Simon before the start with the bike I helped him build.
Meanwhile, also in the U.S.A., the Jazz Apples Cycling Team are well into the swing of their Tour of Duty from one end of America to the other. I'll let Susy and Chris tell the tale in their own words...
It's been nothing short of a three week thrill ride for the Jazz Apple Women's Cycling Team who've crunched their way through a fair slice of the 50 States in their recent US racing adventures. Only a slice by slice re-telling could do it justice:
The Tulsa Tough; Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Being in tornado country, we were hoping to be swept away to a magical land of endless race wins, a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. In fact it looked like Belinda had veritably slipped on Dorothy's red shoes, even dubbed her the wizard of oz (we'll forgive her for being Australian) with her electric sprint and dashing around the group to make all the vital breaks. But it wasn't without the lieutenant-like assistance of Emma Petersen, who zipped across to several breaks to be on hand. In the final laps, Susy and Lauren drove the front for the lead-out, and while Lauren was almost taken out by a lapped rider, Susy closed the gap on one lone and dangerous looking escapee off the front. Belinda jumped on the Cheerwine train in the dying stages but was unluckily pinched in the final turn finishing 5th. However, as Belinda had been snagged in more than one of a plethora of pile-ups forcing two visits to the wheel pit for buckled wheels, the commissaire deemed
her second visit superfluous, and was unluckily given a placing at the rear of the lead group.
But that wasn't the end to an evening that was turning more prickly than perfect. After a determined and impressive effort by our junior rider, Emma, the sweltering Tulsa heat proved too tough for her thermostat. Emma suffered a serious blow with heat exhaustion. Susy and Emma spent the evening in the hospitality of St Joseph's Accident and Emergency; a Friday night no-less. That meant an IV of electrolytes spaced out over a period of eight hours, and we finally managed to check out at 7 in the morning. Just in time to get ready for:
No sleep never waylaid the best of them, so it was the mantra to be adopted to be on hand for another day's sweltering conditions. While Emma had to rest and stay out of the heat, Ali, Lauren, Belinda, Malindi and Susy headed out for retribution. After several laps of settling in to the technical eight corner, wind swept course, Ali jumped clear with two riders in tow. Sensing danger behind, Pro-Man's Shelley Olds jumped across, and Belinda glued to her wheel and was towed across. With two Jazz Apple riders in the break, Ali drove the pace but unfortunately no-one else was keen to give her a hand. Ali picked up several cash primes but the Cheerwine train proved too much, bringing the group back. In the dying stages Susy covered the last minute flurries but an impressive attack by Olds and Cheerwine's Kelly Benjamin in the last 600m meant Belinda had to cover and battled the windy final straight closing the gap. It was a massive effort, and Belinda
With Emma still recovering, the same crew hit the final day's hilly circuit race determined to crack the race. After several nervous laps with an off-camber hairpin, a break of three escaped including Susy. It seemed like the perfect break, with Cheerwine represented, the trio's gap extended steadily. Susy picked up the large cash prime of the day and it was starting to look like the break was going to stick. However with 8 laps remaining, Advil's Jen McRae starting an onslaught of attacks, which enticed the field to chase and weld the group back together. Despite Lauren's work at the front, it was gruppo-compacto and a Cheerwine counter ensued. Ali and Belinda unfortunately missed the counter, and the field seemed broken. Belinda tried to bridge but was caught, and Susy countered again and was also reeled back in. In the final sprint, Belinda finished third, placing her fourth again in the race.
Ali caught a flight back to Monterey to spend some hours on the San Jose track, while the team caught a late evening departure from Tulsa that put us in Philadelphia's city of brotherly love at half past the midnight hour. A mistaken cancellation by the rental car company meant our crew arrived in Allentown at 3:30am. Oh the joys of travel. A few hours later, Susy and Malindi lined up for the first of the very exciting, very thrilling Triple Crown races...
From the gun, the pace was nothing short of hurtling, and the field splintered. Susy made the front split before a barrage of attacks by the Cervelo Life-Force team. Eventaully a group of five escaped, and only Ina Teutenberg managed to escape across in an impressive display. Ina took the line honours, and Susy finished 18th in a field that looked like TNT had been exploded amongst it.
Race two of the Triple Crown involved a 2km circuit of Reading's most scabrous streets that made more for an obstacle course than speed affair. This was Emma's first race back after burying herself with heat exhaustion, and she proved to be finding her race legs again with excellent positioning at the front. Lauren (now affectionately known as Loz, after explaining that the more we shorten your name, the more we like you) got caught behind some early spills and lost contact with the leaders on the patchy course. Susy finished in the main group, which was several seconds behind a break away group, which was once again won by the on form Highroad rider, Ina Teutenberg.
