2014 Tour of the South West

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After an eventful 12 months of roller coaster riding that is cycling, all the ducks had lined up for me to give Tour of the South West a second chance. Last year I had a cracker crit season and ripped up some mega intervals to feel confident to enter Women's A Grade - but was cut short in the first stage.

Signs to do TOSW:
  • Last year I'd won an accommodation voucher to use at Lady Bay that would expire right after the tour this year.
  • I had put behind all of the racing demons - I just had to go back to set things straight with this race.
Due to the new rules for VRS, I couldn't enter A-Grade again as I'm graded as B and I don't have a team to jump up with. That solved some of the nerves about getting hustled by the teams again as a solo rider.
Team Thule Australia Subaru decked out

Here is my detailed report of the weekend from Women's B Grade - it's a bit long winded.

Stage 1 - 51km Road Race

It was raining when I woke up early on Saturday. The bikes were loaded onto the car and out to the start in the dark and drizzly conditions. Shane was buzzing with negativity as he was not starting till later in the morning and I was trying to keep positive and have motivated energising thoughts. At least I was still feeling confident as I wheeled up to the start line in the drizzle and mud while everyone else looked grumpy.

Drizzly Morning

It was windy, but hopefully that meant it would blow the rain band away and dry out the roads quick smart! I was sad to see a few of my mates had not made it to the start line due to illness, but there were 10 women. Plenty of new faces and fresh legs in the bunch that I needed to test out on the road.

We had 1km neutral zone to get out of the gate and settle as a bunch which was better than last year when it was on before we all got out of the gate. I sat on the front so I could feel how the breeze was an adjust the game plan for where the action sections were going to be in the race.

I was relieved the first QOM was un-manned and I passed the first 7km crash point un-scathed! After this I was very happy with a tail wind and took off for a bit pushing the pace. There were a few comments before the last corner where we were held up before the turn into the long headwind straight when C-Grade men passed us. I was asked why I was riding so fast in the neutral lap.  At that point we all had a good chuckle and set off into the headwind racing this time - though it seemed that nobody was interested in doing much into the headwind at all until lap 2 or 3 of the circuit when QOM and sprint points would count. So I guess you could say that the first lap was neutral.

In the second lap I worked with Purdie Long into the headwind section, and pushed the pace without all-out attacking up the small kicker climbs to the QOM. Annie Mollison threw everyone off guard and attacked 800m from the line! I kicked and Purdie went with Annie, but I just managed to hold onto 3rd place over the QOM from Sam Abbott. As soon as we got over the top Sam, Purdie and I swapped off turns for the next 3-4km till we were chased down on the next set of rolling kicker hills, then we were all back together for the headwind.

At least at this time the rain had stopped and the roads were drying up. There was a bit more action as we got to 1km to go as there were sprint points up for grabs.

We had the final lap and had not lost any riders, from the bunch. It was time to try something different. Manuella Marasco was driving hard into the headwind to the corner, then Purdie and I were keeping the pace high and punching over the climbs

When the final QOM came in sight Purdie took off and crossed the line first, Annie got past me for second and Sam was hot on my heels. Jo O'Shaughnessy and I worked turns till the headwind and took a breather to regroup before the finish. I had no idea what my sprint legs would be like, but predicted that Purdie and Annie would give it a go to the finish.

There was a headwind slow rise up to the finish. I'd thought that 2km to go was the time to try something on, but must have left it too late. I attacked a few times to get the bunch to speed up and jumped on Purdie's wheel to the final grind.

Purdie ended up leading out the bunch, but I was boxed in as the group swarmed and Sam came around all of us to finish first! I was in a bit of disbelief that it was all over and I still had a little left in the tank, but the first 7 riders had all gotten the same time. Let's do another lap!

1st Sam Abbott 1:40:10
2nd Annie Mollison
3rd Jo O'Shaughnessy
4th Purdie Long
5th Veronica Micich

Stage 2 - 12km Time Trial
I had been doing a bit of work to get more consistent and comfortable on the TT bike. I had bought a few upgrades for the CV TT series and the few tours I was planning on competing in over the year. I managed to get out to test them all out just before the event to see if it would all work together.

