Tuesday, 28 July 2015


It’s been a long time since I wrote a ‘blog’ and I think it’s about time to put fingers to the keyboard again.

I’m in Solothurn, Switzerland, which has been our base for most of the year. By ‘our’ I mean me and my partner Jarrod; who doubles over here as my mechanic, driver, manager and souigneur. Although we’ve spent most of our four-month stint overseas hotel hopping, it was nice to have a base to store our belongings and somewhere that we could call ‘home’. And an added bonus was that we were living with the much loved Nathalie Schneitter whose friendship has certainly made the trip worthwhile!

It’s nine days until the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Andorra, of which I was selected to race. But it’s only four days until I fly home to Australia. The decision to pull out of the World Championships was actually an easy one. Not only would my result be embarrassing (the last six weeks have seen my results plummet to the point where I DNF’d the final World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy), but the two week stint would cost me in excess of $2,500 and I find it unjustifiable to spend that much money on bad memories.

So instead I’ll start my off-season a little earlier than expected and in a slightly different manner. Jarrod and I will only fly home as far as Perth, where we're stopping off for a week to prolong the return to cold weather in Bendigo and to ‘participate’ in the Dwellingup 100; a National Series marathon that Jarrod is yet to tick off the bucket list. It was my return to racing following a back injury two years ago and I really suffered through it (read about it here). I assume this time will be no different after a two-week hiatus from the bici. The purpose of the event is to help me find my love for MTB’ing again after a roller coaster season, so thanks to Tony Tucknott for making it possible!

So on reflection it’s been a long season. I wouldn’t say that I’ve overdone it, or that I’ve raced too much (lord knows I’ve raced a lot more in the past). I just think that perhaps my racing could’ve been blocked better and after ten months the body needs more than a few days rest. The continuous mental strain of preparing for one important race after another has drained me to the point where I have no mental fight left in me and my body is empty.

But looking ahead I’m excited to return home, recover, get back in the gym, and of course get my arse back into ‘Ham Land’ to pack some meat and earn some coin to do it all again next year! I get to escape for a few of my favourite stage races including the Pairs format at Hellfire Cup (thanks to Dunc and Sarah), and of course the Cape to Cape and the Forrest Festival (of which Jarrod is yet to miss a year). So if you’re looking for a few races to add to your bucket list perhaps you can steal an idea or two from my 17 week calendar here!

Sunday, 27 April 2014


Location: Cuesmes (Mons), Belgium
Distance: 90mins

After winning Round 3 of the Wallonie Cup last weekend- where the organisers, athletes and spectators had been so kind, I committed to racing Round 4 in Cuesmes, just 100km from home. I had spent the whole week so excited about exploring another part of Belgium and secretly wanted to get some more cool action shots from the awesome photographers that seem to attend every race! Thanks guys and girls :) So after a morning rollers session watching the Cairns MTB World Cup on redbull.tv (a great way to gain motivation) I sat down to look at specifics for the day ahead, and read that the race was actually on yesterday!

Anything goes in the Honda CRV! Shower when I'm dead…
Photo courtesy 'selfie'

Shit. I had a thought that I might be able to make it to the Koga Cup in time, but I was too late for that as well. I sat around for two hours feeling like a ripe old idiot until Jarrod said that it's unlike my 'school teacher ways' to get the date wrong and that I should re-check it. Sure enough, the race started at 12:30pm… I looked at my watch- 10:45am. Well I've never moved so fast! I got dressed while Jarrod threw my bike into the Honda CRV and as I ran downstairs he asked me what the address was. My response- 'no idea, I couldn't find it on the net'.

