Friday, 29 April 2016

Kick off

So, we're now well underway into the 2016 season. I've just finished up a pretty hectic roller coaster spring block in Europe with my team, TIBCO-Silicon Valley bank. Here's a wee update on the season so far.

From November through to mid February I was between home and Australia, enjoying some time catching up with family and friends and working hard preparing for the season ahead. I did things a bit differently to the past off seasons and spent more time training as opposed to racing all the down under crits. Lots of miles clocked up and time spent in the gym trying to strengthen up! I even joined a local cross fit class after being motivated by team mate Jo Kiesanowski's cross fit Instagram uploads. This girl doesn't muck around in the gym!

After a solid few months I began racing again with the National road champs, closely followed by the women's Tour down Under in Adelaide. Nationals was my first race back since the 2015 season so I was lacking a little in race fitness but nonetheless it was great to be back and on a refreshing new course in Napier. I came In 5th with Jo up there for 3rd. A very dominant Rushlee Buchanan took both road and TT titles. The track girls were all flying so made for some tough competition!


The women's TDU in Adelaide was another solid start to the season, dominated by a crazy strong Orica Greenedge, also fresh off their National Champs. I raced for the New Zealand national team along with Jo, Linda Villumsen and three of our up and coming young riders; a neat opportunity for all. I came away with top ten in the general classification so wasn't too disappointed although we had really hoped to nab a stage win. Competition and the Aussie sun was tough! Special thanks to Garry Bell for coming on board as director and manager for the week.

PDitty Images By Pete Dunlop

Following the Tour I spent a few weeks in Adelaide cheering Michael on in the men's Tour and then settling in for a solid training block. Love the roads in Adelaide, offering a bit of everything from climbs to rolling hills and also flat beach rides!

Catch up time with these Aussie toppies

After not so patiently awaiting my delayed US visa I was finally off to kick start the season officially with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank. Due to the delay I unfortunately missed team camp and although gutted meant I got an extra week with Michael and with family enjoying the last of down under summer. This year is a big one for him with the Australian teams pursuit team on the track. They recently won the Worlds in London and now the big goal is the Olympics. Not often I cheer for Aus but this is an exception!

So with just a few days in California to grab my fresh new gear and catch up on some sleep it was off to Europe to begin a busy Spring block of races. We arrived into Belgium to our new home for the following few months, The Chain Stay in Oudenaarde; a very cycling friendly setup perfect for the team with plenty of bedrooms and a large kitchen and hang out area. To add to that, Oudenaarde is a pretty ideal base to prepare for the classics right in the heart of the famous Vlaanderen bergs and cobbled sectors. Brought back good memories from 2013 when I was based there with some of the kiwi trackies.

So, onto the to say I'd forgotten how intense the Spring one dayers are. They're the first races in Europe of the season, the peloton is BIG sometimes over 200 girls are lining up to start, each rider a bundle of nerves, narrow roads, cobbles, wind, cold and challenging conditions. What more could you want?! After missing last Spring the first few definitely came as a bit of a shock to the system! For me, and also my team it was remembering how important that constant fight for position to be at the front was. There really is no rest, physically or mentally; a battle from start to finish and some serious aggression within the peloton. Each race was ended in complete exhaustion and either disappointment, encouragement or relief to be done!

Kristel Van Gilst

We had our ups and downs but certainly had our fair share of sh*t luck. We initially came over with 6 riders and from the first race had issues with sickness and injury and later had our race bikes stolen the night prior to the Drenthe World Cup. It just seemed to come in a stream and never really did stop! Following that I seemed to have my personal share with a few tumbles and mishaps. Fairly frustrating as I know I'm fit and training my best but haven't yet been able to show it - well maybe in the convoy where I spent a fair bit of time chasing back on! My best result of Spring was at the Drenthe World Cup in Holland where I came in 15th. I was happy with this but was and am certainly hungry for much more. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as they say and I'm confident that although we didn't get what we'd hoped for in results, we certainly grew as a team, toughened up and got some pretty intense race fitness under the belt.

Sweet shot of my team mate Brie Walle getting mixed up in the dirt at Drenthe!

Wasn't all cold days - here signing on for the Trofeo Binda World Cup in Italy

My Flanders black eye.

Following our last Euro race I was on the plane to Girona for a few days to briefly catch Michael as he ventured back over from track camp in Aus. Although only a couple of days it was definitely worth it, great to see him, our friends and clear the head. Will never get sick of this place and pretty excited to be back here in the summertime.

After a 'typical' Emily travel adventure from Barcelona to the US, including a missed connection and time spent sprinting across silly big American airports I finally made it to Fayetville, Arkansas for the Joe Martin Stage race the day before stage one. No time for jet lag! Lucky for me I'm a pretty decent sleeper and figure with one solid nights sleep I'm fresh as new, good to go ;) Not quite, but could've felt worse come day one's 5km uphill time trial, coming in top 20 with two team mates up there in the top ten and fellow kiwi and world champ Linda Villumsen smashing it to give herself a solid lead.

Dean Warren Photography

Being on the back foot from day one certainly didn't make life easy for us. We had to go with an aggressive approach each day following to try and crack the United Health Care team or at least initially wear them down. With a super strong squad, they did a stellar job of holding that jersey and taking stage wins along the way with speedster Coryn Rivera. After many attempts, we were worn out and feeling beaten leading into the final day. I was also incredibly frustrated with myself for messing up two finishing sprints to come in a lousy 4th and 5th. All in the positioning! A lot of us are still getting to know each other as riders with several new girls on board this season, so hopefully this will come with time and practice and for myself, think a slab of confidence could do the trick.

Anyway, come the final day; a very challenging 1 hour criterium awaited offering plenty of turns, humps and bumps with a gnarly uphill kick to the finish. We knew this was our last shot so it was do or die. Anything can happen on this course; it's tough and there's always going to be tired legs on the last day. Following our solid attempts the prior few days we were hoping we had worn UHC down a little but couldn't be sure! So, we went on the attack from the first sprint 5 laps in and didn't look back. Brie and Lauren both took bonus seconds moving into 3rd and 4th in the general classification. Goal one was ticked off as at this point UHC was too far ahead to realistically be beaten in the overall. Goal 2 was to nab the stage and on the final lap Lauren took the perfect opportunity countering an attack while Linda in the leaders jersey was on the front under pressure. She rode away to take an impressive stage win and finally get us the result we'd tried so hard for over the past days. Relief! - and a happy team! I ended up finishing up in 9th in the general too after a solid few days so wasn't too disappointed with the legs after jumping straight off the plane.

Ethan Glading (Stoked)
Biff Stephens

Dean Warren Photography
Ethan Glading

I'm now in Boulder, Colorado getting some time in at altitude and staying with one of my favourite American fams, the Donohues who kindly also took me in last year for a training block. Love it here but unfortunately the winter has returned. I can't really complain as never have a true winter but really, snow in April?! Madness. I'm here with my team mate Cheryl and we've had some challenging days attempting to ride in the snow. Today I've taken a rest day and thankful for the rollers. Cheryl has meanwhile just finished up three hours on the turbo trainer - that's commitment right there or maybe she's just crazy?!

Next up we head to Silver City, New Mexico for the Tour of Gila. This one's a first for me. It's at altitude and there's plenty of climbing so preparing for some challenging race days ahead! As Lauren Hall would say, 'Bread and butter'.

Thanks again to our great team sponsors, Jeff Pierce and New World Remuera for the support.

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