Life is an adventure, full of ups, downs, around, zig zags, walls, barriers, slippery dips, merry-go-rounds, sunshine and rain. It is pretty safe to say the 2015 UCI Para Cycling World Cup in Yverdon les Bains has been an adventure. From carting two bike boxes as a solo traveller with a bunged-up leg, to having my DISC wheel puncture 40minutes before my time trial race, to training in sunshine and short-sleeve jerseys with cowbells and birdsongs filling the fresh air. Life – taking the good with the bad. Appreciating the small and the big. Growing from obstacles. And most importantly – living in the moment.
I arrived on the doorstep of Simon and Lhamu’s Air’BNB flat in Yverdon les Bains around 4pm on Wednesday 10th June in a (slightly) dishevelled state and not quite at my best. A few pilavas with bike boxes, getting ripped off by taxis, and significant leg pain had nearly cracked me (please keep an eye out for my upcoming post ‘Han’s Habit’s of Hilarity’ for full details of the trip’s sagas). It was a welcome relief to have a shower, put on some clean clothes and not have to rush off to the next flight. A small recon ride was in order so after putting the road bike back together again it was off to explore Yverdon les Bains. Yverdon les Bains is a small town situated on the edge of Lake Neuchâtel, about a 45minute train ride from Geneva. Complete with Castle, old-world charm, flower boxes in every window, a rainbow of window shutters, and church bells tolling on the hour, I basked in the sunshine and excitement of being back in Europe.
I approached this competition as a ‘train through’. This means that I was pumping out some pretty solid 3 -4hr rides for the 3 days prior to racing and not giving the legs a chance to freshen up. As part of training, I got to know the time trial and road race course pretty well – the time trial course had a technical finish after an out and back circuit, and the road race included 3 laps each with 300m of climbing; you were literally either going up or down. My fellow Aussie teammates, Kyle Bridgewood and Al Donohoe, arrived along with Tom Skulander (National Assistant Para-cycling Coach) and Mikey ‘Lifesaving Mechanic’ the following afternoon. Our first team dinner was at a little Vietnamese Pho restaurant; nothing like fitting in with the local culture. My partner Tim arrived on the Friday evening complete with bike, welcome hugs, and stress-relief knowing that I no longer had to take on the world of travel alone (thanks M&M ☺ ). After getting the time trial bike built again and rejigged with a new 52inch chain ring from a quick trip to Lausanne (thanks again Mikey) due to 5 chain teeth missing after the transit to Melbourne, the day of the 14.1km Time Trial had arrived.
Women’s C4 14.1km Time Trial
My starting time for the time trial was 2:34pm and I was the first of the C4 Women to head out of the gate. It was my first race (and fifth ride) on the new Shiv TT Specaliazed bike. Suffice to say I am not quite ‘at one’ with the bike yet. I had also installed some new power cranks onto the bike and am readjusting to a whole set of different power numbers. My old power meter was a left-side drive, this means it measured my power output through the left-hand crank and simply doubled that to get power output through both legs. The new power cranks have a power balance and measure the contribution of power from each leg, and hence are a lot more accurate. The numbers are also a lot lower. As such, I was racing in the dark in terms of numbers and had to go by feel. It is definitely a different mindset during the race, with more focus on the breath and also different motivation.
Before my warm-up on the ergo, I wanted to practice the technical finish on the TT bike. Sparkling clean and set up with full DISC and 80mm front, I did a practice finish lap. As I was riding down the finish straight I heard every cyclists worse nightmare, the ‘psssssssss’. Slight problem – my tubeless DISC had just punctured. And it was 45 minutes before my race. I didn’t have a spare tyre and no hope of getting it on before my race. Tom and Mikey came to the rescue with a spare DISC. The Shiv was ready to roll for the race and I could focus on my warm-up.
To be honest, it was a long 14.1km. I knew my speed was good but I could feel my power slowly getting less and less despite the different mental tactics to maintain the same power. It was both with relief and trepidation as I came to the last few km’s and the technical finish. I posted a time of 21.53mins and came fourth by 21 seconds. It is always bittersweet knowing that you lost a lot of time due to lack of confidence around the corners but have areas you can improve upon significantly. Congrats to Shawn, Megan and Marie-Claude on taking out the podium positions.
Women’s C4 43.8km Road Race
The Women’s C4 classification was combined with the class above us, Women’s C5. As such, it was always going to be tough hanging onto the C5 women who generally speaking, have two powerful legs. After nearly being taken out by a competitor on the start line, who I have affectionately dubbed ‘little minx’ and believe is working for the mafia, the pace was on from the word go. Little minx had a second go at taking me out up the first hill with my front wheel missing her back wheel by 1/2cm as she cut in front. Adrenaline rushing, blood fuming, I managed to hang on to the C5’s and two American C4’s until up the second hill of the first lap. We had dropped the rest of the bunch on the first hill. It then became a duo bunch with myself and Meg Fisher from the USA after Shawn (C4) and another C5 proved to be too strong on the hill. Race tactics played through my head as well as priority 1 (stay upright on the hairy descents on the wet roads into the finish). In the end, Meg and I attacked each other a number of times and leading into the last 4km, she attacked strongly down the hill and I was unable to catch her wheel. I posted a time of 1.31.27hrs and was very excited to claim the bronze medal for Australia. Not sure if I was more excited though about the huge block of Swiss chocolate that came with it!! To compete at events like these requires a huge amount of support – thank you to all the individuals, organisation, friends, family and loved ones who have helped me on the journey so far. I am looking forward to many more adventures on and off the bike.
Until next time,
Ride with a smile, ride with purpose, ride in the moment,