Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brands Hatch - Road Course

Today we all headed out to Brands Hatch, the racing track. It is being used for both the Time Trial and the Road Race in September. They have incorporated not only the track but public roads around it and even built a new piece of road to attach the two.

As we drove on to the course I was sitting in the car thinking...Oh My God! The size of the hills and the camber of the road including a number of tough corners was amazing! There is no bit of flat road and to be honest driving it I was getting really worried about how I was going to ride this on a trike.

We made our way to the pits where each country had been given a garage to set up in. We weren't allowed on the course until 2pm and we had a number of things to do to set up. We were supposed to all be given cameras attached to our bikes/trikes/hand cycles but when our first rider Stuart Tripp went out with the camera on his hand cycle he was stopped by the marshalls and told he couldn't go out on the circuit with a camera. Once this was established by our head coach to be true ideas changed and we were all to be followed on a "hot lap" to video us from the vehicle, as well as having our Garman computers, the data which will be overlayed on the video.

It was then time to head out to warm up. I headed out to the start area and headed onto the course. The start immediately goes uphill and turns to the left. The first downhill ends at a 90 degree turn with an immediate climb, with another downhill into a long slight incline of about 5%. The course then turns back on to the race course where it twists and turns again downhill and uphill. At one point I hit 59.6 km/hr and then came back into the pit area. I found that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and headed out to do another lap to make sure I was completely familiar with the corners and gearing I would need.

I was the last one to do my "hot lap" and I was doing it at about 75-80% effort. At one point I hit 67.6 km/hr, which for me is the fastest I have ever gone. I was really please with this lap and think that I will really like this course when I have to race it at 100%. I have realized that there are a few things to work on, but I am looking forward to it.

After we were all finished, it was time to pull the trike apart, pack it and load it in the truck. We head back to Australia tomorrow night, so we have a whole day of waiting around. We may take the tube from the airport and head into the city to kill some time.

I am ready to head home, but really excited about the next couple of months. We are in the final preparation stages and it is important to remain focused. It is at this point in time that some people become complacent! But you have to find true delight in the challenges of the final training phase. At this point we are all in the same place and the athlete who will succeed will be the one who gives 120% for the next couple of months.

So long London, see you in September!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Goodbye Spain, Hello London

This morning the Australian group split in two and went different directions. Most were heading to Barcelona to head home, but 7 riders and two coaches Peter and Jenni, headed to Madrid where we caught a flight to Gatwick airport in London.

Our mechanic Peter and one of the other coaches, Tom, had left Spain the night before driving all our bikes, trikes and hand cycles along with our luggage to London. We were off to do some testing and filming of the course we will race on in September.

The course is located in Brands Hatch, which car racing fans will know as a racing circuit. But they have incorporated some local roads with the race course and built a new road to attach the two. The total course is 8km in length. Tomorrow along with about 20 other countries the course will be open to Paracyclists in order that we can ride it and at which time cameras and GPS will be installed on our bikes/trikes/hand cycles so that we can use the data and video back at home in order to train. Amazing stuff really!

I must say though that I am really tired with the last 2 weeks really taking it out of me, so I am looking forward to a restful night tonight! It is really exciting though to think that tomorrow I will be riding on the Paralympic course, it is making this journey all so real! I may be tired but I take a moment every day to remind myself that this is what I have dreamed of for years and that I will continue the effort, continue to persist and by doing this will delight in the outstanding rewards that it will bring!

Day 3 - World Cup Road Race, Segovia

I didn't have time to write this blog yesterday after my race as the day and night got away from me.

The day dawned a brilliant beautiful blue sky with not a cloud. But I knew it was going to be a hot one. I was racing at 1pm so it was important for me to employ some strategies to combat the heat if I could. My MS doesn't do well in the heat so I wanted to try and stay as cool as I could before the race.

I went for a warm up ride and about 15 minutes into it got stung by a bee! It hit me square in the upper chest and boy did it hurt! That was where the warm up finished. I went right back to our staging area and got some ice to put on it. The start was about 20 minutes away so by the time of the start the sting had gone out of the area. I made sure my head was completely soaked before I put my helmet on, put ice in the back pockets of my jersey and at the start line staff members were keeping my arms and legs wet.

All the trikes started out together with David Stone (GB) and Hans-Peter Durst (GER)taking control at the front of the group. I went with them along with a Columbian rider and Marie Eve (CAN), with the rest of the field stretched behind us. The pace was fast and furious on the first lap with an average of 38km/hr, at the first corner I was 3rd wheel behind David Stone when there was a huge bang and he hit his breaks fast and hard, I had to swerve to miss him, his seat had come off! I jumped in behind Hans-Peter and we kept going.