I departed for Cuesmes, knowing I was at least headed in the right direction. Mum rang me from Australia in an attempt to direct me when I got to town, and with the help of a few local MTB'ers on a weekend cruise I found the event centre. They accepted a late entry for 'the Australian' and asked if I had my number plate, which I told them I had left at home. Truth be told I had signed it last week at Bastogne and given it to a guy who owns a bike shop in France for his 'wall of shame'. Ten euro later was lesson learnt lol

I was in for a tough day at the office
Photo courtesy Danny Zelck

So I rolled to the start while stuffing some food down my throat and straight into a cross country race. Firstly, it's not great practice to race a 120km UCI road race the day before a MTB race. And when you do, and you don't warm up, your legs won't want to join the party. In fact my head, heart and legs forgot to have the conversation where they discuss the pros and cons of such an idea and realise that it's stupid. But without stupidity, I wouldn't have been able to race such an awesome little track. It had the steepest of climbs which aren't my speciality, but was balanced out with some fast descents plus a few drops and jumps that I managed to tackle.

I even got air a few times…
Photo courtesy Ludo van der Put

For the first time in a long time I nailed the start and was happy to slide into second. I didn't know the course and I was happy to discover it for the first time on someone else's wheel. We had five laps to complete of a smoother yet more technical track than last week that would go down as my favourite so far in Europe. After 3 mins we started to climb up steady fire road and by the top I found myself keeping pace with Belgian MTB Champion Githa Michiels. Around the next corner was a short pinch and much to my dismay these types of climbs weren't 'one offs', the course was riddled with them. On the profile they were like sharp knives stabbing me in the back.

It did flatten out, but then after just 6 minutes I met my nemesis of the day. It was a near-on 3 minute climb that started off at 15% and maxed out at 25% and it seemed relentless. It started off a drag around some wooden stairs and gradually got steeper as the climb went on. I battled to the corner where it flattened out, and then looked ahead to see spectators grouped on rocks at the top. It hurt my neck to arch it that high, so you can imagine how it felt to try and ride. By the time I reached the final pinch through some loose dirt my legs were screaming and I had to resort to walking. Shame on me. Githa had climbed it like an animal, as had the girl behind which now saw me back in third.

This is another climb on the circuit that I only rode 2 of 5 times!
Photo courtesy Ludo van der Put

Things got worse for a while. I went the wrong way at some broken bunting and fell to fourth. And then washed out on a corner and slip down into a gully which saw me finish the first lap in fifth. The lead Master rider, who had started 2minutes behind, called 'track' to pass me at the 15 minute mark! I began to settle in and calm down and finally started to claw my way back. Up to fourth, then third, and eventually second. Then up another steep climb an U23 male rider knocked by handlebars and I had to walk again..back to third. When I finally got a clean run I rode into a comfortable second. I was descending well- loving being back behind the wheel of such a deadly machine, and lost all interest in trying to catch the leader, she was long gone.

Three podiums from three starts! #dirtwiggler
Photo courtesy Filip Francois

I went through some tough mental battles on the final lap to get over those pinches. I resorted to all sorts of things including using tress to propel myself up the hill. I only walked the once, up my nemesis. To my surprise, my lap times still only varied by 23 seconds. A miracle considering how I felt. But it was another great race to add to the palmares and puts me one step closer in my preparations for my first MTB World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic- one of my last selection races for the Commonwealth Games this year in Glasgow. But my next challenge is the Elsy Jacobs Tour in Luxembourg next weekend with Wiggle Honda. On the road again..

Results: Via Cuesmes B
Garmin Edge 510: Via Strava

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Start: s'Heerenhoek, The Netherlands
Finish: s'Heerenhoek, The Netherlands
Distance: 120km
Status: UCI 1.2
Team: Giorgia, Lotte, Bea, Amy, Elinor and I
Staff: Franky, Jarrod, Pascal and Bart

It felt like forever since I had been away with the #wigglettes at the Energiewacht Tour, the only reason I didn't go insane in Buggenhout is because it was Easter which means chocolate, and I was able to get back on my MTB for two races. I had similar plans for this weekend until I got the late call up to ride Borsele in place of Emilia who had been battling illness for two weeks. I was super motivated to race and race well. I had a big two weeks of training under the belt and with the Women's Tour closing in quickly, with only one position vacant within the squad I wanted to prove that I was worthy of it and today was my chance to do that.

