Category Archives: Helen Kelly 2008

Wente Vineyard Criterium, Livermoore, CA – 27 April 2008

Wente Vineyard Criterium, Livermoore, CA  – 27 April 2008

I returned from our unofficial TIBCO altitude training camp in Reno Saturday night and had planned to do a 2hr ride on Sunday with a few intervals.  Early Sunday morning my house mate informed me of a local Californian criterium he was planning to do, so I decided to travel to the criterium with him and do my training, whilst he raced.

During the car trip, I decided that it would be fun to race in the master’s men’s field to get in a good workout.  Upon arriving I heard that due to a few delays in earlier races, the women’s race hadn’t started yet.  So I entered, and was informed I had 10 minutes to get changed and get to the start line, so I felt like my race started the moment I signed my release form.  Within 5 minuted I was changed, number pinned, bottles filled, tyres pumped and I warmed up by rolling around in circles in the car park.

I spotted the TIBCO development team who had successfully stood on the podium the day before and went and joined them.  They had finished their race meeting but I assumed our goal was to win the race.  As we stood on the start line, I asked them about today’s course and was told it was a 1 mile clockwise loop, with big wide open roads and no technical corners.

My own goal was to get a good work out in preparation for the Tour of the Gila that I am racing next week.  I waited two laps to spin my legs and then attacked. I saw my heartrate climb to 190 as I attempted to ride off the front into a headwind.  I was soon brought back where I recovered for a few laps and then attacked again.  It was a difficult course to get away on, with big wide open roads and enough teams committed to chasing break away riders.

There were a number of sprint primes throughout the race and Ali Rosenthal (TIBCO development team) and I helped lead each other out to successfully win some wine, a massage and some green backs.  With only 10 minutes of racing left, as we rounded the first bend after the start/finish line, there was a touch of wheels and the horrible sound of bikes crashing.  Ali and Ashley had no-where to go and ploughed into fallen riders.  A rider to my left panicked, and also came down.  I managed to ride between her and the piled up riders on my right.  I felt someone ram into my back but didn’t crash.  Due to the number of riders down, the race was neutralised for 20 minutes so we stood around and drank water.

The race resumed and the officials told us we had 3 laps to go.  I sat second wheel and watched for any attacks.  I didn’t want anyone to solo away.  On bell lap, I stayed in the top 10 and waited for Liza Rachetto (TIBCO).  As planned she came up on my left in the final corner and opened it up down the left gutter.  It was a head wind so I didn’t want to jump out too early, but I also didn’t want to get swamped.  I started my sprint with about 300m to go and gave it everything.  With 20m to go, I could see a rider coming up on my right side.  I dug deep but Mary Ellen Ash (Easton/Sugar SRM) managed to get her wheel past and take the win.  I finished 2nd whilst Elis Bradshaw rounded out the podium for 3rd.

A great job by team TIBCO to get on the podium two days in row.

Results:

1st Mary Ellen Ash (Easton/Sugar SRM)

2nd Helen Kelly (Team TIBCO)

3rd Elis Bradshaw (Metromint)

Riders:

Liza Rachetto

Ali Rosenthal

Charlotte Hart

Ashley Fout

Stacy Simms

Helen Kelly

2XU joins me on the road to recovery

2XU joins me on the road to recovery

I thought I would give you all an update on my improving health.

One of the medical recommendations to ease the discomfort of blood clots is to wear compression garments. Compression tights force the blood from the superficial veins towards my deep veins, which helps circulate the blood past my clots, and basically, makes my leg feel less painful.

I first heard of 2XU tights in the week leading up to the world championships. My roommate, Oenone, was pulling on these tights after our training sessions and using them to aid in recovery. Having only heard of skins, I was keen to learn more about this latest innovation.

I made a few enquires about 2XU and then went online and researched their products in detail. I needed to be sure that the compression was medically correct to help with my rehabilitation. The tights are 50 denier in thickness which equates to about 30-40mmHg of pressure. The compression is graduated – so what this means is that they are tighter around my calves and gradually less tight around my thighs and waist. This helps circulate the blood back to towards the heart. The tights have a circular knit weave so it gives compression from every angle, not just horizontally and vertically.

I rang Anthony Orwin, 2XU Marketing Manager, who has been fantastic in helping me after hearing about my health situation. I was soon decked out in some great 2XU products, which not only looked great, but were important for my rehabilitation.

I wear the compression tights on the stationary bike, in the gym, when resting at home but also when swimming. They feel fantastic in the water and being an ex-triathlete, the sensation of the tights is almost like wearing a thin wetsuit.

