Swapping my MTB for a road bike it was off to stunning Kingscliff for the long weekend and the second round of the Women’s National Road series (NRS). It felt a bit weird being back on skinny wheels again and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d raced on the road but was looking forward to the ‘newness’ of it all. After a week off post-Europe then a bit of strength and endurance work I was also dreading the pace of racing. Thankfully the rain that had dogged the South-east corner over the past couple of weeks cleared on cue leaving a perfect autumn sky and friendly racing temperatures.
Kicking off on Saturday with a 7km TT I was like a fish out of water. Someone attached funny bars to the front of my road bike, put a disc wheel in the back and encouraged me to wear a reverse cone-head style helmet. Wondering what a 10 minute race felt like I visualized the 3km time trials my old running coach held for us monthly – push to the point of nausea, then push a bit more. Fumbling with my hand position I made my way around in under 11 minutes so was reasonably satisfied while the other girls took out 2nd and 5th in closer to the 10 minute mark.
In a good position to have our rider Ruth Corset move into the leader’s jersey we started the road race a couple of hours after the TT. Despite the ominous looking profile there was only one major climb and the bunch stayed together over the top. Soon after I managed to get in a break of four which looked good until one rider got a puncture and dropped back to the bunch which left me, a strong rider from the Holden team and a KOM contestant who kept ducking turns saying she couldn’t possibly pull through. Welcome to road racing! Figuring if I kept the gas on the VIS and other teams would have to chase, leaving our team to sit in, we stayed away until well into the final lap. After the catch Ruth attacked up the main climb and was not see again gaining almost a minute advantage on the next on GC.
Backing up for another 85k’s of racing on Sunday was something my body was strongly protesting. Our job was to control the bunch, follow any breaks and keep Ruth in the leader’s jersey. Managing to ride near the front in the first lap and hang off the back of a few half-hearted breaks I settled back into the bunch to suffer quietly while our rider Zoe Watters went up the road in a group of four. After feeling quite strong the previous day my legs were screaming on the rolling hills. My bunch sense had improved though and I managed to avoid becoming a casualty of the fast descents, pot-holes and touch of wheels which were claiming a few in the group. People think mountain-biking is risky. These girls are pinning it down mountains at 70+ kph just centimetres from each others’ back tyres – pure insanity!!
Monday saw the finale of a 30 minute criterium on the winding streets around Mantra and Peppers resorts. With such a tight circuit the field was immediately strung out leaving riders in a lung-searing, leg-exploding game of accelerating out of corners and trying to get back on the wheel of the rider in front. I knew the first 10 minutes would be brutal but thought if I could survive that then I just might make it to the end in the main bunch. After the initial flurry of attacks which shelled half the field and resulted in a few riders ending up in the garden beds there was a brief lull before the call came for ‘3 laps to go’. Getting a bit excited I overcooked a corner, locked up the back wheel in a spectacular skid narrowly avoided the barricades and kept riding leaving onlookers catching their breaths. I , like, completely meant to do that *life flashing before eyes*. Despite being absolutely no help to our stage and overall winner I managed to finish with the bunch ending the weekend at 11th on General Classification.
The team rode unbelievably and it was such an honour to ride with the girls. Team management pulled out all the stops to enable a big performance with lush accommodation (with spa!); organizing all the equipment; delicious meals; hand holding; wine purchasing and even had a coffee machine firing up in the team tent with heart-starting Di Bella coffee. Also thanks to Anouska for your magical hands and the post race massages. It was very nice to be on the receiving end for a change. The first win for Pensar Hawk in the women’s NRS and hopefully there are more to come.