After the first lap splits only 60 girls remain
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

After my weekly scope of the race preview on velofocus.com I knew the race was five laps around a wind swept circuit with a few narrow roads thrown in for good measure. It was no secret from years past that the most important part of the race was after just 3km. A 180 degree left hand bend takes you from a tail-wind highway to a cross-wind backroad and the race would be made form here. Despite lining up 35 minutes before the start gun I still found myself on the back row with fellow Australian Nettie Edmonson for company, happy to welcome her back for her first European race of the season. 

If Franky hadn't done enough to warn me of the importance on being frontline at 3km, she certainly did her job in scare tactics to convince me that it wasn't an option- I HAD to be there. So the story goes… 3km in and I was lead ten into the penultimate corner. There were multiple crashes and when the dust settled, we had just three survivors in Gio, Bea and myself. The peloton had been reduced from 170 down to 60 and those that missed the move never saw the front again. As damning as that may sound, such is the nature of Dutch racing and it's half the reason I have fallen in love with it so quickly.

Looking after Gio incase her legs change their mind
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

I won't reflect too much on covering 'this attack' and 'that break' because it was an ever changing day. Gio had made it clear pre-race that her legs weren't good and on a few occasions took me to the front so that I could make my mark. But I couldn't help but feel guilty for that and helped her out in return when we were starting to fall too far back. I tried to spend most of the day in the echelon but it was obvious that the wind wasn't quite right, the impetus wasn't there, and the stretches of road weren't long enough in the right direction to cause a proper 'split' in the peloton. Instead a few breakaways were formed and the narrow roads allowed some block tactics, but even representation from every team didn't drive our nine person break up the road. Teams didn't just want a rider up the road, they wanted their #1 rider.

One lap to go..
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

My legs hadn't felt great all day. I spun them out on the rollers this morning but I knew they were tired and I just hoped they would behave. They were still doing the talking when it mattered, but to make up for any shortfall I tried to follow the right wheels, today my pick was Gracie Elvin (Orica). We had been in a 9-woman mid-race break together and she was keen to make it stick so I decided to keep my eye on her. As we came through for one lap to go it was Specialized who were shooting bullet after buller off the front, but when the canon fired with 20km to go they were the only ones to miss it. Ellen van Dijk (Boels Dolmans) and Annamiek Van Vleuten (Rabo Liv) were the aggressors, and as their team-mates rallied to block the narrow road ahead, Gracie and I managed to find our way through the cross fire.

Part of a 15-woman breakaway in the final 20kms
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen
It took a group of 7 swapping off to reach the two leaders, including Aussie Chloe Hosking (Hitec-Products). I looked around to see that we had three in a nine-rider break and it made me reflect on just how strong the Australian contingent of riders in Europe is becoming. As the kilometres counted down to single digits there was no haste in the roll-through. A few riders were waiting for their team leaders and not surprisingly a strong group bridged the gap to swell our numbers to 15. I felt pressure free as we passed three kms to go, knowing that I had no responsibility to chase a move and if I was sneaky enough and fast enough, I could perhaps claim an unexpected podium here. Two kms to go and I was in the drops, more than ready to…puncture!

Chloe Hosking overcomes Kirsten Wild to take victory
Photo courtesy Sportfoto.nl

It was both ironic and uncanny that I punctured today. It was actually our first team puncture for the year that wasn't on cobbles and Jarrod felt personally responsible. We had team car number one, so after the bunch came flying past and I was pushed off by the neutral spares they came alongside me. I said a few things that I won't repeat publicly, but Jarrod could only sit in the back seat with his mouth open, speechless. I had been so excited about racing on the new Campagnolo Bora 35's and bragging about our Vittoria Corsa CX (gum wall) tyres but the truth is that it's just unlucky. Shit happens. I would not have won the race, but it would have been nice just to try. I caught back to the bunch and finished 32nd. The only thing that can heal this wound is rubbing dirt in it tomorrow on the MTB :)

Results: Via Cyclingdatabase
Garmin 510: Via Strava
Race Video: Via Hans Verbeek

Monday, 21 April 2014


Location: Nieuwkuijk, The Netherlands
Distance: 90min
Status: UCI Class 2

Oh how I have missed this. The nervous twitching on the start line. The dust in my burning lungs. Lactic legs returning you to your saddle as you try to punch over another climb. Skipping over roots and coasting on berms before rocketting down man-made gardens embedded with stone. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and I am a true believer. This weekend I have fallen in love again with MTB'ing and wonder why the rest of the world lives in such denial..

