What’s to come …

I am very excited to have signed with the women’s professional team  Ale-Cipollini-Galassia.         After sending out countless applications to secure a team in Europe for 2016, to be honest I was a little surprised when Ale Cipollini-Galassia got back to me. If you had asked me what my plans for next year were a month ago – my options were looking quite dim. I feel very fortunate that a chance has been taken on a new face in the European Peloton and I don’t plan to disappoint!

 

My plans for 2016 are slowly starting to take shape and very shortly will be becoming a reality. Having only recently signed with the Italian-based team, it’s been a very busy period organising living arrangements, team equipment and in general, getting ready for the big move… Not to forget the Visa application as well!  I am starting to understand the outside stressors many cyclists face when delving into the unknown of racing internationally, I truly underestimated how difficult this jump would be!

I give all credit to athletes who have been able to form their own pathway in pursuit of their dream career. And at the same time have gained a better understanding why so many athletes at this point say,   ‘this isn’t for me…’ and it’s definitely not because they are weak!

It is at this point, certain aspects of life must be sacrificed for at least a good chunk of time. Commitments such as work will be put on hold for the majority of the year and finding the time to continue studies can be difficult to balance with a full racing schedule, and sometimes not possible via distance education. For many Australian athletes moving away from home, most miss the support from friends and family and find the idea of having to build a new network very daunting – which it can be.

Although it may seem like a lot to lose, in other areas of life I feel this is an opportunity with much to gain. And this was not an opportunity I was going to pass up! I feel very privileged that Ale-Cipollini-Galassia have given a new face in the International peloton the chance to experience racing in Europe – at it’s fullest.

Earlier this year I headed to Europe for the first time with the Women’s National Development Team to see what its like to live and race like a pro. This short two-month insight proved to be the exposure needed to gain a professional contract, however it came at a cost.

Before setting off on our big trip I had heard mixed opinions about how the program would run and I was surprised to hear that many athletes will either, “have a great time or an absolute terrible experience”.

It was either extreme and during my time away I was caught in the latter.

As 2015 closed, I have taken the time to reflect on what has been a difficult year but none the less another year of learning and growing FAST. If you had asked me what my plans for 2016 were a month ago, my options were far and few and for a period of time I was left at a dead end. I guess you could say I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am – sometimes you have to make things happen. Its exciting to know I have a little more control in the direction I want to take my athletic career as I feel I have so much more to see, learn and grow.

In preparation for the big trip there are still many necessary challenges to overcome. The Visa application for my new home in Girona, Spain has been a very confusing process so far making it quite stressful to organise in the very small window of time! I have also made it a priority to continue my studies in 2016; with a change in courses hopefully this will be better suited to continue overseas. And once again, the language barrier has been a small but foreseeable challenge so far (do I learn Italian or Spanish or Catalan (The local language in Girona?) Probably all three and more…). And 2016 – being an Olympic year, I feel very, VERY nervous of the form girls will have. It’s going to be fast!

As my flight dates draw ever closer I realise how much I am going to miss my friends, family and Lulu (my dog!).   Come visit me !!!!     However I also look forward to a fresh start in a new place I can call home (that will be three places now) with new people to meet and new experiences to be experienced. I am excited to continue racing in Europe with my new teammates and to see more of the world the best way I know – on my bike!

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Signing with a professional international team is currently a big learning process and a lot of people have been very helpful and generous in their advice from their own personal experiences and I am very grateful for this!! For anyone who has done the leap, they are able to understand the strong feelings of confusion and not knowing what is to come. If anyone has any insights into surviving the European world… I would love to hear it !?

 

Blog # 8 – Life abroad…

After a long 20hrs of travel to the other side of the world we were greeted with a warm welcome in Milan. Coming from a Queensland winter to an Italian summer – the dream has continued. From the moment we arrived we hit the ground running; busy with organising and preparing equipment for our first tour in Germany.

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If you have never been to Europe, it’s definitely an experience worth experiencing. As a child, our family continually moved around and I considered myself as being quite cultured however these life experiences couldn’t quite prepare me for life in Italy and it’s taken some time to become accustomed to this new lifestyle! I have quickly come to realise, accept and fully immerse myself in reality – that things get done very differently here and… that nothing gets done quickly in Italy – everybody seems to run on Italian time!! The local’s seem so calm ALL the time and no one is rushing yet somehow, stuff, eventually gets done! Which is unlike our busy schedules in Australia. It all seems to be in   s l o w   m o t i o n.

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Being my first time in Europe and experiencing its envious lifestyle, I am slowly adjusting my routine to run on Euro Time. Apparently sleeping in til 8am does not quite make the cut… And I would also like to use this time to mention that Siesta is a real – current, day thing. I had heard about this quasi routine of the Europeans but very much thought it was a part of historical times. But for those of you like me, who had been naïve and had not heard of siesta up until now, it is a very integrated part of an Italian’s lifestyle where, sometime, during the afternoon, the whole town will shut down for several hours so everybody can take a nap. And it always happens when you need to go to the shops… F**king siesta.