So I can happily report that I am pedaling freely again on the trainer and all the stiffness around my calf and up the back of my knee has gone. My doctor has prescribed blood thinning medication for another 5 weeks so in early January the clots should be gone for good.

Today I did a photo shoot for a new range of 2XU cycling clothes. The photos will be up on the website soon so if you want to see how I did as a part-time model!!! www.2XU.com

For those of you that have had a sports injury, you will understand the frustration and disruption it causes. The rehabilitation journey can be difficult and challenging. I have had so much support from family, friends, the Australian and Victorian institute of sport, my sponsors and now 2XU. I am so grateful for your support which has helped in my journey back to good health.

Thankyou.
Stretching out in 2XU Compression Tights and a summer jersey.

Tour of the Gila, 2008

Tour of the Gila, 2008

Stage 1 – 116km Silvercity to Mogollon road race

The format of the tour of the Gila has changed from last year, with the TT now appearing on stage 3. Today’s stage was quite undulating (4,900ft of climbing) with a 17km climb to Mogollon, the summit at 2036m above sea level.

Being the first stage, the race was aggressive with Cheerwine trying to use the crosswinds to put many riders in difficulty. To force other teams to react, my husband, directing Team Tibco, sent Rushlee up the road with another rider. They gained a maximum of 4mins and allowed the rest of us to sit pretty whilst Aaron’s, Colavita and Cheerwine chased.

At the base of the final 12km, Rushlee had been caught. Cheerwine immediately attacked. I followed the first move and that finished me. Jo and Rach climbed well but were unable to hang on to Leah Goldstein (ValueAct) who rode away to take the win.

Stage 2 – 126km Inner loop road race

Today was an epic day of racing. My legs felt so tired but I warmed up and soon brought them to life.

The first intermediate time bonus sprint was at the 15km mark and already riders were getting popped. An attack at the 40km mark put me in difficulty and I ended up in the cars chasing. I heard over our race radio that Jerika and Rushlee were behind me, so I chose to sit up for them so we could chase together.

After 60km of team time trialling with about 10 other riders, Jerika touched a wheel in front and went down really hard. I was on her wheel and miraculously avoided her. Rushlee and I both stopped and helped her up. She begged me to leave her so Rushlee stayed with her, and I took off in pursuit of the group I was with. It took me 5km to catch them. A few km’s later, I looked up and saw the caravan. Amazingly, we caught the peloton in exactly the same place as I did last year.

I found Rach and got the update that Amber was up the road in a break of three. ValueAct chased hard to reduce the time gap but they stayed away, and she timed her killer sprint perfectly to win the stage. Of course, we celebrated in style with red wine and chocolate.

Stage 3 - 26km individual time trial

Jo had a magnificent ride on her new Look TT bike and finished 4th – the best TT she’s ever done. I was told to ride easy to conserve for the rest of the race. So I tapped along in my zone 1 and pretended to go hard, whenever I passed a camera. I wasn’t even puffing though and managed to do the TT with an average heartrate of 158. Normally I would time trail at 185-188 so I was definitely “sagging it and making time cut”.

Rushlee and I cooling down after our “TT effort”.

Stage 4 – 44km downtown silvercity criterium

Another stage win today, this time by Rach.

Each lap was about 1km with a 300m hill on the back side of the course.  Our team was down to 5 riders since Jerika had crashed heavily the day before and could not continue racing.  Our initial plan was to have all TIBCO riders driving it hard on the front of the peloton, in a single line, and make the pace so high that when Jo or Rach attacked, it would be difficult for other teams to react.  Our plan was to get either Rach or Jo into a break, or away solo.

After setting a high pace for several laps, we realised this plan wasn’t going to work.  So we moved to plan B.  Rushlee attacked through the start/finish line and took off solo.  This forced the other teams to chase her and let us sit in and rest.

As soon as Rushlee was caught, I attacked.  I successfully stretched the field into a single line as I pedalled as hard as I could.  After a lap off the front, it was all back together and then Amber launched on the climb.  Amber got a huge gap and spent the next lap and half away, being chased by the entire field.  Amber had won the stage the day before and no-one was going to let her win again.  We repeated this pattern of attacking, which eventually had the desired effect of shredding the field.  After each attack, the field continued to dwindle as one rider after another failed to remain in contact.  Our plan B was working perfectly.  Jo and Rach remained patient, both posed, waiting for the right move to come.