Trying to focus before the start

The start was gooooooooood. With a tailwind I felt like superwoman and overtook 2-3 riders before the first turn. When I came to the turn I was coming in fast and that new disc wheel was not moving like I thought it would. There might have been a bit of side skidding and me screaming YeeeHAR! at that moment and I felt my heart jump out of my chest even more than the pace I'd been setting. I focussed on settling back down and punching over the little rollers while keeping aero as there was a real nasty side wind that was blowing me across the road.

The right hand turn into the main headwind section up the big climb was a real test, but I'd kept a little energy in reserve and had verified the climb was only a few hundred meters on the test ride the day before. I hit my power target up over the top as I caught another 2 riders and chased another one down toward the final corner. I love having carrots to chase!

The Hill doesn't seem so bad at this angle!

Somewhere along the line I'd developed a stitch and as I was trying to raise the pace up toward the line I was breathing like a steam train and hurting bad. I crossed the line with nothing left in the tank and rolled along the road to almost a standstill in the head wind. I had no idea how I had gone, but I wanted to get top 3 desperately to validate those TT simulations and commutes and efforts had made some kind of difference!

Photo: JXP Photography

Meg Marsh let me know that I'd won the TT when I was cooling down on the wind trainer and I was so relieved and happy! As an added bonus I had also moved into the leaders jersey and had managed to put some time into my fellow competitors.

I had a long wait till shane finished his TT, we packed up the car and prepared for the Crit the next day while waiting for all the A-Grade Men riders to finish to find out that Shane had won his Masters A-Grade TT and had set fastest time of the day 0:15:53! A bit more work to do for me to close that gap!

1st Veronica Micich 0:19:53.92
2nd Sam Abbott 0:20:05.02
3rd Purdie Long 0:20:09.76
4th Jo O'Shaughnessy 0:20:35.46
5th Rebecca Stephens 0:21:23.45

That night we went to the presentations at the Warrnambool Art Gallery and I tried to recruit a few riders that were out of the time cut to assist me in the final stage. They couldn't win it overall unless there was a major split in the field and I lost time, but they COULD win the stage. Everyone was pretty tired after a long day, so I'm not sure there were any takers.

Criterium 30mins +2 laps
The next morning it was sunny beautiful blue sky day and there was a tailwind up the climb of the crit circuit - how good is that!

Warming up in the sun. Might be the last option for tan line top up.

Shane raced earlier than me and I got to watch some epic racing as the grades finished up.  I warmed up on the Lemond with a view of the climb as I waited for my start and picked up a few tips.

I had an 11 sec lead on the group which was going to be tough, but if I could keep with the front runners, I only needed to watch 2 riders in Purdie and Sam. I was first into the corner and pacing myself against the surge of the group up the climb. As we approached the top I pushed over to hit the downhill first and see how fast and wide to take the descent and into the head wind. It was a repeat of the road race where we would just tempo into the wind to roll across the line and hit the climb again and again.

Keeping near the front on the early laps

I felt pretty comfortable on the climb. The only time I was a little worried was the intermediate sprint where I made it over the top on Sam's wheel and we pushed to the line in the head wind and I came 3rd to her first place - so there was now only 5 sec between us. I couldn't quite do the math at max HR trying to follow the wheels, but knew my options were to either win the stage or get 1 place better than Sam.  Jo had gone for a breakaway that had been reeled back in before the 2 lap warning.

Into the final lap I drifted back to about 6th place, not paying attention through the final corner. Sam attacked on the climb, caught at the back I tried not to panic as I saw a gap open up. By the time I'd hit the top of the hill, three riders were away. Nobody to help now - I had to close the time gap as GC was counting on it!

Sam placed in the sprint and with the time bonus' had enough to take the overall lead by 3 seconds! I was both devastated and grateful it was over safely and I'd still hung onto 2nd place and had a pretty good race and tour.

The final sprint - I didn't quite get to close the time gap
Overall General Classification
1st Sam Abbott
2nd Veronica Micich
3rd Purdie Long

At the presentations we lined up on stage for our overall photos and when I went to leave the stage they asked me to stay, presented me a cake and all sung Happy Birthday to me. It was a great way to spend the day, sharing it with so many of my friends and competitors in Warrnambool.

Happy girl with Marty Tobin after the race. Thanks for the cake!

After being quite hesitant to return to the Tour it was well worth the trip.  Marty Tobin from Sam Miranda and Paul Lumsden from Cycling Victoria were so welcoming, great supporters and so encouraging to race. I hope to return next year to go one place better!

The prize haul! Lots of good memories too :)

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