Criterium Season for 2014

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St Kilda Criteriums

My next goal race for 2014 was the Masters Criterium Championships, so I was trying to fit in a few more crits before the big day. I just received a parcel of new Kosdown Performance Cycling kit to wear and in it was an extra sleek speed suit. The guys have been sporting these high end suits for the last few years and finally it was my turn to get the aero fabric, women's specific chamois and design so it fit in the right places.

High collar vest, long socks, fully seam sealed spray jacket and more! YAY!

Unfortunately the first opportunity I got to wear it was on a drizzly day at St Kilda Crits a few weeks back. It was looking pretty greasy out but I needed a good sprint session so I rolled up to the start line with my suit on ready to get moving. There was only one other woman on the line for A-Grade until I started calling out to a small group on the side-lines who were deciding whether or not to race. We were going to get wet riding home anyway - so if they race, we'll play it safe.

Sock Shot - muddy and gritty conditions

In the end there were 6 of us who started in A-Grade and we rolled around for 30mins keeping warm and trying to decide if it was going to get worse and we would pull out or it would ease up and we could turn it up a notch. It turned out that it got worse AND we turned it up a notch. The next 20mins were attack - chase - fox - attack combo from Nicole Whitburn, myself and Amy Bradley (for whom it was her first race back post collarbone break at Tour Down Under Crits).  There was a very vocal agreement that no shenanigans would occur through the corners, but it was racing at every other point.

Dodging Puddles

I was having a great time - it didn't really matter how it all ended up, we were drenched, covered in grit, and laughing. Nicole attacked very early in the final back straight, and entered the last corner cleanly. I was in 3rd wheel behind Amy as we sprinted up the final straight and made some ground but I couldn't quite get over the top of her by the line. Crazy race day, but was glad to give it a go in the end.

Happy to finish Women's A-Grade

Hawthorn Crits

In the last month the Hawthorn Cycling Club criteriums have finished up and I managed to squeeze in one last mid week brutal race after work. There is a great little review with extra links on the Hawthorn Cycling Club site.
And a mini vid from HCC with my face on there and helping out fellow racers by pinning on numbers.

Victorian Masters Crit Champs & Show Woman's Crit

That final race at Kew was the last part of the preparation for my goal race of the season - the Masters Crit Champs. It was on a new course in Hardcourt this year that would make for some great spectating and was a little more suited to my strengths. The morning of the race it was pouring down in Melbourne, but it was clearing as we left town. When we arrived in Hardcourt the races before lunch were cut down to ridiculous times of around 10-15mins. Our race was scheduled to be only 20mins, which was less than half of what I am used to racing flat out at St Kilda. The other difference was the course was being run in reverse from the advertised route to take out the fast corner.

I was totally psyched up for this race, after eating clean and healthy all week, resting up and itching to WIN! Last year on the old circuit I came home with a silver in the final sprint by 1/2 a wheel. This time I was confident that I would try everything to ensure it was not going to happen again.

Nicole Mcnamara on the front of the train into the headwind
 We had a combined group of each age range in the Women's Masters group and it was something I could use to my advantage. There was no neutral lap and no time to waste, so as soon as we were released, I took off to the first corner. My main competition was Nik Mcnamara and she was hot on my heels.

A rider from another age group took off up the road and allowed us to re-organise for a lap or two, then slowly we reeled her back in. When she was close I counter attacked to keep the pace high. The course was pretty good and it was fun to try pushing the pace and jumping at different points to see how the group would react and to see how far I could get away.

Keeping my cool in the group, getting ready to pounce
At 2 laps to go Nicole was caught on the front, and lead out the main part of the last lap. I called up Jo O'Shaughnessy to take the lead into the last straight and into the last corner. I took off from her wheel into a sprint up the last rise, across the finishing line and it was one of those moments where everything just clicked and felt great!

Sprint to the line
I came in first across the line and first in my age group. Jo came in first in her age group and second across the line, and Nicole came in third across the line and second in our age group. After the race when I rolled back to claim the place and find out when the presentations would be, the officials from Cycling Victoria mentioned that they were going to open up entries to the elite Women's Crit that would start in a few hours, if I wanted to pay and enter right then. They had got me on an emotional high. I quickly renegotiated my departure time to later in the day and entered before I could change my mind.

The lineup for the Show Women's Crit was a little more serious with the whole Building Champion Squad from Bendigo, a few other local riders, and one or two from Melbourne for the race.