Meanwhile, Belinda had been suffering a constant barrage of headaches and migraines, possibly related to a major head injury 8 months prior, and we decided it was best to take steps to have Belinda seen thoroughly at home at the AIS. It spelled a disappointing end to her racing with us, and we began missing her even before she left us a few days later.
Philadelphia's Liberty Classic (The biggie)
With Belinda unable to race and Susy falling under the weather, it became a Jazz Apple squad with an average of 18. Those pupils being Malindi, Emma and Lauren. The Liberty Classic never disappoints. It is ensconced in fanfare, media, elaborate decorations along the course and an atmosphere of excitement unparalleled. Flitting in and out of the start tents is a who's who of cycling. Admirably, the youngsters handled the huge atmosphere like budding pros, focussing on the event without being overwhelmed. Lauren(Loz) proved to have one of those days you dream of. Like there was no pressure on the pedals and was in the first 15 up the harrowed 'Manyunk Wall' every lap. Emma also managed to position herself well but lost contact with leaders on the third lap of four. She was in good company though, and was yet another encouraging sign she was building back again after her trist with heat exhaustion.
Lauren finished with the very select front group of 25 but while sprinting for a top ten finish, a crash in the sprint meant Lauren had to swerve, amazingly didn't crash but divert her course to the line through the stands to cross the line. It was truly a breakthrough day for Lauren, an outstanding ride. It was unlucky to be foiled by the crash but she was the true professional and realized that the day was insight to her potential on the road.
After a stop at the Jazz Apple tent to meet and greet many spectators, the team headed for an overnight stop in New York on the way to the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
Nature valley Grand Prix: Stage One
Thrashed by storms, the Minneapolis/ St Paul criterium was under serious threat of cancellation. One minute it was on, next it was off. Finally it was on, and everyone emerged from their team cars without warm up to take to the storm drenched streets. When the gun went it was as if Kristin Armstrong got a shot of adrenaline and smoked from the line like the lightening that was striking close by. In the huge field of 145 riders, the course was almost end to end riders from lap one, and immediately riders were being pulled from the race by the officials. Finally Armstrong lapped the field, but the race was annulled amongst the mayhem of lapped and pulled riders.
Cannon Falls Road Race:
The 5:30pm start for the 110km started with a slight hiccup as the neutral lead car took the bunch in completely the wrong direction. In a squeal of brakes the field was promptly turned around, and Armstrong drove it in the other direction, forcing riders to be dropped immediately. That included our own Malindi Maclean while Susy and Ruth got the front as quickly as possible for the first QOM sprint looming. Ruth took second on the line and we all settled into a wind swept stage in the gutter and avoiding pile-ups. Emma had an outstanding ride leading Ruth out for the third QOM and helping her move around the group with pro-like finesse. Meanwhile Lauren, who'd been dropped by the Armstrong attack chased back on in an impressive display but was edged of the back in the final 15km after a short dirt road section that lead to a heavily pock-marked nasty descent. Ruth finished an impressive 6th in the stage, with Emma and Susy tucked in the group.
Day Three: Individual TT and Minneapolis downtown Criterium
With Susy suffering laryngitus, Emma, Lauren, Malindi and Ruth lined up for the morning's 10.2km Individual Time Trial. Running alongside the Mississippi River, Armstrong would prove to be all to powerful for the field executing a blistering performance that exposed nearly half the field to the 20% time cut. After much deliberation, the officials decided to extend it but it still meant that Emma, riding Junior gears fell victim the cut, as did Malindi. After a lengthy discussion with the Chief Commissaire submitting that Emma, who on restricted gears should be considered against a relative time cut discretion, our submission was rejected, which unluckily meant Emma was out. In a senior race, Emma was deemed to be subject to the same rules as senior riders, so we just have to live by the rules. Ruth and Lauren faired relatively respectably given they were on their ordinary road bikes.
Minneapolis downtown Criterium:
The field had no plans to take things easy as each lap was an end on end single file affair. It was a good thing that Ruth and Lauren had first dibs on the line putting them in pole position for the early moves. For Lauren, the few days were catching up on her and she lost contact with 11 laps to go but Ruth had another sterling ride, comfortably crossing the line with the leaders.
Mankato Road Race
145km of wind-swept rollers, with three punishing finish circuits with an average 20% incline for 400m each lap. Even looking at the finishing circuits, the legs were in spasms, and that was without factoring the 130km before that! Lauren and Ruth became a powerful duo, with Lauren leading Ruth out for the first QOM at 120km. It was an impressive display by Loz, stringing the field out and forcing riders to be dropped in the final 600m. Ruth was barely rolled on the line, and then kept going forcing a break with Aaron's rider, Felicia Gomez. The two had a handy gap, and it was only Armstrong who reacted forcing the field to chase. The two wre caught after 5km, just as they entered the tough finishing circuits. That was when Armstrong decided to put down her coffee mug and blast away in an impressive solo effort. Ruth attacked on the last circuit going away on her own. Unluckily her tiny frame was not particularly aerodynamic on the descent and she was
caught 200m from the line, finishing 8th.