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We allowed a couple of days to recover from our laborious trip before we found ourselves headed for Germany – a short 8hr car trip traveling through three countries before our final destination… A scenic journey to say the least. The only downfall to all this city-hopping (in a short amount of time) would be that it has made it very difficult to pick up and learn a language. Just as I was getting the hang of the Italian lingo we were off and in the land of beer and bratwursts. As a consequence, the whole communication thing has gotten a whole lot confusing and has more than often conversations have ended in, Ci! Wii! Yah! You know what I’m trying to say…

 

Our first race with the newly formed Subaru High5 Women’s Development Team also coincided as the most difficult tour we will experience all season – Thuringen Rundfahrt. Of course there is no easing into it… The quality of the riders was top notch due to the timing of the Giro Rosa and the girls brought their very best form. And Holy mother of god was it hard, it was quite a shock to system and every stage was an overload of new information… And you had to learn quick because racing in Europe is NOT for the faint hearted.

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In hindsight this was not the ideal race to begin the season with… In a perfect world we would start with a couple of races in America and then step up to some local races in Belgium and then maybe, if you’re ready – a UCI race in Europe. But this was an opportunity we could not (and did not want to) turn our backs on.

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I have also found there are some large distinctions between racing the NRS in Australia and competing in Europe. To start with – the bunch size and how many more riders can fit into a very skinny road. Any skills that you are not 100% sure of – whether it be cornering, descending, climbing, riding on something other than road (dirt, pave, cobbles) are magnified and exaggerated in a top quality field, there is nowhere to hide. The speed of peloton, overall, is a lot faster compared to racing within Australia. And when you are trying to improve position whilst going around a corner and trying to avoid hitting the gutter, it can be a little bit too much to process. Talk about information overload!

 

Although, racing in Germany was probably the most grueling seven days of my life (still not as hard as AIS Selection Camp) taken as a whole it was a positive experience. And I know for a fact, as a team we would of crumbled without the support from our staff!

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We currently have about a week to recover and train for our next tour – Route de France. And maybe enough time to learn another language!

Blog #7 – The Next Chapter

 

I am thrilled to be able to announce (finally!) that I will be spending the next three months with the newly formed High5 Development Cycling Team and in less than a few weeks will be jetting off to live abroad in pursuit of chasing my ambition of becoming an international professional cyclist.

At the beginning of the year, the prospect of pursuing this dream looked dismal due to the lack of support in the women’s road cycling program. That lack of belief for a future in Women’s Cycling fell to an all-time low within Australia with many questioning it’s potential and leaving many, including myself, in doubt and uncertainty in our abilities. However as the news spread across the nation, others saw our capability and drive to compete at an international level which lead to the program being revived and in turn, saving one of the very few pathways to make it into the European race circuit.

And boy did they make us work for it! With the National Women’s Cycling Program coming back to life, it was like the two came hand-in-hand – the inevitable return of AIS “Survival”  Selection Camp. I have now attended two of these herculean style camps; once in 2013 and again this year, 2015. The first experience came as a huge shock as they tested our character and physcial capabilities in terms of what is required for coping living abroad and meeting the stressful demands of European racing. Going in with very little idea on what to expect,  this left me feeling tired and over trained which lead to an eventual prolonged break. Even though the severe nature of the camp contributed to the cessation for the search of my cycling career for a short period of time, it was also a push in the right direction; leaving me with a burning desire to come back stronger than ever. Which later that year helped lead to several NRS results…

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Selection Camp the second time round I had a little more to offer – in terms of ability on the bike, doing a little more growing up and far too much confidence for my own good… I found my experience slightly more positive. Coming into Selection Camp I had the attitude, “I ain’t going home until camp is completed!” Which supported the very risky idea of not purchasing a Flexi-flight ticket (mainly because their bloody expensive) but to confirm my commitment to myself that I was staying until the end. Half way through camp, the first elimination round came and I made the conscious decision to not disassemble my bike or pack up my bags. I had a chip on my shoulder from the last time I attended Selection Camp in 2013 and I was not ready to leave yet. Making it through the elimination (thank god… or else I would have been in so much trouble for not packing my belongings up) the next half of the camp proved to be extremely strenuous and mentally draining – however, I can now say I have completed AIS Selection Camp and survived to tell the blog!

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Our trip to Europe will commence in Mid-July and shortly after we arrive and settle into the  base located in Italy, we will be venturing off to Germany for Thuringen Rundfarht, and then a quick a trip to Belgium for several local kermesses, following a short period to recover and before we know it we will be on the road again for some Europe’s most prestige races in France – Route de France, Trophe Dor and Tour of Ardeche.