We hit the downhill going 49km/hr, but then we hit the hill! I made sure that I was in front going around the corner to the hill as the road was fairly narrow and all cobblestone! The hill almost killed me! We were down to 16km/hr and I got passed on the hill by GER,COL,CAN then near the half way mark Jarrad Langmead from Australia and a French rider passed me.

We were then back on the flats for lap 2 and I thought I would be able to catch Jarrad and FRA. Marie Eve had been dropped from the front two riders and Jarrad and FRA caught her so trying to get back on their wheels was my main goal. Unfortunately at the next corner the heat hit me, it was so hot! I think I put more of my water over me than in me!

I was unable to bridge the gap and when I hit the hill for the second time I was absolutely spent, the heat had robbed me of feeling in my hands and feet. It was all I had to get up that damn hill. But once I did and crossed the line I had Australian support who helped me to our staging area plying me with water, a nice cold wet towel and a bag of ice! It didn't take me long to recover and it was time for the medal presentation. I had won silver and to be honest I was extremely happy with how I raced. I couldn't have given anything more and that was all I asked of myself. It was an end to a great European tour winning 3 of the 5 races I had entered with seconds in the other 2 races and beating the current World Champion in those races!

Bring on London!

The Australians had another very good day:
Sue Powell -1st WC4,
Michael Gallagher - 2nd MC5,
Carol Cooke - 2nd WT2,
Simone Kennedy - 2nd WC3,
Jarrad Langmead - 3rd MT2,
Alex Green - 3rd WC4,
Claire McLean - 5th WC5,
David Nicolas - 10th MC3

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 2 World Cup - Segovia

Today all the single bikes and the trikes had the day off and to be honest...thank god! My legs were absolutely stuffed after yesterday and I was certainly happy not to be racing today. Unfortunately for the tandems and the hand cycles there was no rest as they headed off to Castillo de Cueller (Castle of Cuellar).

The rest of us went out for a leisurely recovery ride all varying in times. I came back and had our masseuse Alan, give my legs a rub, then a shower and a cold as I could stand bath! After that I felt pretty good but tired. We really didn't do anything today...thank god for the Internet!

We did watch the results of the Rowing World Cup in Munich where our compatriots, Erik Horrie won the final of the Arms/Shoulders M1x and Kathryn Ross and Gavin Bellis won the final of the Trunk & Arms 2x! So a great weekend for Australia's Paralympic Athletes.

Tomorrow I race the Road Race and it will be tough. We race at 1pm, hottest time of the day and we have a 750m climb up cobble stones, so it will be interesting.

Australia results today:
Nigel Barley - 4th MH3 (even after dropping his chain),
Stuart Tripp -8th MH4,
Brandie O'Connor/Kerry Knowler -14th WB,
Alex Welsh -16th MH2,
Bryce Lindores/Mark Jamieson - 19th MB,
Harley Quinlan - 20th MH2

Saturday, June 16, 2012

World Cup - Time Trial

Today was one of those days that I have dreamt about, but today my dreams came true. It was the Time Trial today and 2 of the top Trike male riders were in attendance. It was important for me to race well against them even though here they are awarding categories separately. Come September in London I will be racing the men for one set of medals and although the race will be factored (handicapped) I still wanted to be as close to them in raw time as possible.

Today we saw the temperature reach 37 degrees! Not great for someone with MS who is heat intolerant, but luckily I didn't start until 7:13 pm so the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 26 degrees. The wind however did not go away, but shifted slightly! We rode into an amazing headwind with a bit of crosswind thrown in for good measure, but on the way home had an amazing tailwind!

I was the 2nd female to leave, one minute behind the French girl and a minute ahead of Marie Eve! the Canadian. Most people would realize that I came 2nd to Marie Eve at the World Champs last year, so I really wants to have a good showing here. I put everything I had into the headwind section because I knew this was where it would be won or lost and I tried to not worry about what gear I was in but to make sure my cadence stayed high so that I didn't fatigue my legs. But when I turned into the tailwind, I put the gears as high as I could (keeping the same cadence) and hammered home!

I was completely spent at the end, couldn't really talk other than to whisper that I needed water and a cold wet towel, then continued with a warm down. I still had no idea where I had placed. The only thing I knew was that I had caught and passed the French girl about 1km into the race but had no idea where Marie Eve was. To my utter surprise I had WON and not just won but had smashed it beating her by 1 minute 20 seconds and beat the 3rd place male by 20 seconds! So that put me 3rd overall! This has certainly boosted my confidence for London.

