12 March 2008

Geelong World Cup

With the team in good form from the smallish Geelong Tour, we were looking pretty good for a good result in the first World Cup race of the season. For a good run down on how the world cups go, think I saw something on Womenscycling.net, so you can get a better understanding how they work with the points etc, saves me trying to explain them. It’s a pretty hotly contested series every year, whether the team targets them directly, or the girls individually, depends on the teams direction. I am not sure of our direction with the WC races, but we race them all, so must be high on the list of wins we are aiming for the season. The top ten UCI teams automatically get entry, and the first five nations, the rest is up to the local organisation running the race. For Geelong, the same teams that raced in the tour are also doing the WC race, with a few rider changes from some teams.

My makeshift workshop for the week, Aussie style

The bikes were looking good, but with the first World Cup race being fairly serious, I had almost the whole day to mess with the bikes and get them perfect. I was lucky enough to have a spare bike to ride, so I was out on the bike in the morning, having good a look at the course with the team. It was good, but open to traffic for the day so there was plenty of stopping and starting with all the traffic lights around the place. The course was a lap of about 12km, for a total of 11 laps, the girls would get a good look around it on race day, that’s for sure, I unfortunately only had time for a few laps. The weather was not looking good, as rain was predicted for the whole day, but from the looks of things the night before, I was doubting that call. The morning dawned a little bit cold, but otherwise fine, the sun was struggling to shine through the cloud, but at least it was still dry. I was more worried about the bikes than the girls, as the last thing I needed was a few tumbles on the wet roads. We had some new tyres for the team, and they were looking pretty slick and I was not so sure how they were in the rain. So far so good for the Schwalbe tyres, only one puncture so far, and they were wearing in nice. But I was not looking to test them in a World Cup race, we would have time enough in Holland and Belgium at the start of the European race season.

Waiting for the start, the first World Cup of the season.

We rolled into town for the start, the sun had come out and the girls were stripping off all the arm warmers and rain jackets as they rode to the start. Everyone was excited, and there were even a few spectators hanging out at the start/finish line. It was nice to see a few people interested today, as for the tour, we hardly had anyone interested or watching. But I had work to do, and a few last minute checks on the bike to do. Everything looked fine and I had about half an hour before the start to kill, but just when I thought everything was in control, disaster struck. Judith, our captain for the day was doing her usual pre-start fiddle with her seat height, when she manages to strip what was left of the thread on the seat clamp (the rest she had stripped out a few days earlier 5 mins before the 2nd Geelong stage, a longer bolt worked here), I had half an hour to get it back on the road if possible. I had spent a little bit more time setting the spare bike up exactly for her position, because I was expecting this situation all week after the first incident. Luckily I had packed the only spare seat clamp today, as with this integrated seat clamp system, no other bikes parts will work as a substitute. I sweated a little, but was fully ready for it, and in perfect controlled panic, set about sorting the problem as fast as I could. Judith was very apologetic about the situation, but it was a good lesson for her, not to mess with it too much before such and important race. Maybe she learns something from this, but I doubt it. Most riders show their nervousness other ways, with Judith it’s adjusting the seat (Eddy used to have the same affliction, even during the race he was moving it up and down, and always had a allen key in his jersey) it just takes a little time to learn what each riders outing is when you join a new team. I will set another seat up on a new clamp for the truck in Europe, just to speed up and take the stress away from an otherwise dangerous situation.

Half the NZ team waits, Cath Cheatly, Carissa Wilks, Toni Bradshaw.

But the race was underway, and as soon as it started there was a fair bit of action happening off the front. With a couple of laps done, there was a large group of about 12 riders away, we had Linda in the group, and most teams were present, so it was not too much trouble. But by the time we got the numbers of who was in the group, it was looking pretty serious. There was all the right teams present, and they had the power to stay away for the entire race, but there was far too many good sprinters for Linda to win, so we decided to pull it in. Within one lap, the team had reeled in the break and the bunch was together for a while. There was still numerous attacks from the group, but nothing really serious coming out for good, but the speed was still low, so something was going to happen soon. And before you could mention it, two riders attacked, and got some time on the peloton. Emma Riccards (Cervelo-Lifeforce) and a rider I had not heard of Katherine Matthias (Webcor) escaped. We watched and waited for the bunch to react, but nothing happened, so we left it as well. Emma I knew, and she was in good form at the nationals and at the crits at the start of Jan, but the other rider was drawing a blank. The gap increased, 4 mins, 5 mins, 6 mins, and still no reaction from our director, with three laps to go it was getting serious. 6:40 and he decided to start catching, with less than 25km to go, it was an almost impossible ask from the girls. We had heard that a couple of other teams were going to help us chase, but so far they had not started at all. The girls put their heads down and started working, a few minutes caught, but it was still 3 mins, to the two with one lap to go. As the two out the front were going hard, I managed to catch a glimpse of them both as they came past us back out on the last lap. Still all the other teams did nothing to help, were they not interested in wining? I recognised Matthias, but still the name did not register with me. We got close, but the two girls in front we slowing things down a lot near the end, at the 3km to go mark, they were sitting on 500m to go. The race was done, we had no chance to catch them, the girls had started dropping of the back in the last 10km to go, completely spent from working so hard.

Halfway done in the race, five or so laps to go.

Katherine Matthias won the sprint, Emma was second, and now the bunch was at 1km to go. The sprint started, and there was some serious action on the front of the bunch, but it was Ina who took the last podium position, with a nice sprint for third. Not bad really, considering we could have lost everything on the day. Katherine Matthias of course I knew, but under her old name of Currie, such a good tactic for the girls to get married, then you can race under another name for a while until you get known again. No time for any celebrations just yet, as I had a few bikes, wheels and all the equipment to pack up before we headed for NZ the very next day. So I worked quickly, start slowing down and you then have time to think about how much work you really have ahead of you, then it gets real slow. Trying to pack everything as safe as possible and as fast as you can is a tough job, but I managed to finish just before the team left for dinner. Now for some nice food and wine, a nice way to finish a tour and two months in Australia off, Now I get a week in my own country, even if it is Wellington before flying back to Europe for some racing with the men, and maybe even some winter weather for the first time in a couple of years.

Alex covered in salt after the race, love that Aussie heat.

Some more shots of the race here.

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