Did I mention we are fitting this all into a three month block !?!

Although it is extremely daunting to think that I will be competing against some of the best female cyclists in the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD at the same time I feel equally excited of the challenge to come and at least I can say, “It wasn’t as hard as the AIS selection camp I attended!”.

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^ I had a small Judd Nelson moment after completing camp..

In addition to all this exciting news I am extremely grateful to have received the Elite Athlete and Performer Scholarship and also the Direct Athlete Support Scholarship from Australian Catholic University. ACU has been very helpful by offering flexibility with all lecture/ tutorial content and exams, especially during my busy race schedule! ACU’s Elite Athlete Program has also been very supportive by helping organise to take my studies abroad … Keeping me on track to completing my university degree by 2020!

I also wanted to use this time to express my appreciation to all the people in my life who have supported me in reaching this achievement. My family and coach Marcel have stood the test of time and have never doubted my ability since taking up cycling, QAS for their on-tap access for additional support and Julie and Team from Revive Ashgrove for closely working with me through the use of physiotherapy. As the saying goes, there is no ‘I’ in team and I wouldn’t be making this step up without my support network. Lastly, Rochelle Gilmore deserves full recognition for her vision, motivation and hard work in her pivotal role of creating this fantastic opportunity now and what I believe, to be an exciting future for women’s cycling in Australia!

 

 

BTW! I have also heard along the grapevine that this trip will be well documented through a televised weekly program on Fox Sports: FullCycle (more details to come). In addition, to all this exciting news it does slightly worry me that everyone will get to witness my severe OCD cleaning tendencies and more than likely see tears (I am truly an ugly crier haha), however it will be great insight into life on the road and the women’s peloton!

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Cleaning doesn’t make me this happy…

 

Catch ya’ll on the flip side. Ciao!

 

Blog #6 – abit of bad luck …

I was out in the Toowoomba-region last weekend not to visit old relatives but for a much different reason… The Oceania Road Championships were held over two days of racing; with only a small field present it was quality riders rather than quantity.

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After a day of settling into country life, time seemed to have slowed down and I was eager to get the racing underway. Friday presented a grueling 25km ITT on the worst roads the organizers could find. An Individual Time Trial is always a good indicator of how your form is and I was interested to find out how I was going after a not so ideal week I shouldn’t of expected great results… I was in for a rough day ahead and had an absolute shocker (blinder, terrible, bad) ride.

Tip 101: You cannot just ‘wing’ a time trial.

 

With a much needed rest day on Saturday, I did the only touristy thing there is to do in Toowoomba and went up to Picnic Point. A nice distraction I tried to recuperate from yesterday’s experience and kept my focus positive for the day ahead.

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It was an early race start of 8.00AM – some saying it was a rude time to be up, however I found myself in my element being up before the crack of dawn and rearing to go. The field was small, attacks were hard and there was nowhere to hide. The race was heating up early and breaks were making sizeable gaps – plenty looking promising.

I managed to bridge to a break and with me, bring a few companions. With 40k to go three girls and I were working together and created a reasonable gap. As we were coming around for the final lap, we took a left hand turn into the head wind – where we planned to increase our distance to the chasing peloton. Suddenly my circumstances changed and I found myself stuck in the smallest cog with only two options remaining – the 39 and 53. Quickly reassessing my situation with my limited options I had no choice but to keep riding (A little last minute SE training for New Zealand I rationalized).

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I found myself a little useless with my breakaway companions and our gap was shutdown. One after another, there was counter attacks left, right and centre. There was a short lull and I seized the opportunity to get ahead start on the hills to come. I attacked / rolled off the front, trying to get the gear going but nothing over 80rpm was going to happen. With a reasonable head start all I had to do was make it over the final two climbs to stay in contention for the win. I made it over the first one- Just. With a cadence of at least 20 every revolution burned. The following hill came after a very short decent, which left me with very limited time to recover. I got to the base of the final climb completely ruined and as I looked back I could see the winning break comprised of Garfoot, Kitchen, Williams and Neylan coming with speed… and cadence.

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A disappointing race left me feeling under-whelmed and was an instant reminder of how cruel bike racing can truly be. With the NZ tour coming around so quick my focus has turned to the very tough tour coming up this week!

Next up: New Zealand Women’s Tour 18th Feb – 22nd Feb

Race Report: Cadel’s Great Ocean Road Race

With an early start to the NRS season and with TDU over already, racing is well underway. The Inaugural Cadel’s Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong was the second event for the year and my first race to kick the year off. A very well organised event – the standard of racing has truly been raised with many riders describing the race just like a European Spring Classic.

