Friday, 2 May 2014

Welcome to the USA

To say the last few weeks have been busy, would be putting it mildly. Leaving my home in Adelaide, for Atlanta in USA. Within 12 hours of landing, I was in a car to my first race. 48 hours after landing, I was racing against the best riders in the US at Charlotte. 2 weeks after this I was racing my first ever stage race, and now two days after finishing this race, I am en route to Moscow for 3 one day races and a 5 day tour. 

So much has happened since I have been here, so I will write this in a few parts, and release over the next couple of weeks. 

Let's go back to where this all started  3.5 weeks ago.

In the first week of April I finally had my P-1 visa approved, and within 2 days of my passport arriving, I was on a plane to my home for the year, Atlanta. 

All of my team mates had arrived within a 48 hour period, so we were all in the same situation, in terms of being in different time zones and jetlagged.

I arrived on a Thursday evening, and on Friday morning we all drove to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Charlotte and Belmont NCC(national criterium calendar) events. 

The three hour drive to Charlotte went very quickly, as it was nice to sit and talk with all of my team mates, and also welcome a new rider into our team, Scott Ambrose from NZ. 

Having done a good base prepartion during the Aussie summer, as well as some good racing back home, all I was hoping for was too finish my first few races. 

Well, was I in for a huge shock!! 

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from this level of racing, but talking to a few people back home, it was clear to expect a new level of intensity, craziness and insanity of bike racing. 

Earlier in the day, the team had a great start, with Scott winning his first race in the category 1-2-3 support event. He lapped the field, then helped out Justin to get a higher place, so he could move up from cat 3, to cat 2, which he did successfully! 

The rest of the team had their first race in the downtown district of Charlotte. It is traditionally a twilight race, where thousands of people pack in to see the race. Over 30,000 people were circuit side, and with over $40,000 US in prize money up for grabs, you knew it was going to be fast. 

I started near the middle of the bunch at Charlotte, and followed another Aussie -Steve Hall- to get near the front. I was making good progress, until I was
slowed by a crash in the field. Within 2 laps of this I clashed with another rider, and lost 6 of my 16 spokes in my front wheel! Lucky for me, it happened right in front of the SRAM neutral service. Excellent. One lap out. Drink, have a gel, and prepare to try fight back into position. 

I don't think I have ever been in a race, where I have had to sprint out of every corner, to then grab a handful of brake at the next one, and still not make any positions up on the field. At one point I saw a rider solo break at the front, which I was just amazed by. I'm suffering so bad at the back, and he is off the front!! 

I never moved up after bring re-entered into the race, and eventually dropped out after the half way point. I wasn't too dissapointed, but I now knew what I was in for this year. 

Race day number two. Located in the town of Belmont, North Carolina. Only 30-40 mins from Charlotte. The course was quite technical, with some left-right combo turns, but made hard by a climb on the start/finish straight each lap! 

Before the race start, It was good to catch up with my mate Gary Ryan, who owns Vie13 cycling apparel, and now lives in the US with his wife, Theresa. It was nice to have a good chat, and talk about the races we had on the track. Our best race together was in a Keirin, where the judges couldn't tell who actually crossed the line first! 

The tactic for today was to spend the first 2-3 laps making as many places up as possible, which actually worked well. I manged to move into the top 30 or so places, and hold position. Then all of a sudden, after 30 mins of up and down this hill, my legs decided this was too much, too soon. Of the 130 riders that started, only half finished. Of my team mates also in the race, Scott and Corentin only finished, with Michael, Gerd and I withdrawing at different points of the race. This demonstrated how tough the circuit was, and once again, gave me another bench mark for racing in the US.

Having now spent my first three days in the US, and racing two of them, I was quite excited for the year ahead. I came away from the weekend questioning if I was ready for this, but quickly realized, if I always fight, and continue to push, I will improve, and hopefully soon enough, I can be near the front end of the races, when it counts. 

Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out over the next few weeks for some more stories about my adventures so far! 



Thursday, 6 February 2014

New Year, New Team, New Discipline

G'day everyone 

Happy new year to you all, even though we are already one month into the year!

This year has already been very different from previous ones, and for a couple of reasons. For one, this is the first year where I did not race track nationals. This is strangely odd, as it has always been the major event to focus my entire years worth of training on. With my new switch to the road, I have not actually touched a track bike since my switch in September last year.

It was quite nice to sit down, watch the racing and enjoy the action from the other side of the fence. The 40+ degree heat predicted for most of the week, tested not only the athletes, but also the spectators. Mist fans/tents certainly would have been welcomed by a few people in the stands!

With the heat, came some very, very fast times posted. A special mention will go to my mate Matty Glaetzer here. Humor me for a moment, but I must talk about this briefly. Not only did he win two Australian championships, but posted an insane 1.01.1 kilometre time trial, and backed this up with fastest qualifier in the sprint, with a time of 9.901 seconds for 200m. This is just ridiculous for a guy not even in peak form yet.

The turning of the new year also marked something significant for me, as I would no longer be working 25+ hours a week, in addition to training. It is still taking a bit of adjustment to get used too, but I am very fortunate to able to have the support needed, to pursue my goals on the bike. I am still doing a few days here and there, at JT Cycles, as they have been very supportive of me in my time at the shop, plus it has the added benefit of a bit of extra money in the bank, which always helps!

This week saw me line up for my first race of the 2014 season also. Norwood Cycling Club - one of our local clubs - held its annual Criterium championships. Even though this was a small club race, it always nice to do some racing.

I headed into the race, having done 3 very solid days of training, so the legs were definitely feeling a bit heavy on the ride in. Once we started the race though, all of those sensations were forgotten, as it was time to focus on being in the right position, follow the right moves and let the wrong ones go.

With 40+ people in the race, it made for a nice change of actually being able to find somewhere to sit out of the wind, and conserve some energy for the end of the race. The whole race was quite simple, as no one really wanted to take control of the race. Coming into the last 10 minutes of the race, I moved the top 15, to ensure a prime spot for the last lap sprint. With a lap to go, we had a small attack of 3 riders - which eventually became two - head off the front. Unfortunately the bunch was not riding fast enough  for us to catch them. By the time we started the sprint, it was too late. I did get a nice chance to test my sprint at the end, and wound up hitting 70km/h in the end, which was fast enough the win the bunch sprint, but all to no avail, as the front two riders were only 20 metres ahead! Close, but not close enough.

Moving forward, i have taken a lot of confidence from the last race, and look forward to the season ahead!

Stay posted for more stories soon!