With 3 laps to go, 2 riders attacked on the climb and quickly got a 100m gap.  I glanced behind me to see Rach sprinting hard down the left side of the peloton and in hot pursuit of the two riders.  Within half a lap she made contact and tried to recover from her effort.  The peloton watched the 3 riders in front but didn’t react.  This hesitation gave the 3 riders a 15 seconds lead over the field that they would hold all the way to the finish.

I had been in a break on this same circuit the year before and had finished 2nd.  I told everyone in our team meeting that to win, you need to be first into the final corner.  With my words in Rach’s head she attacked hard before the final corner and sprinted across the line for a very sweet stage win.

After the finish, we rolled back to our van where it was hugs and high fives, (US style) all round.  The staff were delighted with our win and congratulated us on a perfectly executed performance.

Jo, Rach, Rushlee, Gila host, Amber, Me, Jerika.

Stage 5 – 116km Gila monster road race

The final day was appropriately called the Gila monster. Our goal was to break up the race and try to get one of us into a break. I attacked often and really smashed my legs.

At the base of the final 18km climb, I had nothing left and could hardly get over the early steep pinch. I was zig zagging up and hoping the pain would end soon. Jo managed to get into a 5 rider break and did well to take 3rd in an uphill sprint. She also moved up to finish 3rd overall in GC so not a bad day.

And now its off to Tucson for a fun night of Mexican food, before flying back to San Fran tomorrow.

Team Tibco celebrates after 2 stage wins.

Mt Hood Classic, 2008

Mt Hood Classic, 2008

The yellow jersey followed by the green jersey

A week after Team TIBCO won two stages in New Mexico it was off to the mountains again.  This time we flew north to Portland, Oregon to race the Mt Hood Cycling Classic.

The TIBCO team consisted of 5 riders including Lauren Franges, Helen Kelly, Rachel Heal, Victoria Bastide and Jo Kiesanaski.  The stage race consisted of a prologue, a circuit race, 2 road stages, a time trial and a criterium.  Here is what happened.

Prologue 2km
This course was short and super fast.  The only technical section was the U-turn at the half way point.  Jo Kiesanaski, a former track sprinter, realised that coming out of the u turn fast would be critical to getting a fast time.  She practised the u-turn at speed, several times, until she had it nailed.  Her practice paid off as she posted the fastest time and pulled on the yellow jersey at the end of the day.  It was smiles all around as we travelled back to our host family that evening.

Stage 1 – Mt Tabor 1hr circuit race
With Jo Kiesanowski leading the Mt Hood Cycling classic after an impressive prologue, Team TIBCO worked hard to control stage 1.  It was a tough hilly circuit race with an uphill finish.  The pace of the circuit remained high and any dangerous moves were shut down by one of us.

With 200m to go, Jo launched from the bunch, however multi national criterium champion, Tina Pic (Colavita) pipped Jo at the finish to take the stage win. With bonus seconds for the win, Pic was awarded the leader’s jersey from Jo by 1 second.  We were not disheartened though, as there were still several stages remaining and we had a strong team to win back the yellow jersey.

Stage 2 – Cooper Spur Road Race
Today’s course was a 30km loop with a 16km climb.  The first 13km of the climb was a 4% gradient on an open highway with a strong headwind whilst the final 3km was on a narrower steeper road to the summit finish.  After the first time over the climb, Team TIBCO started attacking on the technical descent.  It was so much fun and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as we flew down the road, one after another.  Eventually, I got a gap and headed out on a hard solo break.  Up the climb for the second time into the headwind was difficult and with 5km to go, 3 riders bridged to me.  The pace they set was too fast for me and I dropped back to the peloton.  Lauren, Victoria and Rach worked hard to control any dangerous looking attacks until the final ascent.  As the race approached the mountain top finish, they positioned Jo perfectly where she out sprinted multi world champion, Jeannie Longo, and gave Team TIBCO another stage win and reclaimed the yellow jersey.

Stage 3 – Individual time trial
The time trial was a point-to-point race along the Hood River.  With temperatures hovering at 98F, Jo rode to her limit and finished a credible 8th.  Rachel also rode well to finish in 10th.  Julie Beveridge (Aaron’s) rode well enough to take over the lead and will be wearing the yellow jersey tomorrow.

Stage 4 – Mt Hood road race
Determined to reclaim the leader’s jersey, we approached stage 4 with some aggressive riding by Lauren, Victoria and Helen.  With all the GC contenders eyeing each other as we approached the final 10 mile climb to the summit of Mt Hood, Rachel launched an attack and almost succeeded in winning the stage, only to be caught with ½ mile to go.  Jo finished 2nd, behind US National Road race champion, Mara Abbott.  Julie Beveridge retained her yellow jersey by finishing in the same time as Jo.  With the accumulation of intermediate and finish line sprint points earned by Jo, she was awarded the green sprint jersey today.