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Coming into the race, we were a teammate down with Sam DeRiter out due to illness. With only four riders, we focused on the job ahead and were fortunate to have Kendelle, our very vocal team leader who knew the course inside and out.

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With the race being 113km long, it was a race of attrition and whoever was best positioned. Positioning in every race is important but in particular today, it was especially important to know where the wind was coming from and where you needed to be in order to be in the front group. The crosswind played a major factor in the race with riders being caught-out at 15km in. A select group of no more than 20 were left after Greenedge proved they were the strongest team and drove the peleton in the gutter.

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In the end, Rachel Neylan made the deciding move during the last 20km’s when the course started to become undulating. Neylan played her moves to her advantage and won, solo, by 45sec’s on a splintered field. Tessa, who raced extremely smart and saved her bikkies for the most important part of the race and was able to go with the final moves. I came in 8th and took the Best Young Rider’s jersey. Jess, being the great team player that she is, supported all of us girls in the critical parts of the race and was always there to provide shelter.

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Considering were a newly formed team, we have come together and have worked well as a team and as a bonus, achieved the majority of our goals (Leaving Donna a very happy director!)                         Note: Happy Donna – Happy Team

Finally, Thank You! Cadel for all the years you have represented Australia at the highest level of competition. You have left a major impression on the sport, which no one will forget. You have finished your sporting career in style, and with an event everyone is looking forward to again next year. Chapeau Cadel!

Blog #5 – An exciting year ahead!

Blog #4 – Total Domination by HWCT

It was a clean sweep for the Holden Women’s Cycling Team at the National Capital Tour. We had a strong team leading into the tour with Jenelle back after her accident O/S, Jess Pratt (guest rider from QLD), Jo and Ruth. We were privileged to come away with Teams Classification, Sprinters / QOM Jersey, Young Riders Classification and the Yellow Jersey. But it was anything but easy!

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The Teamies – National Capital Tour

The First Stage presented to us was a 17km Time Trial around Canberra’s spectacular lake Burley Griffin. I had been working hard on my time trialing and was hoping for a better result than last year where I got lost on the course.   (A quick thanks to Margie for lending me her Cervelo TT bike… But let’s just say I would have gone faster on a Specialized.)

Before I knew it stage one was over and I had made some friends from ASADA. This was my first time being drug-tested and I was quickly whisked away to meet some people from ASADA and was informed of the relatively quick/ straight-forward process… Unless your name is Ellen Skerritt and your bladder decides to instantly shut down. Two bottles of water and a few laps of the bathroom later – an hour had passed and I had finally done it. I was told for next time I should create a ‘Waterfall Soundtrack’ (I am open to all suggestions). During this time I had no idea what the results were until I saw a text from mum saying, ‘OMG you won the TT!’   I was just as surprised!

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Start of Stage One- 17km TT

Coming into Stage Two I had a nice lead and with the ‘wowza’ hill (8km Climb) finishing off a 120km stage I was pretty confident I could make up more time. So I played the waiting game and focused on staying fresh and my nutrition to ensure I had the legs. The team worked very hard to keep the bunch together and when it came to punch Ruth had better legs and took the win. I was very happy to take second and maintain the Yellow Jersey.

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Talking Tactics

Stage three was an 80km Kermesse that consisted of a fast 20km-circuit. This was probably my favourite stage because my teammates kept the race under full-control by setting the pace high and covering attacks. Which made my job easy: Sit in and stay fresh for the afternoon stage and eat a bucket-load of muesli bars!

The final stage was a 40lap criterium in front of Parliament House. It was a technical course and definitely a race of positioning. It was on from the gun and I found myself in a working break of three from the initial lap. This was so not the plan. By the time we reached the 20th lap our break diminished down to just Allison Rice (Suzuki/ Brumbies) and I. Slowly we were getting reeled back by the main peloton until Ruth bridged across in a huge effort and gave us the extra power we needed to stay away and nearly lap the field! With my legs feeling good I attacked with a lap to go and won the final stage solo.

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Final Stage – 40lap Criterium – I apologise for the pathetic salute.. It needs abit of work.

I am very grateful to take the National Capital Tour as my first NRS tour win but it was only achieved through the hard work of the entire Holden team – Jo, Jenelle, Jess and Ruth. We all backed each other 1000% to place Holden and Ruth at the top of the NRS GC standings. Mwah!

To finish off a quick thanks to my support network that helped me take the next step up in NRS and move into 2nd on overall standings! A big thank you to Jules (our team manager) for another well-organized tour… Can’t wait for the next one! Specialized, Seight Custom Clothing, Ride Mechanic, Premax, MB Coaching and Revive Ashgrove for their ongoing support.

Keep an eye out for the next update!

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“slowwww down 4 what” – Motto for National Capital Tour.