#FlashBackFriday: The Giro Rosa in Photos

Team meetings, tactics, plans. Life on tour. © Wei Yuet Wong

While this isn’t an old blog I’m reposting for your reading pleasure I am flashing back to last month’s Giro Rosa.

The 25th edition of the Giro Rosa covered more than 900kms and started with a night-time prologue in the southern town of Caserta before nine road stages.  From southern Italy the race made its way north from Campania through Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy and Piedmont, before returning to Lombardy for the final stage.

It was a tour dominated by RaboLiv who finished first, second and third on the general classification but the results don’t the full story. Fast, aggressive racing each day provided a fantastic showcase of women’s cycling in amazing countryside. In this photo blog I’ll take you inside this years Giro Rosa with some of the best cycling photos I’ve seen in a long time thanks to Wei Yuet Wong. Hope you enjoy!


My teammate Elisa Longo Borghini wore the Italian National Time Trial Champion skin suit for the first time after claiming the title just weeks before. © Wei Yuet Wong

My teammate Elisa Longo Borghini wore the Italian National Time Trial Champion skin suit for the first time after claiming the title just weeks before. © Wei Yuet Wong

The opening prologue of the Giro Rosa started at 8.30 in the evening. With over 150 riders the last rider didn’t roll down the start ramp until after 10pm. You can read my blog here about the 2km race against the clock.

“1km out and 1km back the course was run through the centre of downtown Caserta and on truly horrible roads; the pavé was like Belgian cobbles that had been given growth hormones. Large and lumpy you were thrown from one side to the other and finding a rhythm and maintaining a high power was not easy…”

The first road stage of the Giro Rosa was held around the city of Santa Maria a Vico on a tough circuit. © Wei Yuet Wong

The first road stage of the Giro Rosa was held around the city of Santa Maria a Vico on a tough circuit. © Wei Yuet Wong

The first stage was meant to be one for the sprinters, but one look at the profile and I knew better. The race went on to shatter and the general classification changed very little over the next eight stages. My teammates Ashleigh Moolman, Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon lit the race on fire with attacks and counter attacks. Elisa finished second behind Marianne Vos. You can read my report here.

Audrey Cordon said after the race, "what was I think? I raced that like a one day race!". She had a fantastic first ever Giro Rosa. © Wei Yuet Wong

Audrey Cordon said after stage one, “what was I thinking? I raced that like a one day race!” She had a fantastic first ever Giro Rosa. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage two was one for the sprinters. But bad luck had me and my team miss out of the bunch sprint won by Giorgia Bronzini. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage two was one for the sprinters. But bad luck had me and my team miss out on contesting the bunch sprint won by Giorgia Bronzini. © Wei Yuet Wong

The second road stage of the Giro Rosa was one of missed opportunities for myself and my Hitec Products team.

“Crash.

A huge crash, right at the front of the peloton. Like dominos girls just started piling on-top of each other.

Shit…”

Stage three saw the first mountain top finish of the Giro Rosa, won by Annemiek van Vluten. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage three saw the first mountain top finish of the Giro Rosa, won by Annemiek van Vlueten. © Wei Yuet Wong

The third stage finished in the beautiful town of San Donato Val di Comino, Annemiek van Vlueten won after making the early break and out smarting her breakaway companions to stay away. Here’s my round up of the stage.

Team meetings, tactics, plans. Life on tour. © Wei Yuet Wong

Team meetings, tactics, plans. Life on tour. © Wei Yuet Wong

We wanted crosswinds but they didn’t come, the fourth stage raced along Adriatica coast before turning inland to finish in the town of Jesi. Here our team director, Marc Bracke, talks about wind direction. Vos went on to win her second stage. Stage recap here.

“In the end the however, the predicted crosswinds were a no show like Wiggo at the Tour this year…”

Crashing is part of bike racing. Nursing injuries through tours is part of the job. Julie Leth crashed hard on the first road stage of the Giro (along with half of the peloton). © Wei Yuet Wong

Crashing is part of bike racing. Nursing injuries through tours is part of the job. Julie Leth crashed hard on the first road stage of the Giro (along with half of the peloton). © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage five was really the last chance for the sprinters and they made the most of it. The stage finished in a mass bunch sprint in the finishing town of Cesenatico. Vos won her third stage. You can read my blog about the tactics of the race here.

Everyday our director would write the crucial points of the race on our top tubes. © Wei Yuet Wong

Everyday our director would write the crucial points of the race on our top tubes. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage six was about the climbs. Here you can see three climbs at 32, 59 and 84kms. When you don’t have the luxury of knowing the parcours little ‘information sheets’ become your lifeline. Read more about the stage here.

Stage seven started directly uphill, so a warm up was in order. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage seven started directly uphill, so a warm up was in order. © Wei Yuet Wong

You know when pros warm up things are getting serious. Stage seven of the Giro Rosa started directly uphill and while the climb did shatter the peloton the relatively flat last 60km of the stage meant a larger group rode to the line. You can read about my less than enjoyable day on the bicycle here. I labelled the stage my worst day of the 2014 Giro Rosa.

Stage eight of the Giro Rosa  rode through my teammate Elisa Longo Borghini's home town. She had her family out to support her. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage eight of the Giro Rosa rode through my teammate Elisa Longo Borghini’s home town. She had her family out to support her. © Wei Yuet Wong

My Hitec Products team celebrated two birthdays during the Giro Rosa. Here we sing 'Happy Birthday' to Emilie Moberg. © Wei Yuet Wong

My Hitec Products team celebrated two birthdays during the Giro Rosa. Here we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Emilie Moberg. © Wei Yuet Wong

Fatigue had set in for most riders after stage eight, the queen stage of the Giro Rosa.  © Wei Yuet Wong

Fatigue had set in for most riders after stage eight, the queen stage of the Giro Rosa. © Wei Yuet Wong

Elisa's fan club, the Zampine, brought a fantastic vibe to the gruelling eighth stage. They're road art helped me up the final 13m climb. © Wei Yuet Wong

Elisa’s fan club, the Zampine, brought a fantastic vibe to the gruelling eighth stage. Their road art helped me up the final 13km climb. © Wei Yuet Wong

Stage eight. Second last day and the Queen stage of the Giro Rosa.

On the final stage of the Giro Rosa Elisa fish 5th. She finished 5th overall as well. © Wei Yuet Wong

On the final stage of the Giro Rosa Elisa finished 5th. She finished 5th overall as well. © Wei Yuet Wong

The glamorous side of women's professional cycling. © Wei Yuet Wong

The glamorous side of women’s professional cycling. © Wei Yuet Wong

Julie celebrates her birthday with her Hitec Products family at the 2014 Giro Rosa. Photo credit: Wei Yuet Wong

Julie celebrates her birthday with her Hitec Products family at the 2014 Giro Rosa. (c) Wei Yuet Wong

Nobody got the memo on the final stage that we were meant to ‘piano’ to the finish. It was a fast and aggressive race, just like the entire Giro Rosa. You can read my report here.

The whole Giro was a fantastic showcase of women’s cycling, captured brilliantly by Wei Yuet Wong.

Guest Blog by Julie Leth: 10 reasons why you should ride.

Julie celebrates her birthday with her Hitec Products family at the 2014 Giro Rosa. Photo credit: Wei Yuet Wong

I’ve been sitting on this guest blog for a while and thought before the next block of racing begins in Scandinavia later tonight it was the perfect time to share. With the first ever Women’s Tour of Halden literally hours away and the Women’s World Cup Vårgårda, Scandinavia’s only world cup event, being raced next weekend it seemed like the perfect time to share my Danish teammate Julie Leth’s guest blog.