Stage 5 – Hood River Criterium
The final stage was a technical criterium in downtown Hood River.  If we succeeded in getting Jo or Rach in a break, the possibility of winning the stage race was still within reach.  Team TIBCO launched one rider after another up the road which dwindled the field down to 25 riders by the finish.  Aarons cycling team, who were protecting Julie Beveridge’s yellow jersey quickly shut down any dangerous moves.

In the final lap, Jeannie Longo (France) attacked hard and got a gap.  However, Tina Pic (Colavita) proved her sprinting prowess to win the stage, whilst Jo finished 2nd and retained her green sprint jersey.  In final general classification, Jo finished 5th overall whilst Rach was 10th.  And although we didn’t win the overall stage race, coming home with the two stage wins and the green sprint jersey was very satisfying.

Stay tuned to hear about more racing news soon.


Broken Collarbone

Broken Collarbone

On 3 August, Team Tibco raced a circuit race in Winston Salem, North Carolina. There were many attacks during the race but we kept it together for our sprinter, Brooke. As the bell sounded for lap to go, I was moving up to start the lead out. I was on the right side of the course and got to 5th wheel when I saw a Colavita rider in front of me, get shoved into the barriers.

I was doing about 50km/hr as she tumbled to the ground and I hit her really hard. I had no time to swerve out of her way and I had riders to my left. After hitting the ground on my left shoulder, elbow and butt cheek, I felt riders crashing over me. I instinctively curled into a ball and groaned as each rider slammed into my back.

It felt like an eternity before riders stopped landing on me, and I lay there until they had all climbed off me. I tried to move my left arm to get up but couldn’t move it. It was excruciatingly painful. I called to a by-stander to help me. He rushed over and lifted me to my feet. I immediately felt nauseous and giddy. I hobbled off the road and asked him to lower me to the ground. He took off my helmet for me and asked who I was. He then ran to get the medics. From my viewpoint, the opposite side of the road was littered with other causalities, including two of my team mates, Ali Rosenthal and Sarah Caravello.

A few minutes go by and I look up to see my team mate, Brooke Miller punch the air in victory as she crosses the finish line, ahead of Tina Pic. Well, at least we won the race, I think as I sit there waiting for help. A family doctor in the crowd comes over to see me and asks me to lift my left arm in the air. It takes several seconds but I manage. I told him it really really hurt and he said if you can lift in the air, there’s no chance it can be broken. He told me to do it a second time, but I use my right hand to press down on the shoulder and that makes it a little easier. I know now, that I was holding the bones together with my right hand as I struggled to lift my arm above my head.

Another team mate, Rach comes over and sits with me whilst we wait for the medics. She tries to get me into the shade but it was hard to move once I was on the ground, as I couldn’t use my shoulder for leverage. I decide it was better that I just go and get changed and get to a hospital. I walk back to the van with Rach and realise my butt is hanging out of my knicks but I don’t really care.

It takes 2hrs to drive to Charlotte and I take 2 Ibuprofen’s to try and dull the pain. We find the Presbyterian Hospital which ironically was the sponsor of the criterium we raced last night and finished 2nd in. I found it kind of funny to be in this hospital but was hurting too much to laugh out loud. I told the man at the Emergency desk that I think I’ve broken something. He points to the other waiting patients and tells me I may have to wait 3hrs to be seen by a doctor. I couldn’t believe it. I told him I had just crashed at 50km/hr and was really hurting. Suddenly, he realised that my high impact crash warranted immediate treatment and he brought me through a security door to see a doctor.

Well, they put an IV needle in the inner crease of my elbow of my right arm so I couldn’t bend it without feeling the needle. I couldn’t move my left arm at all so I just lay on my back waiting for doctors to assess me. I had x-rays done where the radiologist made me hug a plate with both arms. I nearly passed out when he moved my left arm into position.

I had a CT scan performed as they were worried about my internal organs. They asked me to put both arms above my head and I told them I couldn’t. I was in a lot of pain and hadn’t been given any painkillers yet. Luckily, I could still get my wedding rings off my left hand and they didn’t have to cut them off. I went into the SC scan with my left arm by my side. .

A nurse eventually gave me some morphine which certainly worked and then a doctor came to see me about an hour later and confirmed that I had a clean break of the clavicle. I started to sob quietly. I realised my race season was over and I was going to be taking things easy for the next 6 weeks or so.