The Australians had a very successful day today:
Michael Gallagher - 1st MC5
Sue Powell - 1st WC4,
Nigel Barley -1st MH3,
Carol Cooke (Me) - 1st WT2,
Alexandra Green - 2nd WC4,
Simone Kennedy - 2nd WC3,
Claire McLean - 3rd WC5,
Stuart Tripp - 4th MH4,
Ryan Hughes - 6th MC4,
Jarrad Langmead - 6th MT2,
Bryce Lindores/Mark Jamieson - 10th MB,
Brandie O'Connor/Kerry Knowler - 11th WB,
Alex Welsh - 15th MH2,
Harley Quinlan - 21st MH2

Friday, June 15, 2012

Segovia, A World Heritage Site

With my training on the Time Trial course finished yesterday I decided that it was time to explore. Once racing starts on Friday there will be no time for exploring at all, I will be all business then.

I was able to hitch a ride with coach Paul and the tandem guys Bryce and Jamo into town and I grabbed a bite of lunch with them and then it was into the tourist bureau for me. Armed with an information book and a map of the city I headed off. As I stated in an earlier post I love history. Wish I loved it as a kid because then I might know a bit more!

The other day driving back to Segovia it was a brilliant site, very romantic and something out of ancient times. With the town bordered by a stone wall, the cathedral standing out amongst the other buildings it's steeples reaching to the clouds and the castle behind it almost as if still protecting it, you can almost feel like you have gone back in time. Segovia has a very long history, the magnificent Aqueduct was built when it was part of the Roman Empire. Historians believe the city was abandoned after the Islamic invasion and was repopulated starting in the late 11th century. It is such an amazing place that in 1985, UNESCO included the Old City of Segovia and its Aqueduct in the World Heritage list.

I made my way through some of the small winding streets constantly moving up towards the cathedral. The cathedral is on the edge of the "Plaza Mayor" (main plaza). This area reminded me a lot of Venice with numerous restaurants around the plaza. I continued past the cathedral looking for the the Alcazar (the castle) and the wall that surrounds the city. Almost immediately from out of a small narrow street I came upon this magnificent building.(I am told that Walt Disney designed his castle upon this one.) the deep moat and drawbridge to enter this fortress has existed since the time of the Celts.

I toured through the castle rooms which contained some magnificent original furniture, paintings and carpets, along with an Armoury housing an amazing collection of armaments dating from different times. I made my way down into the foundations of the building which are said to be medieval. Don't know if I would want to be in there during the night!

I then climbed the 152 steps to the top of the tower. What a magnificent view from the top! The tower was used as a state prison and believe me there would be no escaping from this! The number of photos I took will most likely come out alL looking the same but as I said the view was amazing and well worth the climb! Once back on terra firma I made my way along the wall to what was once known as the Jewish quarter and where views of the Jewish necropolis can be seen which lies on the other side of the Clamores Valley. I continued towards the back of the cathedral eventually coming around to the entrance.

The original Cathedral called Santa Maria was of Romanesque style. In 1521 during the Comuneros War, the old church was destroyed and construction of the Cathedral as we see it today was started in 1525 but wasn't consecrated until July 1768, so it took 247 years to build!

After having a look in the cathedral and taking photos which were not supposed to be taken, I headed to the nearest cafe to rest and indulge in a cappacino. It was here that I got the inspiration to call my sister. Had a great conversation with her finding out that she and my mom will be coming to London to watch me race! That was very exciting news!

I then had the urge to shop and bought some gifts to take home. Obviously I can't say what I bought or certain people reading this blog will know!

Then headed back down to the Aqueduct to sit and have a cold drink. I love watching people and what a great place to do it. A mixture of tourists and locals, but probably more tourists. The roundabout right at the Aqueduct is a hive of activity, not quite sure how cars don't hit each other, but move smoothly through it like a choreographed dance. I could hear many languages Spanish, French, Japanese and English just to name a few. There were families, lovers, friends, school groups, old, young and in between, all mixing in the same space almost unaware of each other. It is such a vibrant place.

I then met up with the rest of the team and walked back to the Plaza Mayor, we're we had a drink and then some dinner. It rounded up a fantastic day with some great food, a few good laughs and some wonderful company, my teammates. We have one more day of training in which we are going to look at the Road Race course and the the World Cup begins! I can't wait to race again, Time Trial on Friday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dreams Do Come True

Today was a momentous day in my life probably right up there with the other important dates in my life such as my birth, my wedding and my diagnosis!

Today it was officially announced that I had made the 2012 Australian Paralympic Team to compete in Cycling at the London Paralympics in September.