I first met Julie in June last year.  Karl Lima, the Hitec Products team manager, spotted Julie earlier in the season when she had great rides in races like the tough Dutch classic Gelderland. Known for collecting Scandinavian talent Karl signed Julie midway through the 2013 season and she immediately settled into the team, winning a major mountain bike race in Norway and finishing on the podium of a Norwegian cup the next day.

As the leading female road cyclist coming out of Denmark Julie has had a break through season in 2014. She won the Danish time trial championships and sprinted to her first UCI podium in late April when she finished third on the final stage of the Elsy Jacobs tour behind Marianne Vos and Emma Johansson.

Not long ago Julie was in Girona for a summer getaway with her family/training camp and I asked her a simple question; ‘Why do you ride your bike?’

It’s something we – as professional cyclists – get asked a lot and most of the time our answers come out in random words that don’t really make sense, or even worse, we simply answer ‘because’.

But Julie has a way with words. So while women’s cycling is booming in Scandinavia it only seemed far to share why one of the best Scandinavian riders in the peloton rides. In this guest blog Julie talks about how she got into cycling, why she’s still doing it and why she thinks more women should ride their bikes.


 

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Julie (middle) with her Hitec Products teammates Ashleigh Moolman and Cecilie Johnson at team presentation. Photo credit: Wei Yuet Wong

When I was 6 years old I started doing track and field. I competed in pretty much all disciplines until I decided to focus on long and middle distance running. I was running on a competitive level, but unfortunately I got an Achilles’ tendon injury.

I was advised to start cycling to stay fit. My dad used to be a rider, and my brother, Patrick, had just joined the local club, which meant I had good training buddies from the beginning.

By coincidence I went to a club training, and started going regularly. My dad had never been keen on the idea of any of us – my brother, my sister or I – racing, but after long time I convinced him to get me license.

Eventually my sister, Pernille, joined Patrick and I. When I had gotten over my injury, I started running again, but raced alongside for about a year. In the end I knew I had to choose between the two, and when it came down to that, it wasn’t hard at all. I chose bike racing.

Julie at the start of the 7th stage of the Giro Rosa. Photo Credit: Wei Yuet Wong.

Julie at the start of the 7th stage of the Giro Rosa. Photo Credit: Wei Yuet Wong.

That was back in 2007 and I haven’t stopped pedalling since. Now my life pretty much revolves around my bike. I’ve gone from riding my bike around the Danish roads, to racing against the World’s greatest female cyclist all around the World.

I can’t say I always love cycling; there have been days where I wish I had chosen another sport. I especially doubt my choice of sport during the cold Danish winter months. Using what feels like half an hour to get dressed, before walking out into minus degrees, looking like a Michelin man, and barely being able to move. Despite all the layers I will still come home frozen, needing help to get undressed.

“I get to meet fantastic and inspiring women from all over the World, and together we not only race, but also have fun off the bike.”

In those situations badminton or handball can seem tempting, but my ball-handling skills are very poor. However, even the coldest ride can be great if I’m riding with friends. All convinced that a coffee and cake stop halfway is a great idea, until we realize how cold it is to get started again.

For most of the year my suitcase is my home, and the Hitec Products girls and staff are my family. Together we travel the World, and get to experience new and beautiful places. I like to say, I get to choose the view from my office every single day. This is definitely one of the joys of being a bike rider.

There are tons of reasons why I love riding my bike. Everything, from seeing new beautiful places, and enjoying some time alone on solo rides, to the competitive part of the sport; the tactics, speed, and action.

However, one of the things I love the most is all the friends I’ve made over the years. I get to meet fantastic and inspiring women from all over the World, and together we not only race, but also have fun off the bike.

Just thinking about some of the fun we’ve had makes me smile. We’ve tried to win a trip to Africa, made a “Beat it” music video, and played a practical joke on Chloe, making her panic in the shower because she thought a man called Arnold was entering the room. There are a ton of other fun stories, which I could tell you if you ever decide to come for a ride…

Riding my bike, is one of the things that brings me most joy. So if you’re not already riding, here’s 10 reasons why you should get started:

#1. Travel the World eco-friendly on two wheels.

 

#2. You’ll get toned legs and a killer butt. #cansquat 

 

#3. You’ll get to go and discover new places, and beautiful landscapes.

 

#4. Get happy – when exercising your brain releases endorphins that make you happy.

 

#5. It’s a great way to meet new people, and make new friends.

 

#6. When not riding with friends, it’s a great way to have to quality time with yourself and clear your head.

 

#7. When exercising you’ll burn more than you usually do = you can eat more, without gaining weight (win)!

 

#8. The majority of bike riders are men. Therefore, it’s a great place to meet (athletic) men!

 

#9. Ride with friends while catching up on gossip, like discussing the latest episode of “Keeping up with The Kardashians”

 

#10. Eat guilt-free snacks; pretty much everything can be used as ride-food!

 

Photo Credit: Wei Yuet Wong.

Photo Credit: Wei Yuet Wong.


You can follow Julie on Twitter here or Instagram here.

Dealing with Disappointment

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A week ago I competed in my second Commonwealth Games. Four years after I won bronze in Delhi the Glasgow Games had been a major target of the 2014 season and something I had been building towards since I started preparing for the season all the way back in October last year.

In July last year I received an email from the Australian national women’s road coach who had just been to Glasgow to preview the course; he wanted me to know that it was one I could do well on if I put my head down and worked hard.

Body composition, climbing, endurance. They’re words that have haunted me since I entered the women’s international peloton in 2009 but I was willing to face my ghosts to get selected in the six rider team that would race in Glasgow.

And I did. I worked hard and won a stage of the Bay Criterium Series in January. In February I went to Qatar and finished third overall behind Kirtsen Wild and Amy Pieters before starting the European racing season in March. In April I won Omloop van Borsele and in June I won the bunch kick to finish sixth in the tough Belgian classic Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik.

I took myself on two training camps with my talented teammate Elisa Longo Borghini to further work on my weaknesses and the results showed. In the next two stage races, Emakumeen Euskal Bira and the Giro Rosa, my climbing was better than it had ever been.

The race…

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On race day last week as my five teammates and I walked to the buses at 6.30 in the morning for our 8am start I joked that I felt like throwing up. I put it down to nerves and didn’t think any more of it until one lap into the race.

We had gone into the race with the clear objective of trying to isolate Lizzie Armitstead. She has been, next to Marianne Vos, the stand out rider of the season and we knew that we didn’t have one individual rider who could match her, but we did have a team.

With that in mind we made our tactic clear from the start; we attacked. One rider would go, and then another until – we hoped – the elastic band would break and we would have a rider away.

Martin Barras, the national coach and director on the day summed it up; “Let me be clear, we’re just going to roll the dice and whoever it falls on is who we back.”

From the beginning our team of six which was made up Mel Hoskins, Katrin Garfoot, Shara Gillow, Gracie Elvin, Tiffany Cromwell and myself were committed to the team plan.

My roommate, Katrin, had unfortunately woken up sick on race day so did as much as she could early. Mel Hoskins then took control and she did an incredible job, launching attack after attack. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her ride better.

Then I was up but when the race had started it had become apparent to me that the sick feeling in my stomach might have been more than nerves. As soon as the intensity of the race went up, so did my breakfast.

After twenty minutes or so I was having to pull to the side of the peloton and hope that I wasn’t about to shower those behind me with my breakfast. In my head I told myself that I just had to get through the next few kilometres and the situation would improve.

On the third lap Gracie rode up to me and asked how I was feeling.

“I keep throwing up on my bike,” it maybe wasn’t the answer she was expecting.

“It’s alright, it’ll get better,” she replied. I hoped so too.

I attacked once and then one more time and was able to establish a small gap but the English and Scottish girls who had latched onto my wheel weren’t rolling through.

One lap later, my breakfast in my mouth, I lost contact with the peloton.

