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A Special Spring!

Finally onto a quick update – it’s been a hectic few months!

Just realised I haven’t written since Omloop Het Hageland where I took my first big Euro win – seems a fair while ago now. A lot has gone down throughout these months and I’m pleased to say that the Spring season has finally come to an end for 2013. It sure has been brutal in terms of weather and back to back race days. For me, being my first pro Euro season it’s all still new and racing so constantly week in week out has been tough to manage. It’s the lack of routine that is the hardest thing. When you’re racing all the time it’s more or less just travel, time on the bike and recovery! In saying that it’s been full of good experiences and a lot of fun with the Wiggle Honda crew along the way – loving it. Now that we’ve got through this patch we’ve promised each other to never complain in ‘hot’ weather this summer! Surely it can’t be tougher than the freezing cold conditions we’ve raced through…

Over the Spring, the key highlights would have to be racing my first few world cups, a great team training camp in Italy and getting to know some cool kiwis back at the New Zealand base in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

A few of the downs of spring would have to be my wee string of meetings with the concrete in a few races since The Tour of Flanders. The worst case scenario was a broken rib in the Energiewacht Tour in Holland but apart from that I’ve been pretty darn lucky. Many bike riders have come off worse this winter/spring and I guess it’s just part of the sport. Joy!

Here’s a few photo’s to sum up a good end to the spring season…

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I’m now chilling in a sweet hotel on some random island in China. To be honest, no one knows exactly where we are…

We’ve just finished up racing the Tour of Chongming Island and the Chongming Island World Cup off Shanghai. The experience was full of up’s and down’s but all in all a pretty good time with the team.

We worked well together throughout and Giorgia was able to pull off an impressive win in stage 2 and claim 4th in the general classification. This gave us a good confidence kick for the World Cup just a few days later where we began in Shanghai and crossed a 10km bridge (including a KOM)! – over to Chongming Island.

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The race was relatively active for a very open, flat course. Our job was to keep things together. At the end of the day we have the ‘quickest’ team mate for a sprint finish in the peloton so we wanted it to keep intact. This meant covering any attacks and keeping Giorgia protected, out of the wind and as fresh as possible so she would have the legs to win come the finish. The best thing about working for Giorgia as a leader is having absolute confidence in knowing she will win or do all she can to, if she is looked after at best. The girl is so strong and when you’ve worked your arse off throughout a race and your leader pulls it off it’s a great feeling. I’ve never really been in this kind of team environment. It’s a cool thing to be part of. Sure we have bad days and sometimes things don’t work out but it’s all a big learning process, especially being a new team. Each bad race only makes us work harder and look to change things for the next. I’m really enjoying the whole experience so far and am happy to be learning from girls like Giorgia, Rochelle and director Simon every event. Another big bonus is that we all get along really well. A good laugh is often shared which is nice especially when stage racing.

Anyway back to the actual race…we played it pretty cool throughout and had everything covered. All was going well and Giorgia was tucked in neatly. Coming into the closing 10km a sole escapee rode clear to about 30seconds. She was hovering around this distance and coming up to 6km to go it was time to get on the front as a team and reel her in. No other teams were making any effort to bring it back so we got up there. We came pretty close and by 2k to go I was certain she’d be caught.

At this point I was absolutely smoked from the effort and we were starting to get swamped by the other teams so I started going backwards but made sure to move down the side of the peloton. Unfortunately for me, luck was not on my side and when some girls in the bunch took a swerve wide myself and another rider were chopped off. NOT AGAIN? It’s been one to many times now that’s for sure! I’m at the point of questioning myself and my team mates, ‘what am I doing wrong?’ But when I look back I know there’s nothing I could have done in each situation – just a bit of bad luck I guess…enough is enough, however

I never got to experience the final few km due to this but from what my team tells me it was absolute chaos from this point onwards. Following my crash, the very fast chasing peloton was then led the wrong way by the lead vehicles…this meant coming to a complete stop and riding through a set of traffic before approaching the final corner with 800m to go. I couldn’t believe my ears – for this to happen at a World Cup! This meant the sole rider was unable to be caught come the finish and Giorgia led it home for 2nd place. The leader ended up winning by a mere 12 seconds so as you can imagine the team as well as most other competitors were pretty frustrated and upset to say the least. It was an emotional moment for everyone after a tough, committed race. At the end of the day there was nothing we could have done more and nothing that could be done to change what happened so I guess it’s just one of those things everyone has to move on from. A big shame for Giorgia and the team but onwards and upwards. We’re still very grateful she proved she is the quickest in the finish!

Following the drama I then had to depart to the Chongming local hospital. After everything had settled down I realised the gash in my knee from a handle bar was pretty deep and needed stitching. When I thought I saw bone I knew a bit of cream and a band aid might not do the trick! Ew!

After experiencing this Chinese hospital it’s definitely made me appreciate good health care and clean hospitals a lot more. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I couldn’t believe how dirty and chaotic it was. It was an eye opener for sure and made me realise how lucky we are!

Here’s a few fun pic’s of my battle wounds. The clog mark is from a chain ring on stage 2 at Chongming – not during the race but AFTER crossing the line…it was wet and a rider in front slammed on the brakes after crossing leaving myself and a bunch of others with nowhere to go. I hate that feeling when you know you’re going to fall and there’s nothing you can do…it’s like it happens in slomo! Wuhu more fun with the pavement – it can be a vicious cycle this one 😉

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Following Chongming we had an interesting travel day including some fun on the bus and a glorious ferry ride over a not so blue sea. Time for a swim?

We did, however arrive to a pretty sweet resort where have been staying the past few days in prep for the Tour of Zhoushan Island beginning tomorrow. We kick things off on this ‘mystery’ island before heading to Zhoushan for the remaining stages.

Chongming Industrial Zone, Chongxi Stage - Stage 2 - Tour of Chongming Island, China, 113.7km

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All up China has been an experience. We’ve had good bike racing, a few spills, plenty of travel, language barriers, interesting hospitals and all sorts of different cuisines and with another week of stay I’m sure there’ll soon be more tales to tell. Let’s hope we stay safe and enjoy it while we’re here. Looking forward to this next adventure.

Next week it’ll be back to Belgium to settle down for a week hanging out with some ‘grouse’ kiwi trackies in Oudenaarde before some more bike racing in my mate Holland.

Thanks again to the very supportive team sponsors of Wiggle Honda and to personal support back home. Also to the New Zealand crew for having me stay – very much appreciated.

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