Now for those of you that don't know a lot about my history I started my sporting career as a swimmer in Canada at the age of 10 and by 15 was swimming at a national level. My goal was always the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Now whether I would have made it to them or not I would never find out because Canada along with the rest of most of the western world boycotted them...Politics got in the way! At this point I was 18 and back then you were basically washed up as a swimmer over the age of 20, so even though I kept swimming it was more because it was a part of me and the real world of becoming an adult in the working world took over. Then my life changing diagnosis of MS! But life can be funny sometimes. I would never go back and change that diagnosis because it had made me who I am and given me opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. One of those opportunities was to take up the sport of rowing with a view to representing Australia in Beijing at the 2008 Paralympics. Unfortunately our crew missed out on a spot by 0.8 of a second.

At that point I was 47 and figured that this dream of mine was definitely over. But I continued to row, taking it a day at a time which turned into a month at a time, the a year at a time. Then circumstances within the rowing community stopped our crew in its tracks, the powers that be weren't interested in supporting our crew, with that I turned to cycling. I had purchased a trike for cross training for my rowing and found that I was pretty good at riding. I was fortunate enough to be included in the Australian team for the World Championships last year with a hope to making the team for London this year.

I realized that if I wanted to make the team I had to go beyond merely being curious about how it would be to live my dream! I would have to commit completely in order to make it happen. I had to do more than just talk about what I wanted to do or what I planned to do. I had to actually be persistent and do those things that needed to be done. I always talk about when one door closes another one opens, but remember that it won't just open on its own, you actually have to look for it and jump through.

So finally after 32 years since that first goal disappeared and 40 years of training, through 2 countries and 3 sports, that goal I had as a 10 year old in Canada of representing my country on the biggest sporting stage in the world is coming true! So believe me if you have a goal or dream, give it the power of focused attention and committed, disciplined effort because only you can make it come true. I have a wonderful life full of fabulous and supportive family and friends have been with me every step of the way and I hope that they will share in this ultimate dream with me.

 Look out London I'm on my way and after 32 years nothing can stop me now!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Heading Back to Spain

What a short night that was! After getting home from the presentations in Urt I decided that I had better finish packing as we were leaving at 8am this morning to head back to Spain, destination Segovia.

This morning dawned very wet so I wasn't unhappy to head south hoping that we would find some sun.  What a convoy, 2 trucks full of bikes, trikes and hand cycles, with mechanics tools, bike bags and boxes and luggage for about 29 people, followed by 4 vehicles carrying the athletes!  We were told to expect at least 5 hours driving with approximately 3 stops on the way, so possibly a 7 hour trip.  Thank goodness I had downloaded a few books on my iPad!

As we have been driving I am in awe at the history in Spain and I am really looking forward to Segovia where I have been assured I can get my fill of it.  I can't wait to explore some of the old buildings in the area during some of my down time.

And as I am sitting in this van for the next few hours it has given me some time to reflect on this past weekend of racing.  I have been so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to race for Australia and to live up to my potential. I know I have set high standards for myself but with this racing experience I can focus on not only achieving those standards but maybe even exceeding them. The disappointment of not winning at the World Championships  last year have begun to fade away as I learn more and more about racing.  I have learnt a lot of lessons this past weekend by making rookie mistakes, but as long as I take those mistakes with me and turn them around I can look forward to success in the future.

Results for the Australians-Day 3 and Overall

Road Race:
Stuart Tripp 1st MH3/4,
Simone Kennedy 1st WC1,2 3 , 
Alex Green 1st WC4/5,
Carol Cooke 1st WT2,
Sue Powell 2nd WC4/5, 
Claire McLean 3rd WC4/5,
Jarrad Langmead 3rd MT2,
Nigel Barley 3rd MH3/4,
Alex Welsh 5th MH2,
Harley Quinlan 7th MH2,
David Nicolas 6th MC1,2,3,
Ryan Hughes DNF (another rider crashed into him - he is okay!)
Kerry Knowler & Brandie O'Connor 3rd WB,
Bryce Lindores & Mark Jamison DNF (pouring rain and as Bryce has been sick they were pulled from the race.)

General Classification (overall placing after 3 races - all times added up, top 3 places awarded):
Stuart Tripp - 1st MH4
Nigel Barley - 2nd MH3
Simone Kennedy - 1st WC3
Sue Powell - 1st WC4
Alex Green - 2nd WC4
 Claire McLean - 1st WC5
Carol Cooke - 2nd WT2
Jarrad Langmead - 2nd MT2
 Brandie O'Connor & Kerry Knowler - 3rd WB

Winners received a Cured Leg of Ham and prize money 2nd place received 2 bottles of wine and prize money 3rd place received 1 bottle of wine and prize money Needless to say we Australians will be eating a lot of ham in the coming week!