Later that day the doctor said I could have come down with a mild case of gastro. In a village of 7000 athletes, most of whom had finished competing, hygiene may not have been at the top of everyone’s agenda.

The race went on to shatter into pieces. A select group of seven escaped on the longest drag of the circuit which the peloton tackled as it raced out of Glasgow city centre. The break included Tiff and Gracie, Lizzie and Emma Pooley, Ashleigh Moolman and few other individual riders. For us it was a better situation; with Katrin and I now both off the pace our numbers advantage wasn’t what we had hoped it would be.

In the end, as we had known, Lizzie was just too good. She launched herself out of small group of seven on the second last climb of the day and rode solo to the line to become Commonwealth Champion. Emma Pooley finished second and Ashleigh Moolman just edged out Tiff for bronze.

Later that day the doctor said I could have come down with a mild case of gastro. In a village of 7000 athletes, most of whom had finished competing, hygiene may not have been at the top of everyone’s agenda.

The real issue…

But this blog isn’t so much about the race last Sunday as it is about dealing with disappointment when you don’t perform to the standard you – and others – expect from yourself.

Talking about disappointment and underperformance is such a taboo subject in this sport of ours, which is odd because there are inherently more downs than ups in professional sport and cycling more specifically.

More often than not a voice recorder is shoved under our mouths and we’re meant to recount how enjoyable our experience was and why it was so fantastic. But what happens when you would rather forget it?

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy my Commonwealth Games experience. In fact, it has been the Australian team I am most proud to have been a part of. The way we came together and backed our tactic made me proud to wear the Green and Gold.

 I had no motivation to ride my bike and I turned to food and going out to try and forget my Olympic experience, which was for me an overwhelmingly negative one.

However, when you become consumed with the idea of one event – one race – and everything you do is in preparation for that it is easy to loose track of the bigger picture. What is particularly difficult is when that event is over and you underperformed. The feeling of ‘now what?’ can be overwhelming.

I was faced with this situation in 2012 after the London Olympics and unfortunately I didn’t deal with it very well. I rapidly went into a downward spiral.

You may have heard people talk about the ‘black hole’ athletes face after retirement or major events. I successfully located this black hole, walked in, had a look around and decided I would keep following the darkness. I had no motivation to ride my bike and I turned to food and going out to try and forget my Olympic experience, which was for me an overwhelmingly negative one.

It wasn’t until months later that I was ready to face the music and decide if cycling was really what I wanted to be doing. The short answer was ‘yes’ so I took steps to make sure I could continue.

I signed with a new team, got a new coach, mixed up my training to include mountain biking, running, gym, swimming and road cycling and rediscovered why I started cycling in the first place; because I love it.

After finishing the race at the back of the field on Sunday I experienced the same suffocating feeling of disappointment that I faced after the London Olympics. I had let my team down, I had let myself down, and I had let my family down.

I’m happy to say that two years on however, and having been through the experience before, I have learnt to deal with my disappointment. Because there is a bigger picture. There are still three months of the season left and still major races that I want to perform well in for both myself and my team.

The process…

In my experience, acknowledging this disappointment is the first step in actually dealing with it. It’s okay to fall, but you need to be able to address why you fell, pick yourself up and answer the question, ‘what now?’.

My fall came on Monday morning when I met up with my family. I could see in their faces that they had expected more, and I had too, but when your body doesn’t want to cooperate there is little you can do. I cried as my Auntie hugged me.

While the disappointment I felt after I crossed the finish line on Sunday is still with me I think I’m in a much better position today to deal with it than I was in 2012.

When this happens, for me the most important thing is to surround myself with my ‘support network’, which for me comes in the form of my family, discuss what happened to a point and then focus on other things. So for four days I did everything but think about bike racing. I went to Edinburgh with my family and took in show after show at the incredible Fringe Festival.

Feeling refreshed and with itching legs I flew back to Girona on Thursday but I didn’t get on my road bike. As I discovered after the Olympics there are plenty of other things that can help me stay fit and motivated.

I went running in the morning and then mountain biking in the afternoon. Getting lost in the bush around Girona I found myself wishing I was back on paved roads where my GPS could navigate me home.

Finding the enjoyment after a disappointment is just as important as answering the question ‘what now?’. Wanting to ride your bike rather than doing it because you feel like you have too is also important. When I was out on my mountain bike and found myself thinking about the road I knew it was time to get back into it all.

Tomorrow I start my rebuild for the second part of the season and I’m excited to get back on my road bike. While the disappointment I felt after I crossed the finish line on Sunday is still with me I think I’m in a much better position today to deal with it than I was in 2012.

Hopefully I’ve seen the last of my black hole days, but as I said in this sport there are more downs than ups, it’s just about how you find your way through the darkness and come out the other end. Here’s to a fantastic end to the 2014 season.

Some photos from the Games:

More clothes than you will ever know what to do with.

More clothes than you will ever know what to do with.

Selfie before the course recon on Saturday morning.

Selfie before the course recon on Saturday morning.

With our event on the last day of the Games and an early morning start we saw some behaviour not traditionally associated with elite athletes. This here is an invitation to a party within the village on Saturday night. We couldn't make it.

With our event on the last day of the Games and an early morning start we saw some behaviour not traditionally associated with elite athletes. This here is an invitation to a party within the village on Saturday night. We couldn’t make it.

My La Course by Le Tour

Yesterday I raced on the Champs Élysées.

After months of hype the day of La Course by Le Tour had finally arrived. I would never be able to adequately describe how I felt before my Hitec Products teammates and I lined up with the other 150 or so women for the first ever La Course. A television crew grabbed a quick interview with me before the start and asked me how I was feeling; I told them I had just had to force down a rice cake which to anyone who knows me speaks volumes because:

a) I’ve never had much problem eating (I train so I can eat, not eat so I can train) and,
b) I love rice cakes.

Needless to say, despite my best efforts to keep the nerves at bay they were well and truly present when we rolled away for our 13, 6.8 kilometre laps of the Champs Élysées.

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The Tactics:

My Hitec Products team had come to the race with a strong squad; we had Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon who had just finished first and second overall at theTour of Bretagne last weekend, our pocket rocket sprinter Emilie Moberg who gets stronger every race, super domestics Cecilie Gotass Johnsen and Tone Hatteland, and myself.

While the race had been labeled one for the sprinters since the day it was announced in January we weren’t so sure.

The course is deceivingly hard; with more than half of the 6 kilometre circuit on rough, centuries old pavé and a 3-4 per cent drag from the finish line up to the Champs Élysées it has this draining effect on your legs. Where you would usually be trying to ride a cadence anywhere between 90 and 110rpm in a race, it was easy to fall into the trap of just finding a big gear and grinding it out.

Knowing that a number of teams would be extremely aggressive combined with the fact that the course was actually harder than many expected we choose to hedge our bets on the scenario that a smaller group would come to the finish, maybe 20 or so women, rather than a mass bunch sprint.

Our plan was fairly simple. Our director Marc Bracke and team owner Karl Lima had identified one danger team – Rabobank – and our tactic revolved around them. In our team meeting Marc pointed to Elisa, Audrey and I: “Anything with Rabobank in it you’re in too.”

Then he looked to Emilie: “You glue yourself to Kirsten Wild’s wheel”.

And then Cecilie and Tone: “And you try to go in breaks to put pressure on the other teams.”

The Lead Up:

The day before Elisa and I had come out for our pre-race day trainer session to find our mechanic, Juan, surrounded by three official looking men.

“Oh no, what’s going on here?” I said to Elisa. Staying in the centre of Paris Juan had been forced to get creative with the parking of his truck. I was convinced the men were the police either telling Juan the truck was going to be towed or simply just arresting him.

However, after some initial language barriers we figured out that they were actually inviting us to park all our team vehicles in their fire barracks just around the corner from our hotel.

