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Report from Kate Stewart on her trip to Canberra

The build up to the tour of Canberra for me was very intense, exciting, fun and nearer to departing a bit nerve racking. The tour of Taranaki really showed me my strengths and weaknesses that had to be worked on before crossing the ditch to the Junior and Women’s tour of Canberra.

I was very excited about the concept of ‘team racing’ and after racing and living with the rest of the under 17 girls New Zealand team I witnessed the huge advantages of this type of racing.

Just under a week before we left my New Zealand uniform arrived. That week flew by and before I knew it I was in the Auckland airport departing for Sydney. From Sydney we all piled in mini buses for the 3hr drive to Canberra. We arrived at the Australian Institute of Sport at midnight in the freezing cold, found our rooms and went straight to bed.

We woke up Thursday morning and went to breakfast to discover the amazing food we would be served for the next four days. After breakfast it was bike building time. This was an independent trip so I couldn’t just leave Dad to assemble my bike, so I slowly but surely put it together. After lunch we rode as a team to Stromolo Park where all our racing would be based for the tour. Stromolo Park is an amazing cycling facility that has many mountain biking routes and a criterium course, especially made for cyclists. Dave Osten said to me “This place is really a cyclist’s paradise.“ From there each team went off with their coaches and rode or drove the very, very hilly and technical course’s. I couldn’t believe how there was no flat terrain on any of the courses, it was either up or down. That night after dinner we were given a tour of the Australian Institute of Sport where we were staying. It was fun having a go at a variety of sports and an amazing experience seeing all the different facilities from the variety of swimming pools and recovery programs to their World standard Volleyball courts.

Friday was our day to ‘explore Canberra’. We all wrapped up in all of the winter layers we owned and went for a ride that our coaches had set us… well maybe not exactly what we were told to do. We had a lot of fun riding to the bike shop and then just down the road to a café for a hot chocolate to warm up! Whilst the under 19’s were riding their time trial the girls went shopping, while some of the coaches preferred to go to the war museum across the road. On Friday night we had a presentation from the Australian Mountain biking development team. It was an eye opener to see how strict they were on and off the bike.

Saturday was my first day of racing. The morning’s time trial, where I was placed 21st was quite a shock to the system and showed the competitive nature of Australian racing. It was very important to wrap yourself up in warm clothes and rugs between stages, as the temperature was so cold you felt like you were on a ski trip. In the 1st stage one of my fellow team mates Devon Hiley won. So we were protecting the yellow jersey. In the afternoons road stage I was in the bunch over the first QOM. But as the 2nd QOM became closer I couldn’t hold on to the Aussie girls aggressive riding over the top of the hills and was dropped from the front bunch of 10. I was then sitting in the 2nd bunch of about 6 girls. I was relieved to cross the finish line finishing that stage in 14th place, I was exhausted and thought I had found my limit. But Sunday’s racing pushed me even harder.

I woke up Sunday morning wanting to improve my performances from Saturday. This starting with the road race in the morning, I was dropped off a few times as the Aussie girls attacked over hills but got back on to the front bunch to finish 8th overall. Going into the 4th stage, the Criterium, I was sitting in 11th on general classification. No breakaways stuck so it was a bunch sprint. I was a lead out sprinter for Devon who was now sitting in 2nd on General classification. I again improved my performance and got 7th in the last stage. As I gained no time in the criterium I finished the tour 11th in overall General Classification. Devon Hiley finished up 2nd and Robin Hacker-Carry 4th overall. As a team we were happy with our efforts but if I get the chance I want to go back next year as a 2nd year and better my performance.

After a long fun Sunday night we packed back into the vans at 3am and headed back to Sydney airport. I couldn’t believe how quickly my time in Canberra had passed.

I couldn’t have gone without the support of my family, friends, coach Denise and Katri over in Australia, Brendon and Leonie Hapeta at the Hotel Coachman, for being the driving forces behind the monster garage sale and the support of Bike Manawatu and all its very generous members who have all been very supportive and of a great help.

Thanks to you all