The x-ray of my broken left clavicle – 3 August

The following day, I flew from Charlotte back to San Fransisco. I had a reaction to the painkillers I was given, I vomited non stop from 9am until about 4pm. I was wheel chaired around airports clutching a ziplock bag to vomit into. It was a miserable day of travel. I flew with my team mate Rushlee, who took great care of me.

Four days later, I flew back to Melbourne. I found painkillers that worked, providing I had enough food in my stomach. The painkillers made me really sleepy so I slept almost 10hrs of the 18hr flight. I was so relieved to get home and cried when I saw Bob waiting for me. I was safely home and able to now rest and get well again.

So now, it is nearly 3 weeks since the crash and I am no longer wearing a sling. I have started physiotherapy at the VIS and can see little improvements each day. Bob has been a great nurse and has done everything for me. I have improved enough to now tie my own shoe laces and dress/ undress myself so I don’t feel quite so useless.

I am scheduled to get x-rays done next week and hope to get the all clear to hit the gym, put load on it, and get it 100% again.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation

It is exactly 33 days since I crashed and almost all of the pain associated with my collarbone break has gone. Each day it gets easier to do day-to-day activities. It is amazing how much joy I get from being able to do movements that I always took for granted.

Kerryn Charman and I in Palo Alto, California – 7 August, 2008

One of the most painful movements was crossing my arms to lift off a t-shirt, jumper, etc. Until yesterday I had to bend forward from the waist and wiggle out of tshirts in a contorted manner. Now I can lift my arms above my head and undress ‘normally’. I can also touch my head and I don’t have to shampoo my hair with one hand. My latest achievement yesterday was being able to put my hair in a ponytail. It was too painful until now to bend my arm behind my head.

I have had trouble sleeping at night and finding a comfortable position has been difficult. Bob had to help arrange pillows around me and also pull me upright if I needed to go to the bathroom during the night. I was unable to sit up without his assistance as it hurt so much through the shoulder. I have had to sleep on my back but had road rash on my glut and elbow so lying on it wasn’t pleasant but I wasn’t healed enough to lie on my side. Last week I started sleeping on my side, with a pillow stuffed under my arm to take the pressure off the collarbone, and another pillow along my stomach so I couldn’t roll onto my stomach.

After 3 weeks I decided I was mended enough to start riding a trainer. Luckily, the VIS had one of their unsold 2008 Bianchi 928 road bikes, so I was able to take it home and set it up on the ergo. I have been on this ergo for 2 weeks now – JOY! I am convinced the time on my heartrate monitor goes into “some warped slow mode”, whenever I get on this ergo. I try to focus on my cadence, power, heartrate or a song and not look at how many minutes have passed by. Last week, I had to sit upright with no hands as it hurt too much to put any weight through my arm. I have really improved in a week and can now ride out of the seat and with my arms holding the bars when seated, and don’t have any pain.

One of the VIS’s Bianchi road bikes

I had more x-rays taken earlier this week and today I saw the VIS doctor who said I can now go out on the road again. Yippee – those ergo sessions were so monotonous to try and duplicate long training rides. Of course, I usually do ergo sessions to do strength endurance and threshold intervals but for long steady km’s, I really prefer to head out into the hills of Kinglake, rather than to stare at a wall.

I am back in the gym Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, focusing on strength and power work as well as specific shoulder exercises as directed by my physio. Dee Jennings (VIS Core Stability coach) has given me a challenging gym program, specifically targeting my new goal – endurance track racing. I look forward to focusing on track racing now and seeing what I can achieve.

Stay tuned for more news and thanks for reading.

A new bike for Christmas

A new bike for Christmas

Everyone loves getting a new bike and that’s just what I have been lucky enough to get.  It is my early Christmas present and it gets treated with lots of TLC. In fact, Bob jokes with everyone that I am the only one allowed to touch it and I get really protective if anyone so much as even looks at it.

The experts at the AIS, who have all my details from previous national road camps, helped determine my frame size and the decision was made to build me a BT Blade, rather than the Stealth. It is clear carbon black with silver decal – very slick looking and amazing to ride. Steve Sansonetti (from BT Australia) was fantastic at speeding up the process and had my new bike built and ready to go within 2 weeks.

So for those of you who haven’t heard, I’ve swapped from roadie to trackie. I am focusing on track endurance so I hope that rules me out from getting tree trunk size legs.   I have been doing 3 gym sessions a week though as soon as my clavicle was repaired to build more strength.  So far I have only added 1cm to the diameter of my quads so my legs are definitely not elephant size – not yet anyway!!