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We didn’t need to be asked twice; everyone has heard the stories of team vehicles being broken into and equipment being stolen. All of a sudden we had free, 24 hour surveillance. What’s more, we no longer had to do our trainer session on the street and be gawked at by passers-by, instead we were gawked at by the entire Notre Dame fire brigade who were more than happy to help out people who were in the Tour de France.

The enthusiasm of the firemen was just the taster for what we were to experience when we actually arrived on the Champs Élysées. After parking our team vehicles at the station overnight we packed into the cars and drove through the centre of Paris to the iconic parcours.

Driving past the Louvre we saw the famous ‘Norwegian corner’ which at 10 in the morning already had a fairly sizeable crowd. Honking as we drove past we received a crazed cheer from the early bird crowd and it all started to sink in.

The Norwegian corner. (C) DC Rain Maker.

The Norwegian corner. (C) DC Rain Maker.

We were about to race on the Champs Élysées, just hours before the men rode their final procession of the 2014 Tour de France. What an amazing day for women’s cycling.

The Race:

With no opportunity to ride the course beforehand the opening lap was for my Hitec Products teammates and I the first opportunity to get a feel for the course. The rough pavé shook our bikes and bodies but did nothing to slow the pace. From the very beginning the pace was on.

I rode the first two laps around the middle of the bunch trying to calm my nerves and settle into the race. Riding up and down the Champs Élysées the crowds were fantastic; my family who – as has become an accepted law of physics – when there’s enough women’s cycling energy around a particular event manifest themselves, had found a position on the barriers 200metres past the finish line. I could hear them screaming hysterically ‘Go Chloe!’ every lap.

On the fourth or fifth lap I had moved further up the peloton and was sitting comfortably in the top 20 or so. As we passed the finish line with 9 laps remaining the bunch was grouped on the left hand side of the road. I saw Lizzie Armitstead glance at Emma Johansson and then launch herself to the other side of the road. Johansson immediately followed and I did the same.

While the road was all bumpy pavé there was a small gutter about 30cms wide that was smooth pavement which offered respite from the constant vibrations and also less resistance. Lizzie, one of the best bike handlers in the peloton, was going full gas in the gutter. Following her and Johansson’s wheel was terrifying, with your pedal just centimetres from the step up to the pedestrian footpath it was like when you’re full but you try to fit that last scoop of ice-cream in; you know it’s not the smartest but you do it anyway.

As we circled around the Champs Élysées the peloton had been shattered and a small group of 15 or so had distanced themselves which included Elisa and I.

(c) DC Rain Maker.

(c) DC Rain Maker.

For Hitec it was the perfect situation. There was just one thing not in our favour; Giant Shimano had missed it. With Kirsten Wild caught out behind they dragged back our short lived break away.

While up until that point our race had been perfect, it seemed that luck just wasn’t on our side. As soon as Giant Shimano pulled back our small group Elisa got a rear puncture. With still 8 laps remaining this usually wouldn’t have been an issue but as soon as we were brought back other teams started attacking again.

Specialized lululemon, Orica-AIS, Rabobank, Boels-Dolmans. The speed was so high – we averaged 45km/hr – that Elisa’s puncture meant the end of her race. She never made it back to the peloton. We were down to five.

While Elisa was trying desperately to rejoin the race at the back of the peloton Lisa Brennauer of Specialized lululemon who had been extremely active already launched herself up the road and gained a good advantage on the peloton. Smelling opportunity Ellen van Dijk (Boels Dolmans) chased after her.

Uh oh. I couldn’t think of a worse scenario than Ellen and Lisa getting away in a break together; two of the best time trialists in the women’s peloton together up the road is a potentially lethal combination. But Ellen flew straight past Lisa and went solo.

Giant Shimano and Wiggle Honda were clearly not happy with this situation and worked hard to drag Ellen back which they did with about six laps remaining. But Ellen’s catch just gave way to a barrage of attacks from Rabobank and other teams. One rider would launch, and then another.

Then our next bout of bad luck hit; another puncture, this time for Audrey, fortunately she was able to get back as the pace slowed momentarily but not without having used a lot of energy. Tone had also fallen off the pace by this point.

Coming into the final lap it was chaotic. Audrey and I found each other and started dodging our way through the peloton. Like every other lap the group stretched as we circled the Champs Élysées for the final time and a break of three managed to escape of the front.

It was a dangerous move with one Rabobank there. Audrey did one final heroic effort to close the gap before dropping me off where I need to be; near the other sprinters. And then I was alone.

I started picking my way through the bunch. I saw Bronzini, Johansson, D’hoore, Armitstead, Vos, Wild. Which wheel should I try to glue myself too?

As we swept through one of the final corners Rabobank had organised the perfect lead out train with Vos in prime position. I snuck under on the inside and tried to fight for Vos’ wheel but found myself only half protected, the other half was riding in the wind.

I had two choices I stay half on Vos’ wheel, half in the wind and use extra energy but keep my good position or I drop back to save energy but risk getting swamped. I choose to stay put. In hindsight I should have dropped back because the energy I used riding in the wind for 800ms probably was the energy I needed for the sprint.

As we flew under the 1km to go banner Wild, her usual huge imposing self, hit my handle bars as she pushed her way out of a hole that to any body else probably didn’t exist. Fearing for my life I lost Vos’ wheel but was still able to remain fairly well positioned.

Then came the sound no-one likes to hear; barriers scratching against asphalt and bikes slamming into riders. It was behind me, so I didn’t see it but riders like Armitstead and Pauline Ferrand-Pervot were caught out.

Sitting on Leah Kirchman’s wheel the pace which was already above 50km/hr just seemed to get faster and my decision to sit in the wind two kilometres earlier came back to haunt me. I couldn’t match the pace set by Rabobank and as we rounded the final corner with 350metres to go I got out of my saddle – one pedal stroke, two pedal strokes – but my acceleration was gone.

Like Edward Cullen sucking the blood of mountain lions the 13 laps laps of the tough circuit had drained my legs dry. I watched as rider after rider sprinted past me.

…while Vos won, at the risk sounding like one of those overly positive preachers, the real winner was women’s cycling…

Vos won ahead of Wild and Kirchman. It was probably the most emotion I’ve seen her display after a victory in the six years that I’ve bee racing in Europe, which just goes to show how important this race was; for the riders racing, for female cyclists everywhere and for the sport in general.

While it was a disappointing finish for me and my Hitec Products team it’s hard to be negative because while Vos won, at the risk sounding like one of those overly positive preachers, the real winner was women’s cycling.

I saw, hours later when the men had reached the Champs Élysées and were just kilometres away from final showdown of the 2014 Tour de France, that ‘#LaCourse’ was still trending on twitter.

It was a fantastic showcase of women’s cycling and something I am proud and honoured to have been a part of. I had goose bumps when I started the race and I have goose bumps writing this blog. For me this was the start of something potentially huge. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

#FlashBackFriday: Boss of the Peloton

Ina. Photo credit: Specialized lululemon

Given that it’s women’s cycling week and we’re celebrating women on bikes I thought we should also celebrate one of the best female cyclists ever; Ina Yoko Teutenberg.

Hence this week’s #FlashBackFriday. Today, I’m flashing back to earlier in the year when I posted an article I wrote on Ina for university. You can find the full article here or some of the article below the jump.

Just day’s out from what is arguably the biggest race on the women’s cycling calendar, La Course by le Tour, a race that has widely been heralded as one for the sprinters, I thought it was only fair to share my post about Ina; one of the best female road sprinters the sport has ever seen.

Ina’s career was so prolific she deserved the chance to ride on the Champs-Élysées. Who knows, Specialized Lululemon hasn’t announced their team to ride on Sunday yet, maybe Ina will be there? She did just ride 3000km across Canada with Clara Hughes promoting mental health.

