J11, J13, J15, J17… NRS?!

Some warned me it would be fast, others warned me there would be a lot of yelling, but no one warned me how FUN it would be! My first senior road tour was a blast!

The tour was located in East Gippsland, and although I’ve heard some bad weather stories over the past few years, this time, the weather was perfect! Funnily enough, the last time I visited this part of Victoria was ten years ago, also for a cycling event – the Great Victorian Bike Ride back when I was six!

I lined up for my time trial at 8:25am, well warmed up and very excited. Apart from the fancy start ramp, lack of TT bars, and the disc wheels wherever I looked, it almost seemed like just another junior tour! The course was great – lumpy but still fast. I gave it my all to finish 29th out of 40 riders, 72 seconds off the winner and just 20 seconds outside the top 15! I was happy to achieve my original goal of not finishing in the bottom 5, and to have a benchmark to strive for during the rest of the tour.

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Saturday’s 8km time trial. Photo: Phoenix Cycling Collective

It all became a bit more REAL when I lined up for the 72 kilometre road race a few hours later. It was awesome to be part of such a great field, with riders coming from all across Australia! But I knew this stage was going to be a tough one, as it was my first ride, let alone race, over 60 kilometres since I had glandular fever last month. It was also a little scary being the only Under 19 rider! I wasn’t racing any of my usual competitors, and I just had to hope muscle memory and mental toughness would kick in for the last part of the race!

We started out on a long downhill, the field spread out wide across the whole road. This race was already very different to any I had done before, with riders bringing their teammates to the front and attacks appearing as soon as we left the neutral zone! Apart from the impressive breakaway duo of Taryn Heather (Specialized Women’s Racing) and Jade Colligan (Nowra Velo), the bunch stayed relatively calm and remained together. The real challenge came when we left the 18 kilometre circuit and headed home, via the 900 metre Stones Hill. At an average gradient of eight percent, the hill did its job in sorting out who had legs left and who didn’t. Over the top emerged five hillclimbers, led by Lucy Kennedy of the High5 Dream Team. I managed to stick with the second group of six riders, which was a nice surprise! We were soon caught by another group and together, we worked hard to catch the girls in front.

The finish came after a long uphill drag followed by a left-hand turn into a sharp climb. We had caught the leaders and I was feeling surprisingly good as the ‘3km to go’ sign came into view. I was just wondering how to move up to the front and into a good position for the sprint when another individual rider, Margeaux Thompson, kindly offered to show me the ropes and drag me up! It turned out to be great timing – as soon as we reached the front, there was an attack! I managed to follow it, and although we were swallowed up soon after, it felt awesome to be off the front with only 1.5 kilometres to go! Unfortunately, my race plan came crashing down when I resumed my position in the pack. A touch of wheels directly in front of me meant that I had nowhere to go, and so I hit the crashed bike and flipped over my handlebars. This was the same way in which I separated my shoulder two months ago, so as I was ‘mid-flight’, I was definitely expecting the worst! Luckily, my physio exercises must have paid off, since I only ended up with a few bruises and could finish the race, claiming bunch time. The sprint continued without me, and as I pedalled up the road, I saw the dominant Holden Women’s Cycling’s Shannon Malseed take out the sprint ahead of Ruth Corset (Rush Women’s Cycling) and Jessica Pratt (High5 Dream Team).

Today, I was feeling more confident. I had stayed with the bunch the day before and surprisingly, the crash actually helped me to overcome my nerves by giving me my sense of immunity back! Not every time you crash do you break something, so it was onto my next goal – attack!

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The start of the road race. Photo: Phoenix Cycling Collective

I attacked three times, but unfortunately I only had breakaway companions once, and when I did, we were chased down quickly. After 46 kilometres, on the third and final lap, the pace increased and the tempo stayed high all the way up until the sharp final pinch. High5 Dream Team took out the 1-2, with Sam de Riter edging out her teammate Lucy Kennedy, followed by Rush rider Ruth Corset. I followed through with the remainder of the bunch, spent but upright!

It turns out that the key to NRS General Classification success is to be great at time trials, as there are no time bonuses at stake. Louisa Lobigs held onto her 2 second lead from Stage 1 to win the tour, over teammate Shannon Malseed. Wonder-Mum Ruth Corset was hot on their heels – she’ll be one to look out for come the next round of the NRS! Great job to everyone who raced this weekend, and a big thank you to my selfless mum and brother for all of the support, as well as to the commissaires and volunteers (especially First Aid!) You were all awesome! Next up, Tour of Mansfield and the famous Mt Buller climb!

View the full results here.

– Sarah Gigante

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The leaders of the NRS after Round 1. Photo and feature image: Ernesto Arriagada
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Cycling Australia Road National Championships

On a hot day in Buninyong, 65 U23 and Elite women lined up to race the Cycling Australia National Road Championships.

An early break of three formed including Shara Gillow, Ellen Skerritt and Jenelle Crooks, with Gillow and Skerritt doing the bulk of the work while Crooks played the role of policewoman for Orica-Scott.

