Thursday, 5 December 2013

2013 Round Up

I've been home now for over a month and been thinking it's time to give this season a wrap and move forward to thinking about 2014!

All up, it's been a pretty special year. I've spent my first full season in Europe racing for first year professional team Wiggle Honda and couldn't have asked for a better set up and group of girls as team mates.

I'm not sure exactly how many race days I've had (should probably count) but it's been a fair few! Beginning my season in NZ/Aus and continuing on to race a full season in Europe was pretty full on but wouldn't do it if the love for the sport and the chaotic life that comes with it wasn't there...

Being Wiggle Honda's first year as a team, it's been a huge success. The team have had many a time on the top step and I've been grateful to be part of each experience. Every race I learn something new from more experienced team mates so can definitely say I've come a long way in one year.

On a personal note, a major highlight for me was taking the team's first UCI win at Belgian Omloop het Hageland back in March. An  unexpected early season victory and my biggest win to date. Definitely was a proud moment winning here with my Wiggle Honda team mates. 

Another highlight would be continuing to progress throughout the year in the individual time trial and prologue department. Since beginning the sport, all through my junior days I have never really been much chop at a time trialing unless it was uphill (as a wee one)! Now that I look back on it, I was doing plenty wrong... like warm up, specific training and mental prep. After learning a few tips this year from my British track star team mates, I am happy to have stepped up with my TT performances and deliver a few good results throughout the season. Finishing 7th in the Giro di Toscana prologue back in September was a good moment!

Other season favourites was being part of all team wins but especially big ones like Giorgia Bronzini's Giro Rosa stage win on top of many more and Linda Villumsen's multiple victories also. It's great to have  these girls along with other team leaders mentoring us less experienced riders in the team. Their strengths are very different on the bike...Linda is a GC and TT specialist whereas Giorgia is one of the best if not the best sprinter in the peloton. Even though physical abilities are different, they can be pretty similar in their teaching and sharing of experience. Plus both very down to earth, friendly girls which is a bonus!

A final personal highlight was my most recent victory at the New Zealand National Criterium Championships raced in my hometown, Auckland. 
I went into the race a little unsure of my abilities after coming off an end of season break and also after my less than best end to the European season back in September following a virus and a bang to the head!

Nonetheless, I had been back on the bike preparing for around 3 weeks and the legs had eventually come around. I was 2nd in the event last year and in all honesty If I had finished anything less than 1st I would have been pretty disappointed...a good sign I really wanted the win!

The race was held down at Takapuna, lined along a main strip of bars and restaurants, so plenty of crowds and supporters are always out giving a's great to see the interest in cycling in NZ growing. It's still a few steps behind Europe in terms of cycling culture and passion but getting there. (Note all Auckland/NZ motorists...give us a break)!

I was thrilled to have a great support crew of family and friends, can't get much better than having these people cheer you on on local turf. Thanks all!

I went into the race prepared to have to work for it in knowing I had no team mates out there to support me. I knew the biggest competition would be Sophie Williamson who has been riding like a hitter on the track recently. I would have loved to have been in a move up the road to escape the peloton and not have to risk it in a sprint but after trying my chances multiple times I realised after a while I was too marked by the field to escape. In saying that, I continued to follow attacks in the hope that one might stick. In the final few laps it was clear a bunch kick would be happening. I hadn't moved from the first 3-4 spots throughout the race and would now do my best to maintain that spot to be in a good possie for the final sprint. Things suddenly took a turn however when Jenna Mackgill of LivGiant took a final lap flier with a big attack at 1 to go. It took the peloton a while to react and after a moments pause I realised I needed to go for it otherwise I'd very well be racing for 2nd again...

Jenna managed to get a fairly decent gap but after violently chasing and attacking myself down the back straight of the course in a desperate plea to reach her before the line I managed to make some pretty good ground. Following my burst, Sophie Williamson came over the top of me kicking hard. I just managed to hold her wheel and stay there before coming around last minute as we overtook Jenna and then took the win. Phew. Big last lap but adrenalin filled and hopefully an exciting one for the crowds! 

I was stoked and still am to have finally won an elite National title.

For now I'm home training and working part time at Avantiplus in Newmarket (thanks to Richie RMC and team for having me along and teaching me a bit about bikes for a few months ;) )

Aside from that this summer has a bit in store. Mainly just training up, getting the body nice and strong and prepared for 2014 as well as working on weaknesses and plenty of organising for the season to come.