It was good to see Emma Pane racing again with a new club, team and bike! We were going to have some fun today. Ten minutes before the start they announce the circuit would be raced in the opposite direction to the previous races and on the line our race time was cut to 20mins as "there are not many of you here to race".  About five minutes into the race Lauretta Hanson attacks and we are blocked by her whole team and chased down on every move to bring her back. After about ten minutes she had lapped us and it was a race for podium positions.

Attacking and countering again and again. Legs = toasted.
As we came into the final lap, I thought I was in a good spot to give it a good shot towards the line, but when I accelerated out of the last corner, the first 3 riders were already out and sprinting up the road leaving me in 6th place overall and no ground to be made up. It was good fun, but again I learnt the lesson about being in the right spot to get an armchair ride to the finish.

Photo of the top 7 riders - without me as I had to leave before presentations.  (L to R:  Marquessa Jelbart, Tayla Evans, Lauretta Hanson, Emma Pane, Nik Mcnamara and Jessica Lane)

The Ride Cycles Women's Ride 

Each Friday there is a women's shop ride for The Ride Cycles in East Kew which is ridiculously close to my house, but I rarely ride in that direction unless I am going for long kms. I was keen to check out the route and back roads with the ladies and chat over coffee on my recovery day.

I put my party lights on the bike and it only took ten minutes to ride there! Everywhere I go it takes me 30mins to ride places, so I was happy and fresh to start the ride.

I was excited to meet Cazz Clarke, Barb and Angela and her sister (to name a few regulars) and check out the trails around the back blocks of the east. There was one great bike path section I am definitely going to check out more of that crosses over Whitehorse Road with a cafe on the corner.

There was a steady amount of climbing as out in the eastern suburbs there are hills, but also there are good downhill sections. It's a "no drop ride" and everyone was taken care of, including me who stopped at one point to turn off my phone alarm telling me to WAKE UP!

At the end of the route, we finished back at the shop and just a few doors up at the local cafe for a free coffee, delicious mini treat (diet sized) and to discuss great massages for cyclists. Always good to get a local tip, I'll be back again for more.

SKCC Club Crit Champs

Finally the last crit of the season was upon us with the biggest finale of the St Kilda Club Crit Champs. Each week they run three women's grades, three times a season they run Latte Laps (crit training sessions) and this year we were back with another big 50min (+3laps) race.

The women's crit champs are an "ALL IN" style of race where you claim for a place in different age categories. For example you can be WMAS4, race with the elite category and sit on to the sprint finish and win your age group. Or you can be WMAS3 win the overall race and your age category etc. Again this year they broke the age categories up into 10yr blocks instead of the usual 5yrs (I still can't see the reason for this).

There is often a little bit of teams racing in A-Grade, but this time we had 4 riders from Stay True (ST), 3 riders from Total Rush (TR) and 4 riders from Bike Bug Next Gen (BBNG). The rest of the field was randoms from A & B grades that I've seen racing throughout the year.

Doing my nails on the start line. Photo curtesy of Dale Maizels

We had a lead out car for the first 2 laps that went at over 40km/h and blew the field away until we got settled, then somewhere after the flurry of first attacks around 10mins in Prue (BBNG) and Hannah (ST) took off into an early break. There was a lot of blocking and pacing tactics where I got to have a chat to welcome back Jenny Macpherson (ST) for the championships in those first 20-30 mins till TR and I closed the gap and brought it back to another attack fest. 

The last 15mins was attack after counter attack from each group. Nothing was getting away, I was jumping at different spots on the course to see if I could snap away, at one point I thought I had a wining break but it was shut down again (even with the main teams represented). 

On the last lap Bridie(TR) attacked in the 3rd corner and I couldn't quite go with it. I managed to catch back up by the last corner, but Jenny came in first and Liz (BBNG) had broken away with her around the last corner and came second to a close finishing third for Bridie. We were just spectators in the bunch and I did forget that others in the group were fighting out for age group placings so I promptly got out of the way and rolled in about 7th or 9th overall (electronic timing would have been nice to sort this out for us). 

Champagne for the winners!
I was very happy with my activity in the race. I had no team mates and nothing to lose, so it was a bit of fun to mix it up and finish up the season. Again it was a well run event by St Kilda. I hope they lobby to run some of the state events in the coming year as it would be a great credit to the club for all riders that compete at these events to see how great we've got it!

Only the best ALLPRESS coffee served by real hipsters!

Podium Pics with awesome crowd because we like to celebrate in our club

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