's onesie as well. In onesie circles, this is quite something.

Cipo: The benchmark for lovers of onesies

My hopes of defending the national series title from last year were curtailed somewhat following [what I optimistically reflect on as] an ambitious estimate of my ability to manage responsibilities. I got run down, sick and missed the first national rounds in Adelaide. Turns out you can't work full time, study, take on corporate governance roles AND train as much as a full time athlete. Who would have thunk it?

Fortunately, the Supercoach is well accustomed to my spectacular form implosions and we put together a plan to aim for the CX national champs instead. Luckily, my neighbours are tolerant of 6am ergo sessions and the Pirate is tolerant of 9pm bedtimes, so the plan started to get traction. And there's nothing quite like the prospect of finishing out the hoop as defending national series champion to incentivise you to work hard. So I worked my ass off, got some race strategy ideas at the Sydney national CX rounds, and sent a few post-ergo hate emails to the Supercoach, which pleased her greatly.

Amongst all this, Apollo in the background were putting together a super-fast CX race weapon - a carbon-framed, disc-braked, race-wheeled machine that was a dramatic step up from the $1,500 rrp model I'd raced the national series on the year before. It was all very hush hush, mostly because none of us really knew whether it in fact existed. Rumour has it that NASA noticed a missing engineer and a shortfall in their carbon supplies one day, and the next day my bike was in production.

CX Holding bike facing camera

It wouldn't be a good race story without an exciting lead-up, and there was excitement aplenty. Because  the bike was super dooper special, it was off getting the rockstar treatment at Apollo's trade shows and it wasn't until 2 nights before the national champs that Apollo Production Manager Murray Fenwick was able to bring it back to Melbourne. VIS supermechanic Ryan 'Diamonds' Moody and John Groves came to the rescue, with a bike build that finished around 11pm on Thursday night and involved multiple trips to the servo for compressed air (but none for ice cream, to Grover's disappointment). I think pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I won't say I was entirely relaxed during the process, but it may have been the sound of the tubeless tyre exploding off the rim at around 10.30pm that put me on the edge. (As a side note, WELL DONE Grover for suggesting we pump up outside. I am still cleaning sealant off my front door.) The excitement continued the next day with an emergency rescue and some creative mechanicing from Paul at Adrenalin Cycles Ringwood during his lunch hour... and finished on Saturday morning with an offer of a wheel lend and a last-minute race tune from Paul Larkin. It's fair to say, without any exaggeration, that without any of these blokes I'd have been toast. The day belonged to them.

CX holding up bike Andy Rogers

So the bike's first ride was the national champs, and it was pretty freaking awesome. I'm lucky to have guys like Simon and Murray at Apollo who do so much to support VIS riders and to support me personally, and it's a privilege to be able to race such beautiful bikes and to be able to repay their faith with a good ride on Saturday.

On race day, everything seemed to come together, which doesn't often happen in racing. In 2011 I devoted 6 months of my life to trying to win road nationals. I've never worked so hard for anything in my life, and when it didn't work out it was a huge disappointment. This time, my year has been a big year, but not on the bike. It's been a year in which I've been given some awesome opportunities in my career and in sport, and training has become something I fit in where I can. I worked bloody hard, but with the sole purpose that whoever was going to win CX nationals would have to freaking earn it. When I crossed the line I was pretty emotional. It was a response to the stress of the previous week, but also just that I had worked so hard, and been written off by so many people, that to turn it around was immensely satisfying. I don't usually go that crazy, but after the season I'd had, and the build-up leading up to the race, it was impossible not to celebrate.

So thank you - to Apollo for a beautiful race bike (which you too can own for 2014), to Moody, Grover and the Pauls, who each saved my ass on separate occasions, to the Supercoach for being the brains of the operation, and to the people who continue to back me despite their better judgement: VIS, Perfect Pilates, Neo Pro and Swiss Eyewear,, and the indomitable peloton of TE.

2013 Cyclo Cross Nationals

Ride Happy.