Day 3 of Racing - Road Race, Urt

I was really looking forward to this race today.  I think I gained a lot of confidence with my win yesterday even though it was really a short race.  When we got up the day was very overcast but very humid. The hand cycles and trikes headed out first as we were racing at 11am.  We got a great spot to set everything up, warmed up and then it was race time.

The hand cycles were first to head out on the course with the trikes last.  We had 3 laps to do of the course which totaled 29.1 km for our race.  I was very wary of the French guys because of the problems the first day of racing.  The Canadian Marie Eve led out and eventually I took the lead on the downhill.  There was one dodgy turn that I had a problem with each lap but at least I got around without too much of a problem.

We had been warned about the hill we had to climb, it was a sharp right hand turn directly into a climb.  It didn't seem too bad at first because it flattened out slightly then you had to climb again, it did this a couple of times.  One of the French guys took off up the climb so I chased him and caught him, trying to work with him, but no the French don't do that!  You would have thought I would have learnt from the first day.  The bunch ended up catching us but then we hit the downhill section again, now on our 2nd lap.  I tried to get anyone from the group to take the lead and got a curt "no" from everyone!  Talk about pissed off! 

We hit the hill again and I felt like I was spent and ended up dropping off the back of the group.  By the time we got to the top and starting on our 3rd lap I was about 150m off the back.  I didn't think I would be able to chase them down on my own. But then we hit the downhill and I figured I would try catching the here, I put the hammer down put my trike into the hardest gear possible, hit 62.1 km/hr and caught the group!  I stayed at the back trying to give myself time to recover and even stayed at the back, but in touch this time, up the hill. At the end of the lap there was a large blue blow up banner we had to turn left under and head about 1km to the finish.  We were told about this before we headed out. There were about 5 of us rounding the corner at the same time and it was at that moment I saw Marie Eve lean forward and breath out a big sigh and almost stop.  She thought she had finished, with that I decided that this would be the longest sprint ever and took off. 

I wanted to be far enough ahead that when she realized she wouldn't be able to catch me.  The French guys were in front and blocking my way and a few obscenities were yelled as the same one who tried to bump me Friday decided to try and bump me into the gutter, so I swung around him the other way and hammered by him crossing the line just behind the other Frenchman and I front of Marie Eve.  I didn't even look back to see where she was.  I was amazed that I had won!!!! I later saw her on her trike with her head on the handle bars and went over to ask her if she was okay.  She lifted her head and said "well done" and in broken English said she thought the finish was at the corner. 

One big lesson to learn, always know where the finish line is! 9 of us decided to go to the presentation evening which was to take place at 7pm back at the road race course.  This is a 40 minute trip from where we are staying, so we got there about 6:35pm. True to French time the awards didn't start until just after 8pm and took almost 2 hours to get through! We hadn't even had anything to eat, so as soon as we got our awards it was off to the local pizza shop for a bite to eat.  The Australians did very well and I will put the results separately as there are quite a few! Tomorrow we are off to Spain as the 2nd World Cup is next weekend. Au revoir France, hola Spain!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 2 of Racing - Time Trial, Cambo-Les-Bains

Well what a day! Today I won the Time Trial!  First time I have beaten my Canadian competitor.

 I was supposed to start off at 3:55pm but they were running about 40 minutes late due to a problem on the course.  I think the local drivers might have been a bit pissed off with the partial road closures. It's interesting here in France, they never actually close the roads for the races, you just race around the vehicles.  So it pays to keep your eyes open and your wits about you.

We had two laps to do and in the end the organizers ended up taking one corner and one speed hump out of the course.  Seems the hand cycles wouldn't have been able to get over the speed hump.  We trikes had 2 laps to do and I was sent off 1 minute after a French girl and 1 minute before Marie Eve.  The first lap I tried to hammer but have enough in reserve to really give the 2nd lap a good go and boy did I give it a go!  I have to thank my coach Helen for all those really hard watt bike sessions that made me feel like throwing up because they certainly worked!

At the finish Peter Day our head coach told me that Marie Eve had caught me by 10 seconds where he was standing at the start of the climb, but at the finish I was 6 seconds fast than her which means I had gained 16 seconds on the 2nd lap.  So this has certainly given me a confidence boost.  I am looking forward to next weekends World Cup because a few more of the fast men will be there so I will be able to not only bench mark myself against Marie Eve but also the men.

