Canberra Tour – April 2000 – B Grade
Stage 1 Saturday – 38km – 13th
I felt so nervous. This was my first tour. There were 38 girls all eyeing each other and wondering who was who. The new CAAD4 Cannondale feels fantastic – so light and responsive. Feels awesome to climb with – so light. There was a planked bridge (with gaps) to cross at the 10km mark. Fortunately I picked a plank without ruts and rot and kept nice and steady and made it across without a wheel falling down a gap. Last year there were some huge crashes on this bridge. My heart pounded as I crossed it. Then we had a 3km steep climb. My bike felt so great that I worked my way to the front and started working really hard – way too hard! My heartrate monitor showed 195 beats per minute. My maximum is 200 so I was almost riding at 100%. I went so hard that my legs filled with lactic acid and then ‘blew up’.
(They have a King of the Mountain (KOM) series within the bike race where they conduct two KOM sprints where the first 3 across a certain marker get points). All the girls started sprinting for the KOM finish line and I didn’t have anything left in the legs as I’d gone hard too early – inexperience showing through. A group of 12 girls crossed the mountain top with about 40 metres on me, with me in hot pursuit. They were all rotating 10 second turns off the front of the pack and this makes a pack go a lot faster than a single rider. I put my head down and chased. It took me 5km to catch them. I tucked into the back of the pack and got sucked along by the draft and recovered from my sprint. I was delighted to get back onto the lead pack. We had already dropped 20 girls from the first KOM.
Then I started working my turns out the front with the others. Then along came the next KOM sprint – up a really steep 2km climb. I was about 10 metres off them cresting the hill and tried desperately to tuck back on. No use – my legs were hammered. I looked around and saw 4 girls about 500 metres back. I waited for them and then worked with them until the end of the race, beating them in a bunch sprint to the line. I came 13th. I was happy with this but realised that inexperience had cost me 3 minutes on the leader. I need to conserve my energy for the right moment.
Stage 2 Saturday – 38km – 10th
After a 2 hour break (and lunch) it was back to it again. My legs felt heavy and tired. I headed out for a 30km warmup which helped them loosen up. My plan of attack – not go out too hard. Sit in within the pack and stay with the lead bunch for the entire race. Try and improve my overall position (General Classification “GC”). I found Jessica Amy and sat on her wheel for the whole race. I came 8th in both KOM sprints and most importantly stayed with them over the crest of each mountain when the legs are dead and they always put in a sprint to try and drop the weaker ones.
I was in the lead bunch (10 of us). We only had 6km to go and a girl attacked up a hill and I couldn’t stay with them. I tried desperately but there was nothing in the legs. Then I watched as the bunch of 9 in front broke up into a group of 4 and 5. I kept chasing and caught the bunch of 5. I stayed with them until 2km to go and my legs were screaming with pain. They surged on me and I couldn’t hang on. I finished 10th but much happier with my performance. My overall position had improved from 13th to 11th.
Stage 3 – Sunday – 54km 8th
The last stage – I desperately wanted to finish with the lead bunch. My legs felt okay, given I had raced twice the day before and had ridden 140km. I still needed my 30km to warm up properly. The legs just don’t respond until I have warmed up for at least an hour. Luckily I have realised this during training as I have noticed I feel great after 30km but before hand I cannot sprint or climb well.
The race started at a steady pace and then we all tucked down for a long 5km downhill doing in excess of 60km per hour. The corners were steep and the road was bumpy and this required enormous concentration. Then over a “pick a plank” bridge – again I managed to get across without losing a tyre down a gap in the planks. I cannot believe they make us cross such a dangerous bridge. A sprint developed and I tucked in about 10th wheel and hung on. About 2km further on and over another planked bridge.and then up for 2km for the final KOM sprint of the series. I moved up and came 5th. Over the crest 3 Canberra cycles girls took off. Another Canberra girl who was in 4th position sat up, took a drink and blocked us from moving up. This was the tactics to let her team mates develop a lead. Jessica pushed around her and I followed. We started working 10 second turns to bridge the gap. It took us 8km to catch them. In total there was 7 of us in this front bunch. A car with spare wheels wizzed by the other way and I heard Greg yell out to me to stay with them. However, we were tackling a long series of hills and I was tiring. I tried to hang on but I ended up about 30 metres down. A convoy car behind me pulled up beside me and encouraged me to get back onto the bunch. I put my head down and started chasing. I chased and chased and couldn’t bridge the gap. It was incredibly frustrating as it is so much harder working behind on your own with no-one to draft off. The 30 metre gap slowly lengthened as we did a U turn and headed back into a buffetting headwind.
The group of 7 in front were working hard and I was forced to chase but watch the convoy car slowly disappear in front of me. I had 32km to do on my own and saddly I had to work harder than the bunch of 7 in front of me as they could work their turn and then rest. I was to have no rest. I saw two girls about 1km behind me and was determined to beat them home to try and make it in the top 10 in the general classification. I put my head down and away I went. I was riding into a headwind and had to go over all 32km of hills. It was hard work. I was gradually putting distance into the 2 behind me and tried to get over the hill and be out of sight before they commenced the hill. This way I knew they wouldn’t chase as hard if they couldn’t see me. I crossed the two bridges again and had the long 6km climb to the finish. I finished 2 minutes ahead of the two girls behind me. This gave me an 8th finish in the race and moved my general classification to 9th position overall. Great – I had made it into the top 10 in my first tour!!!! I have learned a lot about racing in only one tour and look forward to the Tour of Bright where I can apply my wisdom, apply my energy at the right moments and see what happens