After yesterday my body was ruined. I had skipped lunch, hunger flatted, cramped while working the clutch in the Honda Civic on the way home, and finally crawled into bed in all sorts of pain (after a blog of course). Acute pain I can handle, but yesterday saw the first signs of my chronic back injury returning to haunt me. The pain got worse overnight and I woke up wondering if I would even race today. I thought of the Commonwealth Games, dragged myself out of bed and jumped on the rollers while watching repeats of the Pietermaritzburg World Cup to keep me motivated- and once again my legs felt amazing.. go figure!

Forgot to pack the short sleeve jersey - what a novice!
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

Today was a good day because Jarrod was able to come and watch. He had fallen asleep in the Wiggle Honda team car the day before so I hoped that my race would excite him enough to at least stay awake! Bart Hazen, team photographer and friend had come along to celebrate Easter Monday with us and take some happy snaps for my collection. They were joined by Anton Vos while I lined up front row, with 40 girls eagerly waiting behind, and his cheeky comments made me laugh: 'You have to win today because my sister won here last year' he said with a smirk. I echoed back 'There are a lot of things that your sister has won that I can't even dream of!'

This was as technical as it got today - baby steps..
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

The mood was set. Team vans lined the start area and spectators scurried around the course. Jarrod last words 'nail the start' ringing in my ear. So here I was, going for hole-shot, where Jarrod had promised that if I was first to the corner, he wouldn't be disappointed if I pulled out on the second corner lol This time I was fifth- shit! We were completing a start loop before six laps of a 4.8km circuit and lets just say the first start loop wasn't my friend. I was 13th when I next saw Jarrod and I knew it wasn't good enough. The first half of the course stepped into smooth tight single-track. It wound around trees, into berms, across roots and the few technical sections were quite sedate. Minimal climbing sounds great at first, but this means no descending, which basically means no recovery. The second half of the lap opened up onto short stints of road and grassland where passing was made easy.

Breaking the elastic - off in chase of the leader..
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

I desperately needed these passing opportunities to make my way through the field. Up ahead a group of four was forming with Anne Terpstra, Annafleur Kalvenhaar, Laura Turpijn and Annemarie Worst building a lead. But by the time I reached the tail end of them, Terpstra had already made her move. The Dutch National XCO Champion rocketed to a 20 second lead and was never to be seen again. The battle for minor places forged on though. I towed Kalvenhaar and Turpijn around for two laps before attacking at the one hour mark. This put me into the red but did the job it was meant to. I was holding second place behind Terpstra who was a consistent top 10 finisher in the U23 World Cups last year- riding with her is no walk in the park so catching her would require a Usain Bolt sprint in the park!

Antos Vos catches us after the podium
Photo courtesy Bart Hazen

With two laps to go my legs were holding up, but my body felt physically exhausted. I knew I wasn't eating and drinking properly because I was so focussed on closing the gap in front and holding off the chasers behind. I just hoped that my body would hold out for the entire 90mins. I had three High-5 gels (sometimes I have up to 7) and barely a bottle to drink. Again, with World Cup practice in the forefront I pushed through to the finish line, amazed that my lap times only varied by 15 seconds! I am REALLY happy to finish second today. I was proud of my efforts yesterday and then surprised myself that I could race even harder today. It was nice to share it with Jarrod and cement my thoughts- this is exactly where I want to be :)

Results: Via Paasbike
Garmin Edge 510: Via Strava