Australia has a great day today.
Results for the rest of the team:
Claire McLean won the Time Trial C4/C5 women,
Sue Powell tour leader C4/C5 women,
Simone Kennedy won the Time Trial and is tour leader C1,2,3 women,
Ryan Hughes won the Time Trial C4/C5 men,
Nigel Hughes won the Time Trial and took over the tour leader in H3/H4,
David Nicholas won the Time Trial and is tour leader C1,2,3 men, 
Alex Green 2nd in the WC4/C5,
Jarrad Langmead was 2nd in MT2,
Stuart Tripp 2nd in MH3/4, 
Alex Welsh 7th MH2,
Harley Quinlan 8th MH2,
Bryce and Mark 6th in MB ( not bad considering their front chain broke and they had to run across the line),
Brandie and Kerry 2nd in WB ( gained ground on the Canadians but just beat)

On to the road race tomorrow!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 1 of Racing -Criterium, Anglet

I was so looking forward to finally racing! The first race up was the criterium, however it was on a circuit that was 4.9 km long.  Most criteriums are held on a much shorter course where the racing is fast and furious.  The Trike category had to do 7 laps of this course which equalled 34.3 km.  funny thing is we don't do that much in a road race!  So I approached it like a road race as did all my other competitors.   In the trike category we all, men and women as well as both classes race together.

 I was lined up by the official in the front row along with my French Canadian competitor Marie Eve.  I have to say I was a bit nervous about racing her again as I had seen her results from the last World Cup and knew that she was riding fast.  But as the count down began I knew I just had to ride right with her.  She has learned some English since our last encounter and we were able top talk about working together for the race. 

The first lap most of the field stayed together but then there were about 5 of us that were able to pull away and that included Jarrad the other Australian trike rider. We were taking turns at the front all except one French rider who refused to take the lead. K at one corner the other French rider came to an almost complete stop, I'm not sure how Jarrad didn't hit him and I was behind him so was able to tuck in around the inside and avoid a crash.  That left Marie Eve, myself and one French rider (yes the one who wouldn't take the lead st all). We constantly yelled at him to take a turn but the arrogant so and so refused to even look at us!  At one point Marie Eve just slowed so much that he had to.  It didn't last long though, so Marie Eve and I just kept trying to work together. 

With 2 laps to go, the two of us were working really well together and at the corner to head up the straight Marie Eve took over from me and as I was sitting on her wheel this French rider decided that I was in the way so sprinted up the outside of me and pushed me to the side almost clashing with my trike. Before the race we were told that we were not to take chances, these races are all about experience, so not wanting to crash with this rider I backed off and let him have her wheel.  Two corners later I made a mistake going around the corner and lost too much ground to catch up with the two of them. On the last lap I could see Marie Eve trying to get him to take the lead to the point where she slowed right down and I felt that I could catch up to them.  So I worked my butt off to try to bridge the gap, but unfortunately I expended too much energy and when she finally took over they sprinted away! So I ended up coming 3rd overall out of all the men and women and second within the woman's T2 category.

Jarrad did a great job to sprint away for the other French rider in the home straight to be 4th overall and 2nd male In thenT2 category. I'm now over my nerves about racing Marie Eve as I know that I can do the same speeds that she has been doing.  So I am looking forward to the Time Trial tomorrow!

The Australians had a great day.
Sue Powell won the WC4,
Alex Green was 4th WC4,
Simone Kennedy won the WC3,
Claire McLean was 2nd in the WC5,
Ryan Hughes was 4th MC4,
Nigel Barley was 2nd in MH3,
Stuart Tripp was 5th MH4,
Harley Quinlan and Alex Welsh were both racing in the MH2 and enjoyed the racing (even though Alex was pushed off the road by a vehicle) both finished with the pack,
David Nicolas riding in the MC3 finished with the pack,
our two tandems Bryce and Mark finished well (Bryce has had the flu) and Kerry and Brandie finished after puncturing their front tyre.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 6 Souraide, France

The day started out very overcast but it was business as usual. We are 2 days out from our first race here in France so it was a very easy day for me.  I only had to ride for 30 minutes just to turn the legs over.  It was decided that some of us would go to look at the Time Trial course and have a ride around it.

We headed over by vehicles to Cambo Les Bains with a map of the course in hand and a TomTom for directions but believe me it wasn't as easy as we thought it would be.  We finally found one of the intersections so followed the course backwards until we got to the start.  Talk about a technical course for Trikes and Hand cycles!  It comprises one fairly step downhill with a sharp 90 degree right hand turn at the bottom and a short but good climb, then 9 turns with 2 very big speed bumps and 2 roundabouts, all this in 4.1 km's!  Thank goodness this is a Time Trial and we go off one at a time. 

