Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sydney World Cup


 From Montreal we headed to the opposite end of the Earth for the first UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Sydney. This trip meant another country and continent checked off my list and I was very excited. Australia is always a place that I’ve wanted to go and it lived up to my expectations. But first the racing.

The format for the racing was standard- a road race and a time trial. The road race was held first on the Eastern Creek Raceway another auto-racing circuit. The course combined the typical racecourse with their drag strip via access roads making an 8-ish Km undulating circuit. There were some 180s, hard 90s, S bends and chicanes culminating with a long, downhill finishing straight. The girls raced separately this go around which meant a small field. Sarah Storey won and it came down to a sprint between Claire and I for second. With a bike throw at the line, I managed to snag second on the day. Instead of flowers, we were given stuffed frilled necked lizards to take home. 

Always throw your bike! Photo: Chris Lane, Cycling Australia
The next day was a time trial through Olympic Park, the location of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Village. The 6km course was the most technical I’ve ever seen for a Para-cycling event. It was great! I rode my road bike, a Felt AR, which is basically a TT bike with drop bars on it to begin with. Throw on a set of clip-ons and it’s about as close to a TT bike as you’re going to get without it actually being a TT bike. I digress. I felt fantastic! I liked the course despite there being no rhythm to it. I took the corners like I was on rails. Second again; I just plain got beat. In order to win, I need more power. If you know of anyone that’s looking to get rid of extra watts, let me know, I’ll take them.

The Olympic Park TT was the first race in a while that I felt good on the bike. The end of last season and almost all of 2011 has been pretty tough for me and I’ve struggled to have fun on the bike. The TT was fun, plain and simple. My legs felt great and I was happy to call myself a bike racer again. 

Montreal

Two weeks ago Team USA went up to our nation’s attic for some bike races- there’s some great stuff up there, you just tend to forget about it until you go up. We went for two P1 events- regional events from our continental area- the Americas. The first race was in Blainville and held on a banked oval auto test track. Yes, it was similar to a velodrome because of its shape, no, it wasn’t like a velodrome because it was six kilometers long. Six. The turns were so wide that the change in wind direction was the only reason we knew we had turned. In the typical fashion of spring in northern North America, it was cold, windy and rainy. This was not a surprise to anyone but unpleasant nonetheless.

Now, this is a post or conversation for some other time, but there are no girls who race. I mean, yes, technically there are several, but we’re few and far between. So, if there are any crippled female cyclists out there, please, please, please consider racing. The sport needs you and I’d like more people to race against. As you may have guessed by this plea, I was the only girl in my class and one of three total including one who was a teammate in a different class. So, with the points for this race locked up it only made sense to work for my teammates who needed a bit of help. Sam and Vince both had people to race against and I needed some training time. Mike- who also didn’t have anyone to race against- and I set tempo, closed gaps, and did what we could to keep Sam and Vince- marked men-either out of the wind or off the front. Because of the differences in classes, Mike and I raced a shorter distance and had to leave them on their own for the end of the race.

The next event was in Montreal on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve F1 racetrack. Because it’s an auto-racing track, the road is as smooth as butter and plenty wide to take turns at speed. If cars can race around the track at 100+ mph then there shouldn’t be any problem for bikes. The first of the two races was a time trial. Again, Mike and I were the only ones in our classes and would work to help Sam and Vince in the road race. In an effort to not blow ourselves to bits in the TT- like we like to do- we rode very conservatively. The next day was the road race and with legs as fresh as spring daisies I was ready to work. As was illustrated in Blainville, the race would be Canada vs. The U.S. and it was up to us to make the race ours. We had the strongest riders in the field so we rode our race. Mike and I rotated at the front to keep the pace high and cull the herd. Team USA had a major presence in the race with two to four riders rotating on the front at any given time. Like in Blainville, Mike and I raced a shorter distance than Sam and Vince but by that time, they were both already off the front in the break and the first chase group. The work for the day was done.

It was fun having a job and working towards a common goal. More importantly, all the bikes started together big(er) fields. (For safety, the handcycles, trikes and tandems started in separate groups.) It’s always fun to race with the guys and to race with teammates. Training together is one thing but racing together and seeing the hard work pay off with wins is another. Additionally, having some low-key races to start the trip off is nice and takes some of the pressure off the riders that have to get results to gather points for the team.