Matt, Paul, Ray, Josh, Aimee and Team.
Time for a quick acknowledgement and thanks for the ongoing support we receive from Cycle World – which has been a huge part in making 2016 such a fun and challenging year on the bike for Tom and I. It would be damn near impossible without your help – the best gear, mechanical support, opportunities and advice. Thank you!
2016 kicked off with the inaugural Pioneer MTB stage race in Jan-Feb. 40 hours of at the limit riding, 16,000m of climbing, 30+ degree heat. Josh serviced our bikes so expertly that we were one of the few teams to survive without any major mechanicals. We were the envy of the competition with our bountiful stash of tools, spares, kit and nutrition! We also pissed them off being the first up and last to bed with our bike and gear pimping routine and nightly tent hilarity! We fought hard against some hard-core teams to take 11th in the Mixed category. 11 months on and I still proudly bear the scars on my heels and, well, my ass – good times!!!
Two weeks after the Pioneer and straight into the Calder Stewart Elite series for me. Once I bounced back from the Pioneer fatigue I achieved my best results in 3 years of riding this series – several top 10 places and consistently in the top 3 of the 35+ cat. The competition was considerably harder in 2016 as the experience and form from riders competing semi-professionally in Europe, Australia and the States made their mark. From beginnings as a development team with absolutely no experience, Cycle World South took 3rd place in the team’s competition in 2016. Another successful Cycle World initiative in the support of women riders.
In March Tom scored a cheeky entry into Motatapu after a friend had to pull out. Although he started in the back bunch waves and was just riding just for fun, he was very close to a PR time and finished in the pointy end of the overall field. My contribution to the day was in support – flogging the Blue Whale over the Crown Range at warp speed so that I could get in a roadie before meeting Tom at the finish.
The April focus was qualifying for the World Gran Fondo Championships and competing in the Age Group Road Nationals. I was 20 seconds off the fastest women’s time in the Forrest Grape Ride Qualifying race and won the 40-44 age group. Tom had a great race too (got a firecracker when my group caught him after a later start!) and qualified in the top quarter of his age group. Hawea MTB Epic for Tom next while I did TT and Road bogan laps around Hawea. As I chaperoned Tom home for the final couple of road kms his paranoia about competitors catching him was outrageous – no one in sight and another solid 5th in the Classic Open Men. A week later and I was back up to Alexandra for the Nationals. 5th in the TT and hard fought 3rd in the Road Race. Valuable lessons learnt – I was strong enough to win the RR but a tactical slip up cost me.
Full commitment over winter training for the Worlds. “Winter Group” erg and outdoor sessions were brutal – but we didn’t miss a beat. Snow, two punctures and pre hyperthermia were not enough to stop a scheduled hill repeat session on North Rd; torrential rain for lunch time Portobello Rd TT efforts (Tom hated getting passed on those haha); 3 min full noise efforts up Lovelock x 6 – I pretty much lost bodily control during that session and almost needed to use my bib shorts as incontinence nappies!!! Not to mention the 2-4 hour ERG torture sessions and HP Ice baths – good times. And of course, winter wouldn’t be winter without CX -Tom had a blast and I can’t wait to be back in the mix for next year!
Into Spring and the increased strength and speed from focused training made the Nelson Calder Stewart round a pleasure – contesting at the front over the hills and my first time finishing that race in the bunch sprint. Nelson also saw Tom making his Calder Stewart debut – finally giving in to the inner roadie, but not enough to shave his legs. He surprised a few at the start by doing Goat stretches in the bunch during the race briefing, and at the end by finishing in the top 20…
Perth and the World Champs beckoned in September. It was a monstrous effort to pack and get three bike bags, kit, nutrition and ourselves over the ditch! We had some challenges in the lead up and some hilarious moments. The organisation of the event was fantastically bad! I surprised myself by being able to roll with it and not let the dramas derail the focus. With the TT warm up out of the way – 15th was a fair result with my inexperience and the technical, windy, hilly course – it was time for the RR. In between races I forgot my 40th birthday hahaha. Race day arrived and it was the only fine warm day we had experienced – a good omen. A very early pre-dawn start at Elizabeth Quay sporting our custom made NZ-Cycle World kit. Tom was away first and then a wee wait before I positioned myself in the melee of the entire women’s field of 19-49yr categories, a peloton of 180! The first 35kms on the Freeway were what I would politely call a “Cluster-F$*k”. An aggressive, edgy, but not excessively fast morass of riders… and then the shit really got real when the 50-54yr men caught us. 300+ riders ripping along the Freeway – it was a disaster waiting to happen. Some of the women were screaming to pull back and let the men go through. Hell no, the SAMs training kicked in and I stayed with the men as far forward as I could for as long as I could. Good call – never look back when you see a bike at head height to your side and hear the terrifying crunch of carbon from a 30 rider pile up. Full focus to a) avoid blowing up early in the now excessive speed, b) avoid peloton crashes as we weaved around road furniture and 180 degree chicanes, and c) at all costs hold the wheel up the zig zag climb to have a chance as the race hit the Kalamanda hill circuit. Ahhh Gran Fondos – not really a true test of who is the best in your age category when the females are all-together and mixed up with the men that early! Still, I rode as hard and smart as I could and matched the potential of what I could achieve on the day – 13th in the world! Tom had some fearful competition in his age group and rode extremely well for as long as he could. With an extra lap of the hill circuit in hot conditions it took a toll – he was a hyperventilating heap for 30 mins after the finish, a gutsy effort.
Home just in time for the Dunedin spectacular that was the Berwick Block-Lee Stream Calder Stewart round. Luxury cars, stunning weather, awesome organisation. Top 10 finish for me and Tom had a great ride too. Celebrating the day over beersies and a dance party at Brendan Hastie’s house Tom had a shock revelation – he pulled me aside and asked, “Should I ask Paul if I can ride for the Tour of Southland team?” WTF?! Who thinks about riding in the TOUR after 2 elite level races? Of course I said yes, and 6 weeks out Tom was in and I was the Manager. Tom was kitted out with a Venge which transformed from the shop “shit bike” to a pimped speed machine complete with e-Tap, and all my race wheels haha. The Twizel to Timaru Handicap finished the month. Always a hard one, I had my best finish in 22nd across the line. Tom’s growing form brought about a hard mark… a long day at the office after being dropped from his group relatively early.
October kicked off with another good, hard race at the Methven Calder Stewart round. MNR-2 got underway following the return of daylight savings. Race 2 and I was determined to be in the mix for the sprint after working hard all race… and I was one of the victims of the finish line pile up. First significant injury from riding and goodbye to the last races of the year, the Hastie Memorial, Calder Stewart 6, and MNR. Full focus into rehab for me and the Cycle World – Specialized – Beet It ToS campaign for Tom. Ahhh, the Tour of Southland. Impossible to explain the ferocity, it was so much harder than I could have ever imagined – for the riders, and also in the support van. There were gale winds, hail, ridiculous speeds, a physical and verbal peloton, mechanicals, crashes, ambulances, tears and a lot of guts. Plenty of banter and laughs too.
With the end of year approaching, and me finally getting back into some riding, plans are in development for 2017. A few different challenges are in the mix – maybe some Rail Trail Duathlon action, hopefully the Tour de Lakes at Easter, Taupo, and lots more road trips. Looking forward to another big year to come.
Cheers Cycle World!