Wednesday, 12 October 2011

2011 Season Summary

The result of my first year as a pro-rider: Eight race victories in 8 different countries, seven 2nd place finishes, and number one in the UCI World Rankings. I'm pretty happy with that :) The successes of the year have led to something else: another year of full-time riding in 2012!!!  

A huge thanks to my team, Topeak-Ergon Racing Team and all of our sponsors, and also to all of my personal sponsors:
Torq Nutrition 
Elete Water
Purple extreme

Friday, 7 October 2011

Roc D'Azur, Frejus, South of France

Today was my season finale. Like the previous two years, my race calendar finishes with a really great marathon in the South of France. It's a technical course with rocky climbs and descents. I love it, but not today! Unlike previous years, the women had a separate start 15 minutes before the men. This was perfect; an equal and fair race for the women.
I normally eat breakfast 3 hours before I race, but today I treated myself to some extra sleep :) There were strong winds during the night and many of the tents in the Expo area had blown away like kites! The wind was still blowing a hooley in the morning and I knew then that the start of the race would be slow - no point in towing the women's field along to the bottom of the first climb. We rode as a big group casually - Jane Nussli joked that the lead motorbikes would be wondering what we were doing: a bike race or a leisurely outing with the girls ;)
The group quickly split on the first climb and Jane and I rode alone to the top. I was able to pull out a small lead on the first descent, but I could see Jane not far behind on the second climb. On the narrow, steep, loose descent I lost grip on my front wheel and I found myself crashing hard on my arm, hip and knee. I never look at the damage, instead I get straight back on and if I can still pedal then I continue. However, this crash shook me up. I was in pain and I felt really nauseas. The bumps - and there are a lot of bumps on this course - exacerbated the pain. From here onwards I rode like I had my head on back-to-front! I was so embarrassed by the way that I was riding! I couldn't put any power through the pedals on the climbs because I felt so sick and on the descents I was literally all over the place. Changing gear hurt my arm; the bumps hurt my arm; and the bushes and branches - of which there were plenty- managed to tug at the open wound. I thought that I was going to vomit! The wind was so strong that I got blown clean off my bike twice. I was getting frustrated. On one of the steep hike-a-bike sections I fell and bashed my other arm. A bad day at the office! Jane was never far behind; constantly nipping at my heels.
I felt terrible and I honestly couldn't wait to get the race finished. That was all I could think about for over three hours. I finished about 30 seconds ahead of Jane. I've been stitched back up again and I'm feeling much better. The bad news is that there won't be any swimming for me now. Damn. I was really looking forward to a couple of days of swimming in the sea before we head home. Oh well it could have been worse. There were lots of broken bones being tended to in the medical area. Many, many thanks to the doctors and nurses who were doing a great job of piecing injured riders back together!
OK, I'm off for a large glass of red wine ;)
Happy off-season to you all :D  

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Xtreme sur Loue, Ornans, France

Last Sunday I raced in the Xtreme sur Loue marathon - the fourth marathon of the UCI World Series. Next year the World Marathon Championships will be held on the same course, so this provided a good opportunity for a practice run.

Ornans is a small French village near to the Swiss border, approximately 50km north of Geneva. It is set alongside a pretty river and surrounded by forest. The women's course is short: 63km with 2300m of vertical ascent. The men's course includes two additional loops making it about 20km longer than the women's. The women started 15 minutes before the men - I like separate starts :)

We were blessed with good weather: sunny skies and more than 20 degrees; however the mornings were misty and cool. I did my warm up on the first 10kms of the course, but I finished colder than when I started! Thankfully the start of the race was slow and I was able to warm up gradually. We stayed as one group until the first climb when we quickly became three: Esther Suss, Jane Nussli and me. The pace was very comfortable and I was surprised to find that I had made a small lead just before the top of the first climb. I was even more surprised to see that I extended this lead on the first downhill. But alas: I punctured my rear wheel on a rock not too far from the bottom. The tech zone wasn't far away so I rode slowly, cautious not to roll the tyre off the rim. Esther passed me while I was changing wheels in the tech zone, but I only lost 20 or 30 seconds and I closed the gap before the top of the second climb.

The descent was really good fun: steep, twisty forest singletrack with some switchbacks, followed by a fast, rocky track. It was on the rocky track that my luck ran out again - I felt the familiar squirm of the rear tyre. This time I was far away from the tech zone and I had to stop and fit a tube. I have never had to fit a tube in a race. In fact, I've only ever had to fit a tube once before! I was all thumbs. I resigned myself to the fact that the race was over and I reasoned that this was good practice. It took me far too long. But I was amazed that I wasn't passed by any of the other girls. I was still in second place!! This motivated me.

The next few kms were pretty thorny and, yes, I punctured the tube. Fortunately the tech zone was nearby and I took another wheel. I was approximately 6 minutes behind Esther, but nobody was in sight behind - amazingly second place was still possible. Marshalls and spectators along the course told me how many minutes separated Esther and I: 5 minutes; 4 minutes; 3 minutes. Time information can sometimes be inaccurate, but one of the spectators was a also a supporter of another rider and I saw him at several points along the track. I was gradually closing the gap. I had renewed motivation. At the last feedzone I was 3 minutes behind, from there onwards it was mainly descending to the finish line. I enjoyed the trails and took care on the final rocky descent - I didn't want to increase my puncture tally to four! I finished 1 and a half minutes after Esther. Despite all of my bad luck I was really happy. I felt strong throughout the race. And I fixed a puncture ;)

Now we're in Frejus, the South of France, getting ready for the season finale on Friday: Roc D'Azur :)


1 S√úSS Esther R.C. Granichen SUI 03h43'31''

2 BIGHAM Sally Topeak Ergon Racing Team GBR 03h45'03'' 01'32''

3 REDELSPERGER Coralie V.C.C. Morteau Montbenoit FRA 04h01'38'' 18'07''

4 GIACOMUZZI Elena Caprivesi ITA 04h04'50'' 21'19''

5 NUESSLI JANe Fischer-BMC GBR 04h06'39'' 23'08''