Jarrad and I did one lap slowly to work out the best areas of the road to be riding on and then I did a much fast lap to see what going around the corners and over the speed humps would be like at speed.  Not as bad as I thought, so I am looking forward to that race on Saturday.

The afternoon was spent with Peter D, Claire, Simone and Jarrad driving around St. Jean De Luz which is on the Basque Coast. Unfortunately we didn't end up stopping which is what I was hoping to do, but headed back to the house to meet everyone to go out for dinner.

We headed into Bayonne one of the larger cities in the area.  Bayonne was founded as a Roman fortified town at the junction of the Nive and Adour rivers.  The town prospered during the Middle Ages under the Kings of England and thanks to trade, cathedrals, cloister and castles were built during the late 16th century.  There was a cathedral however that was built between 1258-1450 after the original Romanesque buiding was damaged by fire. Then the spires were added in the late 19th century. And it stands prominently in the city.  The history here is incredible. Bayonne was equipped with a defensive system throughout the centuries in order to fulfill its military role.  Even today there is visible heritage and I could have spent a week there seeking it out. 

Unfortunately we were only there for dinner and after finding a lovely place right on the river we had a delicious Italian meal!  Yes Italian in France!  But let me tell you I enjoyed every bit of the pizza I had. It has been a long day so I am looking forward to bed and one last day of training before I get to race the Criterium which is being held in a place called Anglet just to the northeast of Bayonne and right on the coast. Once I can I will hopefully put some photos with these postings!

Day 4 Souraide, France

We woke up today to a beautiful day and headed off at 8:30. As there are so many different disabilities in our group we each were doing something different but we have found a loop that we can all ride and the coaches etc can drive the loop in case anyone has a problem. 

Today was Monday and of course we were out as people were driving to work but still no problems with cars, even when I was on roads with no shoulders.  It was amazing they just slowed and waited for me, then passed when they could!

After my ride it was a very quiet day.  With no Internet I am lost.  I even finished the book I had downloaded on my Kindle App before I left! So I have literally relaxed!  I took a walk up the street to the local church and graveyard.  A lot of people think I am weird but I love local graveyards, as it tells the history of the town.  The oldest headstone with a date on it was 1716, but there were a couple others with no date which looked even older.  I didn't find one grave that was a single person, they were all families so it was interesting to see the difference.  Some of the graves had up to 6 people named on them, I guess it is one way to save space.

The rest of the day was spent at the other house we have watching cycling and watching Cadel Evans get the stage win.  I also had a call from Russ which was nice to hear his voice and now as I write I am thinking about sleep! We are expecting our other team mates to arrive tonight, the hand cyclists and the other tandem pair, this house is going to be a very full and busy place for the next 6 days!

Day 3 Souraide, France

 I have been able to tap into the neighbors wifi to get them posted!

So much for our beautiful weather, it poured rain all night!  At least it has stopped for now.  We are just waiting to find out what time we are going to go for a ride. It still won't be a very long ride, probably about an hour just to make sure the legs are over the long trip. After our ride yesterday we headed back over the France/Spain border to do a bit of grocery shopping. Seems like everything is cheaper there. As we were heading there we passed through the most quant village called Ainhoa. I am definitely going back there to check out some of the shops and local goods from the Bayonne - Pays Basque area.

We ended up going out for a ride and of course about 16 minutes into it the rain hit again. I was riding with Jarred our other trike rider and we continued on. We ended up in the town of St. Pea which was lovely but the roads narrowed and there was no shoulder to ride on.  But amazingly not one car tooted their horn at us. I don't know if it is because of the Tour de France but riders are treated courteously, to bad some that wouldn't rub off on Australian drivers! 

We had been told to continue straight but eventually we were riding up a very twisty, narrow and steep road so by then I suggested that we turn back and head for home.  Trikes can be extremely wide and with the narrowing road it was better to head back to road where there was a shoulder to ride on.  We had done 25 minutes and were only supposed to ride for an hour so turning around was the right option.  I think though that we were certainly a novelty as we turned a number of heads and even had a tourist bus interested!  Turns out we had gone on to the wrong road, but hey we ended up in one piece so no harm done.

The rest of the day has been very relaxing and we all headed up to the other house to sit in the afternoon sun and I even got in the pool. Hopefully the weather has now turned for the better as tomorrow the ride gets a bit longer.

As I sit here at my balcony door looking out at the landscape I remind myself how truly fortunate I am to be able to experience places like. Having some time to sit back and really take in what's around me is amazing!