The track training is a refreshing change from what I’ve done since I started road cycling.  As a roadie, my focus was all about preparing for multi day stage races and the job of domestic within my pro team.  My off season was targeted around putting lots of km’s in the legs to get a big enough base to race from January though to the end of September.

I had a few nervous sessions on the boards as I familiarised myself with a fixed wheel again but now it seems like second nature to jump on track.  I rode Bob’s Colnago track bike until my Blade was ready which looked quite comical as it was a size or two, too small for me.  I felt like I had arms and legs everywhere and major toe overlap when I turned the front wheel too much.

Developing leg speed has been a challenge for me. I always thought as a roadie that I used to spin quite well, but I was just kidding myself.  The first time I did 5min high cadence ergo efforts, I realised how hard it can be.

I am really looking forward to racing.  My BT was finished just a few days before the Oceania Champs and I decided it was a bit too soon to compete after only 1 ride on the BT and 4 track sessions on Bob’s bike.  I needed time to get familiar with the bike, the TT position, with starts, pacing, etc. I am targeting State Titles in late December and Nationals in Feb, so that gives me a bit of time to convert my road strength to the track.

Well, thanks for reading and I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas,
Happy tail winds (and it can rain only when we’re not out training!!!)
Helen.

Reno Training Camp, 2008

Reno Training Camp, 2008

At the end of a solid block of Californian races that included the Redlands Stage race and Sea Otter, it was time to do some serious climbing to prepare for the next two stage races, Tour of the Gila, New Mexico and Mt Hood, Oregon.

Both of these stage races featured a lot of climbing at altitude and racing for 5 days in a row, so not only would strength play a factor but also endurance.

Bob had flown over to visit me for 3 weeks so we headed to Reno, Nevada with 4 team mates to train at altitude and to do a big week of climbing.  The first day, we climbed Geiger Mountain and I could barely breathe. It felt like someone was pressing on my chest and preventing me from getting any oxygen.  It takes some people longer than others to adjust to training at altitude.  Reno is nearly 6000ft above sea level and it took me 4 days to fully acclimate.  I used my heartrate to control my level of exertion during these first 4 days.  I noticed the first day of climbing it was uncomfortable to hold 150 beats per minute.  The next day I could sustain 160 until day 4 I was almost up to 180 which is only 8 beats below what I can hold at sea level.

Rushlee, Amber, Myself and Rach – riding towards Geiger Mountain

The other important factor about training at altitude is having to drink more fluid than at sea level.  I had to concentrate on drinking at least an extra litre of fluid to remain hydrated.

The longest and hardest training day was our ride to Lake Tahoe.  We rode up Mt Rose (10,000ft) which took a little over 1hr to climb.  I did threshold climbing with Rachel all the way to the summit.  I held her wheel for about 45mins until I could no longer sustain her pace.  I reached the summit a few minutes after her and congratulated her on her form.  There was plenty of snow at the top of Mt Rose and so we only paused for a few minutes to snap a few photos and pull on warm clothes.  By the time we descended down into Lake Tahoe, I couldn’t even feel my fingers.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to even use my brakes.  However, after a huge mug of coffee and a sandwich, I felt ready to climb back up to the summit of Mt Rose and down into Reno.  The ride was 100km and took 4hrs 15mins.  I burnt 3,000 kcal and rode at an average heartrate of 150.

I ate a roast beef sandwich after the ride and had a glass of milk, then headed to bed.  After long training sessions like these, I need an afternoon sleep to recover properly.  I was awoken 30 minutes later to the noise of rattling glass and amazingly I was experiencing an earthquake. It was the first of 32 earthquakes that shook Reno over the next 10 days.  I was excited to witness the tremendous power of the earth but a little scared too. The tremor I felt was 4.2 but it was enough to make me feel a bit worried.  I was sleeping in a two storey house and wondered about my fate if the house collapsed.  The following evening, I was sitting in the bath when another earthquake hit and I wondered how embarrassing it would be to be found naked in a tub if the walls of the house fell down! Luckily, the house is earthquake proof which means it is literally made with ball bearings in the foundations and walls so the walls simply “give” a little instead of cracking and collapsing.

After a day of rest that included an evening visit to Reno’s casino’s, it was time to train on my time trial bike.  I wanted to fine tune my time trial position in preparation for a 30km individual time trial at Tour of the Gila.  Bob looked at my TT position on a trainer and adjusted my seat a little further forward and higher.  We also adjusted the aerobars a little so the reach wasn’t as far away from my seat.  The position felt much better and I felt I could push out more power.