I've just this weekend raced the NSW GP series proudly wearing my new Dhb NZ champs Wiggle Honda kit and am very happy with how things panned out for the team. We had an unbeatable 2 days clean sweeping the podium on day one and 1-2 day two plus the overall series. Can't get better than that so all up a pretty successful weekend for the Wigglettes!. Special congrats to German team mate Lotte Becker who showed her savy racing skills taking the overall win. A true champ and brave one at that after crashing pretty rough day two and still bouncing back to win the series. #trooper Cheers Phil Bates for putting on another top event.

Sprint for 3rd as Lauren Kitchen solos for the win ahead of Lotte Becker

Peta Mullens wins breakaway kick after massive lead out by Lotte Becker who takes overall win!

Next on tap is the Launceston Criterium in Tasmania this weekend which should be a bit of fun. A long way to go for 1 crit so pressure is on to perform!

Think that's about a wrap...

Special THANKS to big sponsors from New Zealand; OPI New Zealand and Nimue Skin Technology (Global Beauty). Without your support and assistance It would have been very difficult for this year to really happen, so very big thanks! 

OPI is a proud sponsor of the New Zealand womens OPI road race held last weekend (29th November) in conjunction with the Taupo cycle challenge. This event is incredibly well run and the support OPI gives to the race is great. Female cycling in NZ is still a massive growth sport so it is really pleasing to see OPI invest into the sport and support what we are doing. In saying that, I am very proud to be an OPI ambassador and was disappointed to have to miss the event due to a race calendar clash with the NSWGP in Australia, an important event for Wiggle. Congratulations to Reta Trotman for taking the OPI road race win!

And of course big THANKS to...

- Wiggle Honda and all team sponsors for your ongoing support this season. It has been a very special year and the perfect start to racing for a professional team. Very excited for what 2014 brings with you all!

- Rochelle Gilmore for giving me this opportunity to be part of the team. 
Creating this team, owning and managing it has been a massive accomplishment and has already been a huge success. I'm sure a big future is to come!

- Maurice Verkerk - your support is very much appreciated and has gone a very long way this year :)

- Rocktape NZ. Big fan of Rocktape and the Rocktape NZ family. A great bunch of athletes!

- My team mates all of which have made this season a damn good time. You girls are the best and already excited for another top year with you. 

- My coach, Tina Pic. Constantly supportive and enthusiastic!

- Bike NZ, especially Steve Connell for having me stay this year at the NZ base in Oudenaarde. I had a great time here; great spot & top crew. Cheers for putting up with me lads!

- Paul Leitch for continuing to help me over NZ summer

- James Canny for being a GC always

- Halo Headband USA - thankyou for the great selection of Halo's this year. They're getting a lot of use :)

And lastly to my very supportive family (Danny + Lou) mates and supporters who make life on the road that bit easier. There are too many to name but every message and cheer along the way means heaps. 

Bit early but Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Euro Summer Season

This year is flying by and it’s sad to say that the Euro summer has almost come to an end.
Things have been pretty full go since my last update back in China (a long time ago now) with plenty of racing as the tour's began back in June. Spring was all about the brutal one day battles, whereas summer has included more stage racing. It’s been quite a nice change and I can happily say the peloton tends to be a wee bit calmer when racing back to back days. Just a bit!

Looking back a few months I was competing in my first Giro Rosa. The Giro is kind of like the female version of the Tour de France. It’s huge and everyone wants to be there racing. This year is was shortened to 8 days of pain and it was a pretty crazy experience, filled with some great memories to keep. Not only was the racing very challenging but also the logistics. We ended up covering a lot of Italy along the way with some serious transfers after each stage. 600km being the longest...Plenty of team bonding in the camper!
Wiggle Honda’s Giorgia Bronzini took out stage 2 in an incredible sprint and also a 2nd place stage 6. The win was a special thing to be part of.

Following the Giro I had a week to rest up and recover at best in Belgium with the kiwi crew. I’ve been staying in the kiwi base for most of the season just out of Oudenaarde and not far from famous Belgian city, Gent. It’s been a great time there...good training with some nice punchers plus plenty of cobbles and a bit happening in the area to avoid boredom but not too much to be of a distraction (perfect cyclist environment)! To top things off, a great crew of people. It’s been the best being around New Zealanders between races as helps avoid any homesickness and keeps the mood pretty ‘chill’. Kiwi’s tend to be fairly laid back people (as we’ve been told) so it’s been good! ‘All Hood in the Good’ as they’d say. Plenty of barbeque time this summer too which has been a bonus!! Thanks for having me team.