With that speculation I’ll leave you to read The Boss of The Peloton.


Ina loved winning from an early age. (Photo taken from Ina's Facebook page).

Ina loved winning from an early age. (Photo taken from Ina’s Facebook page).

Cologne, Germany December 1984

Walking into the Cologne velodrome the scarily steep embankments seem to engulf everybody inside. The 167 metre velodrome is a speed machine. The 54-degree bends sling you around like a roller coaster and have the same dizzying effect. The wooden walls seem to just keep going until they look like they are tilting back on themselves.

A young rider, arms stretched long and wide on her brother’s hand-me-down single-speed, pushes herself off the railing to start the elimination with riders four years her senior (even the German national track sprint team is entered). She wobbles uneasily like a baby elephant trying to find her legs until she picks up speed and starts to zoom around the track. She’s not there for long – one of the sprinters elbows her out the way and she’s eliminated early.

Fighting back tears she rolls up to her older brothers, Sven – two years older – and Lars – four years older – looking, hoping, for sympathy.

“They blocked me in. They didn’t let me go. I was much better,” she splutters. But her puppy dog eyes win her no sympathy; they seldom do.

“So?” Lars says looking down at his younger sister. She’s small for her age. “Just take your elbow and kick them away and then just go for it.”

In the next race Ina pushes herself off the fence again. Her brothers words echo in her head, “Just kick them away.” The sprinters – knowing they had muscled her out before – try again. But this time she bends her arms wide and holds herself steady. The bell rings for the final lap and her little legs are spinning like a hamster wheel. Her nose is in the wind and she can see the white finish line. Still spinning like an egg-beater she crosses the line first.

Lars Teutenberg laughs as he recalls the story, “I mean they were sprinters, even if they weren’t full age and everything. I mean if you would tell me to do that with a sprinter in the men’s then I would for sure have dropped down the track.”

He talks slowly and with purpose. Now the technical director of Scott Sports, Lars is one of the most sought after brains in cycling. Teams like HTC-Highroad and Orica Greenedge, teams who know (knew in HTC-Highroad’s case) the importance of the little details, seek out his advice.

His little sister is one of the most accomplished, respected, feared, liked, and long-standing members of the women’s peloton. But that’s not to say the men’s peloton don’t also fear her; she told them they were pussies and ‘should ride faster’ during the 2009 edition of Philadelphia’s Liberty Classic after the women’s peloton rode past the men’s. Some of them haven’t trained with girls since.

In the 30 years since Ina Yoko Teutenberg came zooming off the Cologne velodrome, tears welling in her eyes, she has established herself as one of the best female road cyclists in the history of the sport.

Ina-Yoko Teutenberg.

Ina-Yoko Teutenberg.

Her professional career includes 21 stage victories at the Tour de L’Aude, six stage victories at the Route de France, 11 stage victories at the Giro d’Italia Feminine, five victories in Philadelphia’s Liberty Classic (including 2009 when she abused the men’s peloton), a bronze medal in the 2011 World Championships, two Olympic Games, and victory at the 2009 Tour of Flanders. She labels the last of those “her biggest win” and rightly so. She was also a member of the Specialized-Lululemon team time trial (TTT) squad that won the 2012 world title. When you do all the accounting and close the books Ina’s victories total more than 200.

But when you speak to people about Ina her victories seem secondary; it’s what she brought to the sport – the energy, the charisma, the smart assedness, the respect, the toughness – that people remember. Certainly, it’s these facets of Ina’s personality that made her into the bike rider she became.

“She was for, I don’t know how many years, one of the best sprinters but she never felt too good to work for others or do something unconventional for a sprinter like attacking with 20k to go and just going ‘oh f**k it, I’m over that here,’” – Lars Teutenberg.

Growing up in Dusseldorf, Germany Ina was the youngest of three. Like any younger sister she idolised her brothers; if they played soccer Ina wanted to play soccer, if they were riding bikes Ina wanted to ride bikes. She wasn’t interested in dolls or dresses, she was interested in dirt and danger.

When she starts talking about ‘the beginning’ she doesn’t talk about heroes who inspired her or cyclists she wanted to be like. No, it’s her brothers, Sven and Lars, who feature most prominently in her memories. The German rider who has lived in the United States since 2001 has a cheeky smile on her face as she recalls the early days training and racing with her brothers.

“If I couldn’t stay with them on the downhill they left. I’m like seven years old, I’m like ‘you mother f***@$s I have to ride home by myself’. I had to start to learn going downhill quicker so I didn’t have to ride home by myself.”

Her brothers are a huge part of her success, and she knows it. It’s the attitude she developed from riding and training with her brothers that served her so well throughout her career.

Lars is humble when talking about his influence on Ina and her subsequent success. For him, it was just part of being an older brother.

“She had this attitude that it’s not the others. She had this attitude of ‘No, it’s me. I can fix it. If it means I have to go faster downhill or take a better line or fight for a better position then I have to do it.’”

“She is just the toughest because she’s simply educated that way. From the very beginning,” he said.

Borsele, The Netherlands April 2012

Ina lead Evie Stevens.

Ina lead Evie Stevens.

The majority of the peloton had already assembled on the start line of Omloop van Borsele despite the start of the race being more than 30 minutes away.

With five minutes to the start, two riders coolly cruise up to the front and position themselves on the first line. Whispers of disapproval move through the peloton faster than Cavendish darts off Renshaw’s wheel but nobody has the nerve to tell them off.

Ina dismounts her bike, “hold this for me” she says to her teammate on her right and starts to push her way through the sea of bikes. If anyone can look tough in cleats and lycra it’s Ina.

“What are you doing?” she asks the two girls pointedly; she’s not one to mince words. “Go to the back of the bunch. If you wanted to be on the front line you should have lined up with everyone else.” She stands there, waiting for them to argue back but they don’t dare.

Like scolded dogs, they retreat to the back of the peloton. If they had tails they would have been between their legs.

Ina shrugs away the title ‘boss of the peloton,’ even if she was the one who policed the sacred unwritten rules for more than a decade.

“It’s just what you do you know? I mean you look after one another. There were older ones that did it to me. I just tried to treat people the way I wanted to be treated,” Ina said.

She’s just a fair rider says Trixi Worrack, a teammate of Ina’s in 2012. The pair first met in the late ‘90s. Trixi was a junior coming through the German national program and Ina was the same, loud, commanding figure she was when she marched to the front of the peloton in 2012.

“Everyone had respect for her. I don’t know why because if you don’t know her, she seems scary somehow,” Trixi said. She isn’t afraid of offending Ina; they’ve known each other long enough but if you had been on the side of the road that day in Borsele you probably would have found the German – standing at five foot three and clad in the national champions jersey –intimidating too.

Both Trixi and Lars agree it was Ina’s willingness to ride for her team that made her such an exceptional and respected bike racer.

“She was pretty reliable in working her ass off for someone else in the team and not just saying, ‘Oh sorry, I’m the sprinter. I’m the star here, I can’t work too hard,’

“She was for, I don’t know how many years, one of the best sprinters, but she never felt too good to work for others,” Lars said.

One rider who raced with Ina for six years, current Swedish national champion Emilia Fahlin, recalls Ina turning herself inside-out on the front at the French stage race, La Route de France in 2009. Ina’s teammate Kim Anderson was in the yellow jersey. Anderson was better known as a super domestique, the person always working for others, than Tour winner, but Ina was determined to keep her in yellow.

“I think Ina killed herself more than ever in that race to help Kim win than she has done in any other race. She was just a machine on the front,” Emilia said.

Dwingeloo, The Netherlands March 2013

It’s a crash that on any other day you pick yourself up from and walk away. Crashing is part of being a professional bike rider and Ina has had her fair share. She crashed 500 metres into her first bike race. But this one in Dwingeloo was different.