Adrian, Bob, Rach, Rushlee, Me, Amber

On Sunday we drove from Reno back to San Fransisco.  Early Monday morning we flew to Tucson,Arizona and then drove to Silvercity, New Mexico.  Bob was staying to direct Team TIBCO for Tour of the Gila so stay tuned to hear how we raced.

My plan for 2009

My plan for 2009

A lot of club members have asked me about Track Nationals, what my plans are for 2009 and if I’m racing in a team overseas this year so I thought I would fill you in on what I’m up to this year.

As many of you know, I am a recent convert to the track.  After my clavicle healed and I got my BT blade built I jumped on the boards in November last year.  With such limited track racing I always knew this would be my weakness as I headed to track nationals in Adelaide.  I had raced the heat and final at the State Titles but I was up against girls who had raced on the track for years, who had competed in World Cups and Junior World Championships and who had raced more than 2 pursuits in their track career.

I did compete in the State Titles and Nationals in 2008 but I didn’t do any specific track training for these events.  I literally borrowed a VIS bike on the Thursday before the State titles and raced on the Saturday morning, and was then selected as part of the State team. I squeezed in 5 track sessions before Nationals so I wouldn’t say I had given Nationals in 2008 much focus.  I had no idea what riding to a schedule was all about.  I simply went as fast as I could and tried to remember not to stop pedalling.

So in comparison to last years Nationals, I felt 100% more prepared this year although I am still very much a track newbie in the big scheme of things, especially when I know how long Perko and others have been on the boards.

My individual pursuit was held on the first day of competition.  The heatwave was still lingering in Adelaide so with 43C on the track, just staying hydrated and cool became a priority.  The heats started about 1.30pm in the afternoon with the finals at 7pm.  I was in the 2nd last heat against Sarah Kent (WA).  I was definitely nervous but excited to see what time I could ride.  The track was really fast and with double Mavic VIS discs my bike felt amazing.

I started a little slower than usual and was 0.5sec down on schedule after lap 1.  But I must have stomped on the pedals because after the 2nd lap and was over 1.5sec ahead of schedule.  Rick Leonard (coach) signalled that I was up on schedule by walking away from the pursuit line.  I cringe as I write this now because I didn’t ease my pace at all when I knew I was up on schedule.  I felt great and so I continued each lap at the same pace.  Rick continued to indicate I was up on schedule but I was like a young pup chasing a ball and determined to get it as fast as I could.  So with 8 laps done, my eagerness caught up with me.  On lap 9 I started to really suffer and thoughts of “oh no, I’ve gone out too hard”, crept into my head.  Rick was now yelling at me to dig deep.  I immediately thought “I am already digging deep. This is all I have”.  I had been doing lap times equivalent to a 3mins38sec ride but in those last 3 laps I was riding through quick sand, my times were nearly 2sec slower per lap and I crossed the line in 3mins43, seeded 4th.

I was disappointed I had let my adrenaline and eagerness overrule what should have been a controlled release of energy but I guess that is what race experience teaches.  I cooled down and headed back to the motel for lunch, a cool shower and a nap. Although a bit down on myself, Rick reminded me that I’d just done a PB by 5.5 seconds.  To ride that fast in my 3rd ever pursuit was something I should be happy with.

The final was an all-Victorian affair with me riding against fellow club rider Tess Downing. It seemed like a déjà vu experience as we rode against each other at States in the heat and the final a month earlier.

About an hour before the start, I told Rick I didn’t feel too good.  It was over 45C in the velodrome.  He made the decision that I would use a smaller gear in the final and suggested I go and cool my body temperature down with a cold shower.  He later told me that he could see I wasn’t coping well with the heat.  I warmed up for the race and tried not to think about how heavy my legs felt.  I kept telling myself it would be ok once I started racing.

I got off to a good start and was on schedule for the first kilometre.  I watched Rick walk the line and adjusted my speed to stay on schedule.  About 6 laps in I started to drop my lap times.  I dug deeper but my legs were cooked.  I went as hard as I could but crossed the line behind Tess who raced strongly to secure the bronze medal.

I had a few easy days and then rode the team pursuit on the Friday.  I had never ridden on the track with Chloe and Nicole so we warmed up together and that was our only “team pursuit” practice.  As I was the faster pursuiter, our strategy was that I would do 1.5 or 2 lap turns to ensure we kept the pace high.  We did a great first ever race together and qualified 2nd fastest in 3mins42sec.

The WA chicks clocked a time of 3mins30sec in their heat so we were realistic as we warmed up for the gold medal final.  They raced the team pursuit in the Melbourne WC and have been training together for a few years.  As predicted, they caught us and continued riding to record a time.  They smashed the Australian record by several seconds and the new record now stands at 3mins26sec.  Nonetheless, our Carnegie team was very content with our 2nd, given we came together on race day only.