On the 6th lap, a chase group of five caught the three leaders, with break of the day forming from Orica-Scott duo Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt, with Queensland’s Lucy Kennedy in hot pursuit.

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Meanwhile, the pace, temperature and strong crosswinds whittled down the U23 category to just four riders, with Alex Manly, Jaime Gunning, Ella Scanlan Bloor and Emily Parkes all together in the peloton.

With one lap to go, the Orica-Scott duo were left to fight it out amongst themselves for the gold, while Kennedy, less than a minute behind, turned herself inside out to stay ahead of the chase group led by Carlee Taylor and Jenelle Crooks. Race favourite Peta Mullens was caught out early and led home the peloton, 6 minutes behind the leaders.

Coming into the final 500m, time trial champion Garfoot kicked early with defending champion Spratt attempting to come around, but unable to overcome her strong teammate. Kennedy bravely hung on to her gap to take home the bronze medal.

In the U23 race, Manly sprinted alongside her Orica-Scott teammates to pick up the gold medal, with Gunning and Parkes closing out the top three in the bunch sprint.

Congratulations to Orica-Scott for completing the double double – both Katrin Garfoot and Alex Manly won both the time trial and road race! The team also won the sprint classification with Amanda Spratt on 5 points. The mountain classification was won by Queensland’s Shara Gillow.

Well done to everyone who pinned on a number, especially the 38 women who finished in gruelling conditions!

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5 Ways to Keep Racing Fun!

By Sarah Gigante

No pain, no gain.

Train insane or remain the same.

Dreams don’t work unless you do.

We often hear these rules, and strive to abide by them, but I only realised this year that “work hard, play hard” is probably the most essential rule of all. My friends and I are mostly juniors and we have been riding our bikes on a daily basis for years.We can’t imagine a different life!  However, as far as we have come, we still have a long way to go if we wish to keep progressing into the elites; which, I am sure, most of us do! A major challenge lies ahead for a combination of reasons, including increased pressures at school, heightened expectations on the bike and the desire to have a social life. Unfortunately, the number of girls competing in the U19 age group drops off dramatically when compared to younger age groups. So,with that in mind, as the new season starts and the U17 girls graduate into this mysterious, ever-shrinking U19 age group, keep these tips close – even closer than you keep your Garmin!

1. Ride with your friends!

This one I cannot stress enough. Training doesn’t have to be boring – it should be the highlight of your day! Find some riding buddies in your area – you may know them from racing, work, school, or just from seeing them out on the road!  Get a Facebook group together and organise some rides – you can choose fast, slow, hilly or flat, just do it with friends!

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Working hard or hardly working?

2. Try a different style of riding

Cycling is the best sport in the world – that much is clear! So what could be better than riding your roadie everyday? Trying track! Or cyclocross! Maybe give BMX and mountain-biking a go! Riding in a different style is sure to spice things up and keep you on your toes. Every night, you should be asking yourself, ‘Tomorrow – will I be climbing mountains, sprinting along Beach Rd, racing my mates at DISC (this one is highly recommended!), or finding some routes less travelled and getting my bike dirty?’ Whatever your choice, this is certain to keep riding fun and, as a bonus, you will be training without even thinking about it!

3. Do what YOU want!

Some juniors take on a coach at a very young age. This often means that the freedom of  when to ride,where to ride, how long, what heart rate zones and which races should be targeted all disappear. And freedom and exploration are half the fun! I had a coach for a while, and while I learnt a lot – for example, I never knew how much recovery a rider needs! – for the past nine months I have well and truly enjoyed being coach-less.  I go on as many rides and enter as many races as I can! I am still putting in all the hard work, just it is a thousand times more fun!

4. Think long-term!

We may think that we are practically Olympians now but, sadly, we’re not quite there yet! We have many, many years to go! Don’t worry if this season hasn’t quite worked out for you, or if you’ve never really been able to compete against the top girls or boys in your age group. Basically, this race to be a pro is actually a marathon, even though we may be thinking of it as a sprint!  Stay cool during juniors, do your best, and definitely keep focusing on school…you will want a nice job later to be able to pay for those lovely carbon bikes!  Even if you do have to downplay the cycling action for a year or two while you complete Year 12, this is definitely not going to be the be all and end all point in your career – unless you let it be! If you do choose to have some time away from your bike, just ease back into it and remember, always keep it fun!

5. Don’t always look at the numbers.

This point is becoming more and more valid as bike technology is improving at a stunning rate. Sometimes, it’s just nice to leave the Garmin at home (or for all you Strava fans, you can keep it in your back pocket!) and just ride for fun  with your mates. Don’t worry if you have to change your plans, this is actually what makes our sport so unpredictable and awesome. For example, I thought today was going to be a nice recovery ride but it turned into an interval day, thanks to one of my competitive friends! (Okay, guilty)…maybe on Friday I’ll take it a bit easier!

Hopefully as the new season starts we will see all of the girls who have been competing since U11s and recruit some more as well! If you’re ever unsure, just remember why you chose to start racing in the first place…

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Brunswick Junior Clinic