Stillwater Circuit race
It's rather a cruel way to finish the tour, as this stage is a 1.5mile circuit punctuated with a 400m hill with an average 24%. If the legs weren't already punctured, this stage ensures they're deflated by the end of 12 laps. Riding a wave of optimism, the plan was for Ruth to go on the attack, aiming for a stage win, and possibly leap-frog to the top three on GC. Ruth already was clearly in the top three on QOM points, and possibly if all went according to plan, she'd make a move up there. However, despite being called to the line, Ruth was to have a bit of a shocker. From the gun, Felicia Gomez from Aaron's attacked, and the pace was cracking. Ruth managed to move into the top 5 before the hammer dropped. Her legs seized, and she could just barely go through the motions. It was just a bad day, and unfortunately for us, it wasn't the sort of course that you could hide on, or get any recovery on. It was clearly frustrating for Ruth, who on any ordinary
day would have been fizzing on this type of topography. But bad days happen to the best of us and so she had to just ride it out. Lauren managed to join Ruth and they could ride together, and Lauren has just seemed to get stronger and stronger as this campaign has progressed, which is very encouraging.
We head to Monterey this evening, and we're all looking forward to some recovery days and being settled at 'home'. After a week at home we're off to Southern California for the Manhatten Beach Grand Prix.
A massive Thank you thus far to our wonderful host family, the Garbers here in Wayzata, Minnesota. And ofcourse all our fabulous supporters over the past few weeks;
-Larry Martin (Lazza)-absolutely tip-top bloke and quite handy at mechanics too
-Bob Biese -always generous
-The Linder Family -our Monterey mother-ship of support!
-Paul Skorpinski and the Hawkes bay Apple Growers here in Minnesota
-Brooke Kennedy -For the 'saviour' GU sachets that have fuelled our race food food supplies since Philly's Liberty Classic
Here are some pictures from the various races...
Emma Petersen at Philly
Jazz Girls at Philadelphia
Susy doing promo at Philly
Malindi getting her number pinned
Before the start at Reading
Lauren climbs in the bunch at Stillwater
Ruth Corset scales the 24% climb at Stillwater
And finally for today, here are a couple of shots of Delmaine rider Matt Sillars riding in France. I am posting these because I will be working for Delmaine at the Tour of Southland this year, as well as being one of the Delmaine riders in the sifty team at the Taupo Day Night Thriller on September 13th. There will be a top team comprising Mark "Cabin" Leishman, as well as some other serious types, but I think us fatties will be a bit more convivial then that, and will be out just to enjoy ourselves and make some noise in the Delmaine green...I'm really looking forward to this experience. It will be cool to be at a race as a rider, rather than as staff.
Matt wearing the King of the Mountains jersey he won at the recent Tour of Taranaki
I'd like to congratulate local Santa Cruz rider Josh Barley on his first ever time representing New Zealand at the MTB World Championships in Italy. Josh rode the Teams Relay with Kashi Leuchs, Rosara Joseph and George Bennett, finishing 17th, and then 71st in the U23 XC race. Good work, Josh.
More congratulations to my friend and fellow Jazz Apple Ruth Corset, who finished a fine 21st in the Montreal World Cup in her first outing as part of the Australian National Team, helping get Olympic Champion Sara Carrigan up to 4th place behind winner Judith Arndt (Ger) High Road.
Lastly, my sympathy goes out to my Tabak Team International teammate Sharon Laws, who has sustained a bad injury after a training crash. All the very best for a speedy recovery, Shazza!
British rider Sharon Laws, tipped to join team-mate Nicole Cooke in the Great Britain women's road race team in Beijing, is to see a specialist to assess the implications of an ankle injury sustained this week after a heavy fall while training with her Halfords-Bikehut team near Abergavenny in Wales.
The former mountain biker and adventure racer has risen to the verge of Olympic selection at the age of 34 in her first season of road racing, which has included a sixth place in the Tour de l'Aude. Halfords-Bikehut team manager Julian Winn said it was too early to speculate on the implications of the injury, adding "We'll know more once we've seen a sports injury specialist."
Well, that's been a LOT of writing - I hope not too much! As always, thanks for reading. Thanks also for the wicked feedback you give me - it's really cool to think that two or three people are reading these bike related rants! Cheers, Oli