In the first Dutch race of the season Ina is moving around the peloton like she usually does, calmly and with confidence. The peloton has successfully navigated the bike-path-wide roads and have just turned onto a three-lane highway. Tension is momentarily replaced with relief.

There’s a touch of wheels and a mass pile up. Ina goes down. One rider is screaming for help because Ina isn’t moving.

In July Ina announced through her trade team Specialized-Lululemon that her 2013 season was over. In October she announced her retirement. 

“Even before the crash I was in such a bad state. And then I came to the first races and I think it would have gotten better because the girls would have brought me up and then I crashed. For two months I was 18 hours in a dark room,” – Ina-Yoko Teutenberg

Talking about her retirement now, it’s the first time the usually-relaxed Ina seems uncomfortable. She shifts a little in her chair. Running her hand through her hair you can just see ‘2013’ inked on to the inside of her wrist. It could easily be confused with pen, but the tattoo acts as a constant reminder of the year she has just endured.

“Even before the crash I was in such a bad state. And then I came to the first races and I think it would have gotten better because the girls would have brought me up and then I crashed. For two months I was 18 hours in a dark room.”

Crashing on to her face Ina suffered a severe concussion. She had constant dizzy spells for months. She couldn’t read, watch television or exercise for more than an hour at a time. Staying with her parents in Dusseldorf while she recovered she couldn’t handle more than one source of noise. If they were listening to the radio and talking she would have to ask them to turn the radio off. Almost 12 months on she is still suffering from some of the concussion effects; just last month she had a relapse.

“It was just rough. I had f***ed up personal problems and everything. Last year was not a good year. The first nine months of that year were just horrible,

“But I think the crash was good because it did then slow me down and I had to face all those demons,” she said.

“Because of my depression I didn’t want to be in the scene anymore,

“With the concussion it was actually great because so many people reached out to me. It was really nice to feel the community of the cycling scene again and not hate it. There was no reason to hate it, it was just my mental state of mind.”

One thing becomes clear, it was the cycling community that kept Ina in the sport for so long not the thrill of chasing victories. When she looks back on her career she doesn’t have any regrets (although she does admit she’s still pissed she didn’t win the World Championships in Copenhagen in 2011) because she “met a lot of cool people along the way”.

Talk of her retirement hangs in the air like mist on the ground the day she won the Tour of Flanders. There is this lingering feeling that she’s not quite done yet. The recent announcement of La Course by Le Tour, the women’s event to be held in Paris on the Champs-Élysées just hours before the men complete the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France, may have reminded Ina of her 10-year-old self, determined to win.

“It’s quite tempting to race on the Champs-Élysées. But I might be somewhere else in the world. Who knows where I am tomorrow?”

Ina’s racing career might be done, but it’s hard to imagine she won’t be back in the sport in some way, shape or form in the future. Last week Ina directed Specialized-Lululemon at the San Dimas Stage Race and is currently working hard at The Redlands Bicycle Classic in California. Hopefully nobody tries to position themselves on the front line at the last minute.

Ian and I at Specialized lulu lemon's training camp in 2012. Photo credit: Velodramatic

Ian and I at Specialized lulu lemon’s training camp in 2012. Photo credit: Velodramatic

Guest Blog: Chelsea Hosking on The Giro Rosa

Chelsea and I at the start of stage five of the Giro Rosa.

While most loyal blog followers would be aware of my parents, Sheryn and Steven, and their penchant for following women’s cycling some might not know about my older sister, Chelsea or Chels.

Growing up I was always looking for obscure sports to play so that I had some hope of being better than Chels. As my parents still remind me, Chels was – and probably still is – more athletically talented than me. And it’s true. She was a runner. A fast runner.

So instead of trying to beat her at her own game I chose sports like rock climbing, field hockey, and eventually cycling. While Chels briefly entertained the idea of also becoming a cyclist she decided it just wasn’t for her – we joked it was because there wasn’t a lane for her to follow like in running – and I was able to breath a sigh of relief; phew I still have MY thing. 

But while Chelsea didn’t become a cyclist herself she wasn’t able to escape the constant cycling discussion at dinner or the weekend trips to cycling races. And like when you are forced to watch or listen to something for a prolonged period of time she eventually developed a knowledge and interest in the sport; I often refer to her as a ‘closet cycling fan’.

In the closet or out, Chels is one of my biggest supporters and has followed me around the world on numerous occasions to cheer like a crazed Belieber (Justin Biber fan); it’s an important job, that of a groupie.

In her first guest blog Chels shares some of her favourite outfits of the Giro Rosa and why she likes following women’s cycling.


Chatter over the dinner table has always been about cycling in one form or another.  Not entirely disinterested in cycling, but not as fanatical as my dear parents, I have usually sat at family dinners silently listening to names such as ‘Marianne Vos’, ‘Emma Johansson’, and ‘Giorgia Bronzini’ being passed across the table, and having little to add myself.

So when Chloe announced that I would be her ‘guest blogger’ for the Giro Rosa 2014, I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  She suggested I write about ‘how to talk your way into being allowed to drive up closed roads’, or ‘what to wear to bike races in the European summer’.

This year I wasn’t required to talk us into any places we weren’t supposed to be, mum and dad managed that one on their own.  But we did have another interesting encounter with local law enforcement and I kept my eye out for good outfits, and even found a few interesting ones…

One of the interesting outfits Chelsea saw at the Giro.

One of the interesting outfits Chelsea saw at the Giro.

Using the race program as a hat.

Using the race program as a hat.

This is the second time I have followed the Giro, the first being in 2009, Chloe’s first attempt.

This was her fourth start and we were hoping to see a bit less of her this time.  In 2009 Chloe abandoned the race, her sprinters legs being unable to carry her over the mountains at the same pace as the experienced climbers, and she came with mum, dad and I for some R&R in Varese.

My family and I at my first Giro Rosa in 2009.

My family and I at my first Giro Rosa in 2009.

 This year, now older, wiser and fitter, we were hoping to follow her all the way to the finish line in Madonna del Ghisallo.  And we did.  Chloe finished the Giro in 92nd place, but the place was never going to be important in such a hilly race, I’ve already mentioned her sprinters legs.

It is tiring being a groupie, the long transfers between the end of one stage and the start of the next stage, the rushed driving to get from point to point to see the girls wiz past.

It is distressing too, when you don’t quite make it to that point on time, to see the end vehicle disappearing into the distance.  It is extra stressful when you add mum and dad Hosking into the mix, where you are fighting not only closed roads, and the clock to get to random points on a poorly drawn map, but also Dad’s free GPS.  As Mum regularly stated, “you get what you pay for, Steven”.

One of the great things about following women’s bike racing, and in particular as a family member of one of the competitors, is that you actually get to meet some of the girls, which makes the racing even more interesting.

Mum mingling with the pros. © Wei Yuet Wong

Mum mingling with the pros. © Wei Yuet Wong

There are now a number of girls in the peloton I can shout out for as they zoom past.  Which is brilliant because with so many girls, going at such a speed, it is easy to miss Chloe.  Every time the bunch went past, mum, dad and I would look at each other “did you see her?”, sometimes all three of us did, sometimes no one did and we would all have our fingers crossed at the next point.

“The race organisers managed to lose the bunch that Chloe was riding in”

I recall one stage in 2009, mum and I couldn’t see Chloe in the bunch as they went past our viewing point, all of a sudden the ambulance flew past with its sirens blaring.  Mum and I were in a complete panic until the very end of the race, convinced right until the moment we saw Chloe at the finish, that she was in that speeding ambulance.

For me though, the highlight of the 2014 Giro Rosa came during the first stage.

