My foray back into racing continued last weekend – I competed in the Balmoral Women’s Tour. It’s not often that you get a chance to compete in a mini tour, with stage races, so when the Balmoral Cycling Club announced that it was running a Juniors and Women’s Tour, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. The event consisted of a 3km prologue, a road race, a hill time trial and a criterium to finish it off. The prologue and the road race were held on Saturday, and the hill time trial and the criterium on Sunday.
Prologue: It does seem funny that for one three kilometre effort, that so much time is spent preparing and warming up. However,it’s necessary to be able to get the the best out of your legs. The prologue was held out at Mount Marrow, Ipswich, and was an undulating number, starting off with a downhill, where everyone commented upon how fast and awesome they felt. However, once you turned the corner and were greeted by a five percent rise and a headwind, reality set in rather quickly! After the prologue, I was sitting in sixth position and overall had felt a tad despondent about my performance. I had found it hard to get a good rhythm, despite an excellent warm up, and it was hard not to feel gloomy about my prospects heading into the road race.
Road Race: Oh boy, had I forgotten how hilly Mt Marrow was! Driving in to the starting point over what seemed to be one relentless hill after the other, and then realising that I was on the course woke the mental hounds up from their slumber. Again, I knew that this road race was really going to hurt. My Uni teammate, Mandy, suggested “making them hurt”, however it became apparent after half a lap of this torture, that I was the one who was hurting. The course consisted of three hills that increased in size and steepness, followed by a long drag, then a whole pile of rollers – where you could use the momentum from your downhill to get up the other side. After half a lap, the negative headspace I was in after the prologue was amplified as I questioned my ability to be able to get around the course and I bargained with myself that I could quit after the second lap if I really wanted to. Soon we were one lap completed and four laps to go – I couldn’t imagine doing one more lap, let alone four! My mind wandered to what I thought Coach Liz would say if I told her that I was going to pull out. I recalled her saying that road cycling was one of the toughest sports out there and hanging in there was a tough ask. After being alone with such thoughts, my mind returned to the race and suddenly we were riding up those three monster hills. Feeling pleased that we had all shelved them away for lap two, I realised that the bunch had split. We were now the front group of six and I began to realise that it wasn’t just me who was hurting. I was with Uni teammates, Bridget and Mandy, Kim and Fiona from Brisbane Cycling Club and Leah, from Moreton Bay Cycling Club. The third lap passed and then the fourth. Could we now be all together riding the final lap. At this stage I was elated to be finishing the damn thing, however, the end was near and it was going to come down to a bunch sprint. I was able to position myself well going into the final corner and even did a bit of a Saganesque move, surprising poor Mandy by scooting up on the left side. However it was not to be my day as I was pipped at the post – 6th again. However, apart from a non existent sprint, there was no way I could be disappointed by my performance, I had buried myself, hung in there when I wanted to quit and had given it everything. Doing a bit of analysis after the event brought it into perspective. We had done over 1000m climbing in 44km and our average speed was only 0.2km/hr less than the A/B women.
Hill Climb: After a restless night worrying about how my hamstring and quad would fare doing a hill start from a stationary position, I pitched up to Mount Gravatt and warmed up with my coaching charge, Sarah, who had done a brilliant job of placing second in the road race in her division the previous day. After hammering my legs up and down the hills of Mt Marrow, they were justifiably tired. However, we warmed up diligently and I explained my hamstring situation to the gentleman who held my bike at the start line. We were sent off in waves of four and as soon as we were signalled to start, it was as if I was standing still – my brain was telling my muscles to fire, yet nothing happened. My three fellow competitors shot up the road, opening a good gap back to me. I was shocked. Then suddenly the wisdom of my inner Yoda found me, telling me to ride my own climb. Ignoring that I was so far behind, I focused on building the effort in my muscles and suddenly I had reeled in two of them and had passed them. Then, one of my fellow competitors, Marion, flew past me. The competitive streak in me said, “no way”, and I was able to kick up another level and pass her, finishing at the top in 7.57. This would be a PB for me (it’s not the Strava segment so I cannot be 100% sure, but it’s the best time I have done in years). Unfortunately, my best time only got me 7th position and I marvelled at how much work still needed to be done for me to become competitive in racing again.
Criterium: By the time the criterium rolled around, I had resigned myself to the fact that my finishing position wouldn’t be spectacular. I arrived late, and hadn’t eaten lunch beforehand, and it was a bit of a mad rush trying to warm up and get ready. Standing on the starting line, I wondered if my legs would even work and once I got going, was surprised that I didn’t feel too bad. When I heard the whistle for the prime, I sprinted around for the line, only to discover that the whistle had blown for the under 17 girls who were also on the track. Feeling sheepish for having wasted so much precious energy on an unnecessary attack, I tried to regroup into the bunch, nearly getting myself dropped on the proper prime lap. However, tenacity on my part won the day and it was then time to settle into the final laps. Again it was going to come down to a sprint finish and I could see a fast finishing Kim appearing on my right, and thought that it seemed like the right wheel to jump on. Turns out that I was right as I was able to sprint up that final hill in the saddle and power to the finish line for second! It was quite the thrill to finish the weekend on such a positive note. Sarah also did a brilliant job, finishing third in the crit and second overall in the general classification.
Overall,it was a great weekend and I learned a lot. Am I going to keep training to try and improve – hell yeah!