On Our Way to France -Day 2

Beautiful Saturday morning we were up nice and early to make the second part of our road journey to Souraide, France.  We were going to be going through the famous area of Pamplona, where the running of the bulls is held each year, which is on the boarder of France.  The one thing that is noticeable every time I come to Europe is how far advanced most countries are compared to Australia when it comes to alternate power.  The amount of wind farms here in Spain are incredible, even our hotel last night had an entire sustainability program in place!  I think that businesses in Australia could learn a lot from some of these countries. The closer we got to Pamplona the more the countryside changed,  it became more lush and hillier.  You could also see the history in some of the very old buildings we passed. Tried something new today Fried Maise which was included in a pack of mixed nuts. Very moreish once you get used to it. It looks like very big corn kernels. As we got closer to the French boarder it was extremely green and very hilly. We seemed to do a lot of climbing, I guess that is because we are close to the Pyrenees, and continued to climb!  We went through the most amazing tunnels through mountains and where there is an uphill there is always a downhill! And the small towns we passed through we're gorgeous. This is what Europe is all about to me, the homes so close to the narrow winding roads..  Crossing the border was certainly uneventful with not even a guard in the hut! We arrived in Souraide and found one of the houses that we are staying at very easily, met with the owner and then headed to look at the other house. It was that we had to decide who was staying where. It is a beautiful area but does have some challenging hills! Training will be interesting this week. The house I was appointed to stay in was the first one that we saw. When we got back I was absolutely amazed by this houses. I love history and I  had just stepped back in time to medieval times.  I keep waiting for a ghost to appear which would be really cool! It was then time to put our bikes/trikes together and I was hoping that there would be no damage from transit, couldn't be that lucky! A few minor things but thank god for our mechanic Peter G, he sorted me out!  We then headed out on a short ride just to blow the cobwebs of traveling out of the system and talk about good! Once I got warmed up I felt fantastic. It has been one long day so hopefully being in the middle of nowhere I can get a decent sleep! Oh and in answer to my question posed on my last blog, it was definitely better have the Spanish band playing instead of the 9 year old kicking me! P.S. I have no Internet connection probably for a week so these postings will most likely come all together 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hola from Spain

Flights overseas are always interesting.  I think it is just one of those things where you have to put yourself into a mindset of boredom to get through the long haul flight! You can't get there any faster than the plane can travel and you have to be ready for delays, rude people, smelly people and crying children! You know it's going to happen so don't get upset when it does.  So our flights were pretty uneventful except for the 9 year old boy who sat beside me and decided during the entire night hours that his mom's lap was his pillow and my lap was meant for his feet.  It was a long night of getting kicked and forcing his feet and legs off my lap!

Coffee at Barcelona Airport
 We arrived at the Barcelona airport only to be told after all the bikes had been off loaded except my trike, that there was no more luggage from the Singapore flight! Great, no trike. As I stood in line at the "problem luggage" area one of the airport workers was waving frantically in my direction, they had found my trike!  It supposedly was "stuck in a corner", not sure what that meant!  But thank god it was here. We then waited for the vans and truck so we could load all the bikes, tandems and trikes and get on the road to our hotel for the night. 

It was the Hotel Hiberus in Zaragoza, Spain.  This is on the northeast border of France and a 4 hour drive from Barcelona. The drive to Zaragoza was interesting to say the least.  I don't know what I expected in Spain but I found the countryside pretty desolate and flat. We did drive through areas of lush green farming and a number of vineyards (although the trees looked more like olive trees than grape vines) but on the whole it seemed very dry and kind of reminded me of the Badlands of the US with the dry land covered with tuffs of green brush, scrub and grass. But then out of nowhere there would be pockets, similar to an oasis, surrounding the highway petrol station!  At one point the hills were so barren that Clare was heard to comment "looks like where the Taliban hang out", she was right!

 I must say it was very quiet in our van, most of us had now been traveling for about 34 hours! The roads were excellent and no doubt the upkeep was from the numerous tolls that we had to pay along the journey.  We complain about our tolls, but in our 4 hour journey we paid almost 100 Euro for the 3 vehicles! We knew we were getting close to the hotel with signs for Zaragoza, but finding the hotel was the problem. I think we got lost about 4 times. Eventually finding our way to the biggest hotel I have seen in a while.

 The temperature was around 30 so the first thing was a swim in the beautiful pool, grab a quick dinner and then hit the sack. As I sit here finishing this blog and getting ready for a well deserved sleep a local band has just started up for a wedding being held right below our room window! Oh dear what is worse a 9 year old kicking me or a Spanish guitar playing band! Will tell in the next blog! Buenas noche