The race organisers managed to lose the bunch that Chloe was riding in.  The final car came around the last corner and Chloe’s bunch hadn’t yet come through.  The Polizia put barricades in the middle of the road, and then allowed cars to park right in the middle of the race.

We tried to explain that there was another bunch still coming, but to no avail.  When the riders came around the corner, Mum ran onto the road and started dragging the barricade off it.  When a police woman, still not believing that there were riders on the course, tried to stop her they became engaged in a tug of war over the barricade.  It is an image that will stay with me for a long time.

All in all following the 2014 Giro Rosa was great fun. We got to chat to Olympians and World Champions. We got to see some beautiful places that we otherwise would not have gone to. And we got to see some exciting racing.

I told Chloe after the race was finished that I was exhausted and wasn’t doing the Giro next year, but I’ll probably have recovered by then.


*Chelsea also wanted it to be noted that she is currently 1000 points ahead of me in our fantasy Tour de France tipping competition, le Tipping.

#FlashBackFriday: Thank You Italy!

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This week’s #FlashBackFriday comes from my first year in Europe, 2009, and the Sparkassen Giro which I raced in early August. After starting the Giro Rosa with the Australian national team and struggling in every stage until I abandoned on stage seven or eight (I’ve mentally blocked out the memory) I returned to racing with my club team, Moving Ladies, and finished third behind Rochelle Gilmore and Suzanne De Goede.

I thought this blog was fitting to share (again) as I prepare for my first race after this year’s Giro Rosa. While the race isn’t the Sparkassen Giro – which I will unfortunately  miss this year as I’ll be competing at the Commonwealth Games – I’m hoping that, like in 2009, I’ll reap the rewards of suffering up the mountains and I can turn my string of top tens into podiums.

After a week of ‘aggressive recovery’ after the Giro Rosa I’ll be lining up for the new two day, three stage, BeNe tour in the Netherlands and Belgium tomorrow. I’m hoping the race will be ripped to shreds in the crosswinds.

In the meantime, enjoy my blog from 2009…


As it turns out my time in Italy and the suffering I endured in both races and training when the gradient of the road tilted upwards has come back to lend a helping hand. The Sparkassen Giro, held in Bochum Germany the past weekend helped prove that all those hours of agony spent off the back of the bunch were actually worth it after I finished third behind Rochelle Gilmore and Suzanne De Goede.

The race, carrying a UCI ranking of 1.1, one classification below a World Cup, was 6 laps of a 14 kilometre circuit. It had two power climbs and a long, fast downhill to the finish line so was raced at an average speed of 37km/hr. With crowds lining the course there was a real party atmosphere surrounding it and I found myself feeding off the crowd’s energy as I powered over the climbs each lap with the front group.

As I stood waiting for presentations I saw riders like Mark Cavendish and Henrich Haussler casually ride past me to the start of their race. I realised that the crazed crowd weren’t hear to see me, rather these athletes who carry superstar status. Nonetheless, it was still pretty amazing to ride infront of what was possibly a hundred thousand people or more.

Donning the Moving Ladies colours for the first time in a little over a month is was great to race with all the girls again. Emma was very aggressive in the race and found herself in a break with two laps to go which had all the major teams in it. Nurenberger, however, were obviously unhappy with the composition of the break as they dragged it back with a little over 15 kilometres to go. And so it was to be a sprint – was I happy? Was I ever!

The long descent into the finish line meant that the speed of the peloton in the final kilometres was around 60km/hr and there was no one team controlling the front of the bunch. The last two kilometres were truly chaotic as all the teams were vying to get their sprinters into the best possible position for the final right hand corner which was only 200 metres from the finish line.

Since arriving in Europe and growing to know and love the European peloton I have learnt many things, one of which is this; if you want to sprint and succeed in Europe you need to have guts, and be willing to take risks.

After a few very close calls and wheel touches while travelling at 65km/hr I arrived at the final right hand corner in fifth wheel, not necessarily the ideal position with only 200 metres to go. It was great to see the Australian team taking a firm hold on the race with Vickie Whitelaw giving the new Australian sprinter, Kirsty Broun, a fantastic leadout as she took her into the final corner in second wheel with Suzanne De Goede, Rochelle Gilmore and I strung out behind her.

As we all exploded out of the corner the noise of the crowd thundered in our ears as banners and flags were waved madly. Rochelle proved too strong, taking out the win narrowly from Suzanne and myself. It was a close and exciting sprint with thousands of people watching on and yelling wildly for no-one in particular.

I was extremely happy with my third in one of Europe’s major races. What was also great was having the three Australian sprinters, Rochelle, Kirsty and I all racing against each other in a quality international field as it really demonstrates the strength of female cycling in Australia.

While no longer riding for the Australian team it was fantastic to see how they took hold of the race, trying to control it. But it was not only the Aussie team that really impressed me; my Moving Ladies team mates were really active throughout the whole race. All the girls seem to be going from strength to strength as the season moves towards its climax, the World Championships in late September.

The Sparkassen Giro is definitely going on my list of races I will do again. With any luck I’ll be back next year and hopefully I’ll be able to improve on third.


 

Giro Diary: Stage Nine

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And that’s a wrap. Today my seven Hitec Products teammates and I finished the 25th edition of the Giro Rosa. Lauren Kitchen, who at 23 has already ridden the Giro five times, said it was the first time she has finished with a full team. High fives all round.

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But we have more to high five about than just finishing. Despite the tour being dominated by one team, Rabobank – they ended up finishing first, second and third on the general classification – we (or more precisely Elisa) finished fifth overall and won the best Italian rider jersey. We also had five top ten finishes.

But what is most satisfying was how we raced together as a team. Even the super team, Rabobank, commented to our director how well we were racing. So with nine days of racing behind us we were determined to keep the trend going in the ninth and final stage from Trezzo sull’Adda to Madonna del Ghisallo.

With half the peloton’s heads already on the plane home I told the girls in the the team meeting to stay focussed, “this is the last stage, it’s easy to check out and say ‘okay I’m done’ but it’s only 80km, just give 100 per cent one more time.”

With Elisa placed fifth on GC but less than 30seconds off the podium we still had everything to fight for and, unlike the final stage of the Tour de France which is merely a procession, the 80km stage offered the parcours to claw back those 30seconds.

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The first 70km of the race was undulating, racing along lake Como before turning uphill for the last 10km. The finishing climb was actually a climb made famous by the Giro di Lombardia; the Madonna del Ghisallo. It is known for the church that sits at the top which is more a shrine to cycling than anything else.

From the beginning the pace was on. Two riders from Astana-Be Pink escaped from the long, strung out peloton but behind we were racing like there was no-one away.

One attack after another. One rider would fire off to the left of the peloton before another would counter on the right. My Hitec Products teammates did a fantastic job of making sure if anything was escaping we were going to be in it.

You wouldn’t have thought we had been racing for nine days already because the pace was just crazy; we covered the first 45kms in under an hour. While I tired to have a go through a technical section of the course and did manage to gain a small advantage with a group of riders the high pace meant it all came back together.

From then on, it was a race to the bottom of the climb.

Our director had warned us of some tunnels that we had to ride through just after 50km and it appeared that most teams were more than a little stressed about them as full lead out trains started appearing. I think memories from Giros past where the peloton were forced to ride downhill through barely lit tunnels probably inspired this sudden organisation of lead out trains.

Finding Elisa I started surfing the trains keeping us in the top ten of the peloton. United HealthCare were controlling the pace so I moved us up onto their train. Then Giant Shimano appeared so I jumped right. Then Orica-AIS, left again.

As we came out of the tunnels we hit the lake and it was game on. Still more than 10kms from the bottom of the climb I hadn’t expected teams to be pushing the pace so hard so early but since Elisa and I were there I decided to keep surfing trains. By this time Rabobank had appeared and there were now three teams fighting for control of the peloton. It was fast!