In the final two days of competition I was asked to race the scratch race and the omnium.  Without ever having done a scratch race, flying 200m or 500m time trial, I was a bit apprehensive about how I would go.  My initial plan when I headed to Adelaide was to race the team and individual pursuit and so all my preparation for nationals was pursuit oriented.  So you can imagine it was an interesting experience to watch a pursuiter attempt a flying 200m at Nationals for the very first time.  I won’t entertain you with my results!!!

So what now?  Well, road tours and endless summers have been my life since 2003.  I’ve had off seasons in the aussie summer and then headed to the warmth of California in early March to start my road season.  Typically, I’ve then headed to Europe for a block of racing with either a UCI team or the National team before either racing the World Road Champs or returning to Australia for another summer. I’ve actually forgotten what winter feels like so I think it will be a shock to the system to experience cold weather again.

I have definitely made the decision to focus entirely on the track now.  I love the challenge of the track and am encouraged that I have done a 3mins43sec after my 3rd attempt.  I know with more track racing, my rooky trait of going out too hard will be overcome and my times will improve.

I am really excited to be based in Melbourne again.  I am happy knowing I will be staying home, I get to see Bob every day and I won’t be living out of a suitcase anymore.  I reckon I’ve been to nearly every airport terminal in Europe and America and it will be a joy not to be on an plane (or doing a road trip in the team van) every week.  As you may have picked up on, I am quite over the whole travel thing and staying home with Bob is just what I want now.  And as the cliché goes, a happy cyclist is a successful cyclist.

I have thousands of fond (and not so fond) memories of what it was like racing professionally in Europe and North America.  I could write a book on what I’ve experienced, the countries I’ve raced in and the people I’ve met.

So the next chapter for me is the track.  I will keep you posted on how it’s all progressing.  Thanks for reading and I hope you’re all enjoying your cycling as I much as I am.

Helen.

Mt Hood, Oregon – 14 to 18 May

Mt Hood, Oregon – 14 to 18 May

Riders: Rachel Heal, Lauren Franges, Jo Kiesanaski, Victoria Bastide and myself

Date:

How we got there, etc.

Stage 1 – Mt Tabor circuit race

With Jo Kiesanowski leading the Mt Hood Cycling classic after an impressive prologue, Team TIBCO worked hard to control stage 1.  It was a tough hilly circuit race with an uphill finish.  With 200m to go, Jo launched from the bunch, however multi national criterium champion, Tina Pic (Colavita) pipped Jo at the finish to take the stage win.  With bonus seconds  for the win, Pic was awarded the leader’s jersey from Jo by 1 second.

Stage 2 – Cooper Spur Road Race

An early solo break by Helen Kelly worked to plan and forced other teams to chase.  After 10 miles, the break was caught and Lauren, Victoria and Rach worked hard to control any dangerous looking attacks.  As the race approached the mountain top finish, they positioned Jo perfectly where she out sprinted multi world champion, Jeannie Longo, and gave Team TIBCO another stage win.  With bonus seconds at the finish line Jo reclaimed the leader’s jersey.

Stage 3 – Individual time trial

The time trial was a point-to-point race along the Hood River.  With temperatures hovering at 98F, Jo fought gallantly and finished a credible 8th.  Rachel also rode well to finish in 10th.  Julie Beveridge (Aaron’s) was the fastest woman on the day and climbed into the leader’s jersey.

Stage 4 – Mt Hood road race

Determined to reclaim the leader’s jersey, we approached stage 4 with some aggressive riding by Lauren, Victoria and Helen.  With all the GC contenders eyeing each other as we approached the final 10 mile climb to the summit of Mt Hood, Rachel launched an attack and almost succeeded in winning the stage, only to be caught with ½ mile to go.  Jo finished 2nd, behind US National Road race champion, Mara Abbott.  With the accumulation of sprint points earned by Jo, she was awarded the green sprint jersey.

Stage 5 – Hood River Criterium

The final stage was a technical criterium in downtown Hood River.  Team TIBCO launched one rider after another up the road which dwindled the field down to 25 riders by the finish.  In the final lap, Jeannie Longo attacked hard and got a gap.  However, Pic proved her sprinting prowess to win the stage, whilst Jo finished 2nd and retained her green sprint jersey.  In final general classification, Jo finished 5th overall whilst Rach was 10th.

Well done to Team TIBCO for two stage wins and the sprint jersey.

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