From there it was off to East Germany for Thuringen Rhundfarht; another 7 day stage race. I was a little dubious as to how the bod would hold up after the Giro and the small recovery period following but after some serious relaxation in Belg I was feeling  fit and healthy and ready for new battles. This was my first real time in Germany, having only ever crossed the AutoBahn in the past. German team mates Anna 'Schnitzi' Schnitzmeier and Lotte Becker were pretty pleased to have us there. All in all it was a solid week with a top 5, 15th in the ITT and a few top tens. Following the TT the team was committed to Linda and her contending the GC. She certainly found her form pretty quickly following arrival in Europe! 

After a good few days of relentless efforts to make something happen we had to suffice with 5th place for her in the General. This certainly got her revved up for her next one at the Route De France where she cleaned up on the last day, winning the overall by a phenomenal 6 minutes. This girl flies!

My first Derney race in Germany!

Following this I had a few more events in Germany and the UK followed by a top training camp in the Alps with Anna and Dani  and British men’s team NFTO race. It was only planned for us to be there the week before so I really had no idea of what to expect. Safe to say it was a challenging week – I don’t think I’ve ever gone up so much in 4 days! We conquered some pretty famous TDF climbs and lucky (or not) for us the TDF km signs were still up...28km to go, 27km to go...and so on. I really don’t know if it was too good for the mind seeing that wee sign every k of the climb! 1km to go was a treat, however.
We did some epic days in the saddle but thanks to great company and support it made for a top week. The lads were all very cruisy and welcoming so it was a good time. Must admit I was pretty smoked by the end of it though...
Thanks to John and NFTO racing for having us Wiggle girls along. We had the best week!

Following this I knew I’d have some serious fitness coming into my next big event, The Sweden World Cup team time trial and road race. I’d got the call a few weeks earlier that I had made the team and I was pretty thrilled about it. It’s a very special event and something I’m still new to but am excited about. Wiggle Honda has some very strong TT riders so I’m pleased to be learning from them through this whole experience. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan following the Alps...when your body is at its best fitness (according to my coach)! you either peak or you shut down and get ill. While most of the other riders from the Alps went into top form, I drew the line and shut down picking up a flu virus the day prior to the TTT. I was beside myself and very frustrated at the timing of this. It’s not the best feeling, especially the beginnings of the flu when you’re not quite sure what’s going on. That achy, heavy feeling all over...Initially I thought I may just be tired but then woke with the remaining symptoms the next day. Safe to say I wasn’t an asset in the TTT and contributions were minimal. Much to my disappointment I also had to withdraw from the road race. Not the best weekend but kudos to the girls who pulled off an impressive 5th place with just 4 riders. 

After a few frustrating weeks trying to get over sickness, I was off to France for our next block. I hadn't done much at all these weeks as recovery was taking it's time. Safe to say I suffered a whole lot in Ardeche and the very mountainous terrain didn't exactly help!
All up a successful week with Gio claiming two stages and Linda in the leaders jersey until the final day where she unfortunately got pretty ill with food poisoning. Not ideal but thankfully she came good after a few days :)

Toscana was next up in Italy. With only a few days to recover I was still pretty weary. I was happy, however to get my best result in a prologue coming in 7th. This was cool for me and definitely lifted my confidence a little after the previous sickness. Unfortunately, however after suffering a virus recovery is a lot slower so when you put your body under a lot of stress in extreme efforts like a prologue it can really take its toll. The next day I really suffered through. It was a very miserable bike race and one of those days I honestly wasn't sure If I could reach the finish line. I did and much to my delight after my bad day, I came in to the news our star Gio had done it again. She is climbing like a demon so watch out Worlds!

I'm now cruising with the kiwis preparing for the World Championships road race this coming Saturday, in Italy. I'm very excited to be here competing and hope to deliver a good performance for the team. Team mate and friend Linda just pulled off an impressive 2nd place in yesterday's ITT so we all know she is bombing. I think she too is one to watch!

All has been well preparing aside from the odd hiccup. Yesterday, out training near Montecatino I was cruising home after training when I slipped on a nasty patch of fresh oil coming downhill. I hit my head a bit rough so took a trip in the ambo and spent the day getting tests in a crazy Italian hospital. Wasn't really crazy but they do talk fast?! Thankfully all was ok, just a bit banged and some stitches on my forehead. #harrypotter
Could've been much worse. Helmets are the best!

Jumped on the rollers this morning and body seems all fine so moving on and now looking forward to Saturday! Go kiwis!

All for now.

Thanks again to all Wiggle Honda sponsors, staff and team for a great season. It's been a year to remember and very pleased to say I will be returning for 2014!

Also to O.P.I and Nimue Skin Technology (Global Beauty NZ), Maurice Verkerk, Tina Pic and Rocktape NZ.

                                                  A BIG THANKS!


HALO headbands
                                         Favourite quote of the month...