With 2km to the base of the climb I dropped Elisa off onto Emma Johansson’s wheel and watched the front of the peloton race away. I was shocked to look behind me and see a splintered peloton. Only 15 or so girls remained at the front and behind was carnage.

As I dropped backwards like a stone through water I saw Mara Abbott pulling a group behind that included riders like Evie Stevens and Emma Pooley. They had obviously been caught out by the surge of pace.

Riding ‘piano’ up the final climb of the 2014 Giro Rosa I was proud of my – and my teams – last stage despite not knowing the results. We had stayed focussed and raced ‘full gas’ to the end.

Crossing the line I heard that Emma Pooley had taken her third stage win. Rolling up to the camper I was met by a smiling Elisa, “I finished fifth and kept fifth in the general.”

She was happy. I was happy. We finished the Giro; 10 days of racing, 953kilometres, 3 mountain top finishes, 20 hours of transfers, seven different hotels.

No days left.

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Giro Diary: Stage Eight

At this year’s Giro Rosa they waited until the eighth stage and ninth day of the tour before the ‘Queen Stage’. So, what that really means is they waited until everyone was mentally and physically exhausted before we got to race the hardest stage of the tour.

The stage itself was actually the ‘brain child’ of my teammate Elisa Longo Borghini; 91km from Verbania to San Domenico di Varzo, the stage had one 7km climb after 10km and then finished up a 15km climb.

The stage.

The stage.

It started in the small town of Trezzano and raced along Lago Maggiore for 10km before turning left onto the Panoramica, an extremely picturesque road that rolls along the foot hills above Intra. This was the first challenge of the stage, a gradual 7km climb that went up in stages and even featured some Italian cobbles.

From the beginning, despite having eight days of racing in their legs already, the peloton was clearly ready to race. Teams like Alé Cippolini and Giant Shimano had lead out trains organised like they were sprinting for the finish line, in reality they were racing for the left hand corner onto the Panoramica.

While my Hitec Products team had planned to do the same the speed was just too high so we instead chose to use the other teams. Ash, Audrey, Elisa and I rounded the corner in the top 15 which was ideal; we were out of trouble and in good position if any riders tried to breakaway.

While the pace was kept high by Giant Shimano it wasn’t until the short decent around 20kms that the attacks began. But when they began they were relentless, like me when I’m determined to find chocolate.

Road art thanks to the Zampine.

Road art thanks to the Zampine.

Orica-AIS started launching riders as did Specialized Lululemon and Alé Cipollini. Our director had made it clear that nothing was to go without us so with Ash, Audrey and Elisa conserving for the second part of the race I started covering, one, two, five attacks.

While my legs still had that horrible, heavy feeling from yesterday I had extra motivation today. We were in Elisa’s home area, an area I’ve been training a lot in lately, and we would never go more than a kilometre or so before we heard the next ‘forza Elisa!’ or ‘dia Elisa!’

I even heard a few ‘dia Clue’, which is how my name is pronounced in most European countries because my parents forgot the accent.

Struggling over a climb at about 25kms I worked my way back to the front to thankfully see Audrey and Julie there with me, covering attacks. Still nothing was gaining more than a few metres.

There was a sprint in front of the local watering hole in Ornavasso – one that I had frequented on my recent visits to Elisa’s house – and we had decided in the team meeting that we wanted to try and win it; not for the seconds on offer but because it was in Ornavasso, Elisa’s home town.

While Audrey and Julie did a great job in the lead out, when push came to shove I finished third.

As Elisa rode past me I muttered, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” which basically sums up my day after that. I got bottles for the girls, put in one more futile effort at an attack and then it was ‘arrivedercci’.

Knowing there was a a big group behind me I decided not to try and match the pace of the heros in the laughing bunch who still thought they could win the bike race. Instead, I chose to ride my own tempo and enjoy the climb and the crowds.

Pink ribbons everywhere and messages of support for Elisa I wondered what was happening up the road. I found out when I finished that Emma Pooley had taken her second stage win, with Mara Abbott second and Aana van der Breggen third.

Beer o'clock.

Beer o’clock.

The highlight of my day came 1km from the finish. I had been promised weeks in advance by the Zampine (the Ornavasso sporting cheer squad and friends of Elisa) a beer and a push in the final kilometres of the stage. And, as promised as I rounded one of the final corners of the 15km climb I spotted the Zampine.

“Ciao Zampine,” I yelled, waving my hand in their signature paw wave.

Like a crowd at a football match when their team scores the group of ten or so erupted into cheers, “Ciao Chloe! Ciao Zampini!”

Andrea, one of the ring leaders of the group, ran down towards me with a cold beer in his hand and turned to run alongside me as he reached me. He handed me the beer and as I passed the crazy, cheering squad of Zampine I raised the beer to my lips and and poured it down my throat like it was water on a 45degree day. Amazingly, as I did so, the cheers got louder.

With a huge smile on my face I handed the beer back to Andrea and he fulfilled the second part of his promise, giving me one final push before I passed the group.

Sometimes, on days like today, you need people like the Zampine and things like the beer to help you get through.

1 day left.

Giro Diary: Stage Seven

You know those days where you jump on your bike and your legs feel like lead? Heavy, sore and unresponsive. Today’s seventh stage of the Giro Rosa was one of those days for me. And unfortunately, the parcours was unforgiving for anyone caught on an off day.

The 91km stage from Aprica to Chiavenna literally started directly uphill. Unless you count the 13km neutralised descent we had to endure before the race jury lowered their checkered flag.

The first and only mountain sprint (GPM) of the day came a mere 7.3km into the race. The climb, which started less than 1km into the race climbed 600 altitude metres over 7kms. As soon as the peloton hit the climb my legs started screaming at me.

Orica-AIS and Rabobank had riders setting the pace on the front and while I tried to hang onto the group for as long as I could, 3kms from the top I lost contact and found a small group behind me. I tired to find a rhythm and limit my losses; we were still tangled up in the convoy and I could see a group of about 20 riders in front of me.

As my small group crested the climb our dare devil descent began to try and rejoin the group in front of us.

The 13km descent wasn’t technical, but the roads were terrible. Dodging pot-holes we started to pass dropped riders and by the bottom we had almost closed in on the group in front of us, there was a mere 100metres between us.

The issue was all of a sudden we were climbing again, up an uncategoried climb that rivalled the gradient of the Murr de Huy (or at least it felt like it). The same screaming noise that had come from my legs on the first 7km reared it’s ugly head again but I tried to channel my inner Jens, ‘shut up legs’.

There were two big groups agonisingly close to me; I felt like what I imagine my dog feels like when I tease him with treats. Holding them just out of his reach, he would pop back on his hind legs to try and snatch it but I would raise the treat a little higher just before he got the chance.

The catch with this metaphor is that after I had my fun I would always give him the treat. Today, I didn’t get my treat. Today, I didn’t get to that group in front of me.

Crossing the finish line after having ridden the last 70km of the bike race in the ‘laughing bunch’ –where I can promise you there was no laughing and very little conversation – I was met with the devastating news that the group that had been so agonisingly close on the Italian Murr de Huy had re-joined the lead group and rode to the finish with them.

A group of 70 ended up contesting the stage win. Marianne Vos won (again) ahead of Giorgia Bronzini and Emma Johansson.

It’s a really crap feeling when you know you should have performed better and you didn’t. My team needed me there today to help lead out Ashleigh in the final which was a tricky uphill drag to the finish. But I was M.I.A.

Now in the car for our two hour (pending traffic conditions around Milano) transfer to Verbania for tomorrow’s stage eight – which races through my teammate Elisa’s home town and was actually planned by Elisa herself – I’m hoping tomorrow my legs do just shut up and I can be of some more help to our hill climbers; Elisa, Ash and Audrey.

2 days left.

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