After a rough season with my concussion and glandular fever, I managed to rack up enough results to make the NZ u19 team to ride Australian Nationals in Noosa. I and fellow team mate Logan Griffin managed to organize some extra racing in Aussie with a team called Goldcross-Rapida Vecchi, racing in the QTRS series round 3. We were set to fly out of New Zealand on the 27th and return on the 8th of July hopefully with some great racing and results.
After flying from Palmerston North to Auckland and meeting Logan, we arrived in Brisbane at around 5:00pm. We were then picked up by Goldcross rider Micheal Davis and went back to his house to stay for the next few days. The first day we went for an easy ride around Brisbane, all of which was in the city, which was a bit of a change from the usual scenic country rides. We then picked up our team car and had a look around Brisbane which was rather interesting. Then had another relaxed night to prepare for our first race the next day. Had a bit of a culture check when I noticed turkeys, crows and several other strange animals in the middle of Brisbane…
After meeting the rest of the team the morning of the race, we were off to my first international elite race, being rather optimistic as to how I would go. The race was a 130km supposedly flat circuit which we had to complete 5 times with 110 starters. We ended up climbing 2000m which is quite a bit for a supposedly flat race. There were no major climbs, just short sharp painful ones. It was the first time my skin had seen the sun in a good few months, as the temperature was ranging from 20-25 degrees. The start was pretty hectic, I just tried to stay as close to the front as possible. I got a tad excited and tried to ride in any break that got up the road. I got over the top of the KOM in a little group and was going down a decent bumping the 100k speeds, when the lead vehicle and police cars decide to hit the brakes. I luckily made it through, others were a bit less fortunate. The bunch then caught us as it did every other break I went into. I spent the next lap swinging and just trying to stay in the top half which was a mission in itself. I found my legs coming into the third lap, but my glands were swelling like balloons. I managed to stay out of trouble, but others did not. There were three or four massive crashes which made me a bit edgy, I decided it was best to be at the front after seeing and hearing the carbon and body’s fighting with the tarmac. I managed to finish in the main group that had shrunk to 20 or so riders, which was a few seconds behind 9 riders. Pretty stoked to finish in the top 20 in my first international elite race. Learnt so much which will go through to my race tomorrow and in the future which will hopefully mean better result for me.
Today was much like yesterday with the climbing, all short sharp climbs. Was not going to make the same mistake yesterday and smash myself in the first few ks trying for the break. A break finally went up the road about 2/3 through the race, that had around 15 riders so most of the teams stopped working. I jumped across with two others, who were really strong both being in big teams. After chasing for a lap we got into the break. One of my team mates was up the road with two others so I could just sit in the chasing break. Then our bunch split, which was frustrating as I was on the back. Heaps of people tried jumping across all unsuccessful. I jumped and chased for half a lap by myself, got within 50m but then blew to bits and went back to the other half of the break. Ended up 14th I think, I was too cracked to sprint. Only 20ish riders finished as the break put too much time into the bunch, so they got pulled out. Really pleased with the result as it shows that my climbing has improved a lot! And that I can race with top riders, even though my health is not the full 100 at the moment.
The next few days were pretty relaxing having another few coffee rides around Brisbane. On Tuesday night we met up with the rest of the New Zealand team and made our way to Noosa Heads, where we would be staying and competing for the next few days. Our hotel was incredible, so it did not take long to settle in. From there, I and the team made ourselves familiar with the courses and just enjoyed our stay before the racing.
The team’s first u19 Australian national’s race on Thursday came around really fast. This was the individual time trial. I opted not to race as glandular fever makes it hard for me to recover, so decided to focus more on the road race. The team all raced hard and got great results, even the ones who struggle in that discipline.
The big day for me came on Saturday, the road race. We had a set race plan, which consisted of delivering me and Logan to the line in the front bunch. Unfortunately I had one of those days and did not feel myself, quickly going backwards up the first climb. I managed to hang on for a few more laps going on and off the back, just when I was about to go off the back I pulled a turn for the team and then did not finish the race, which is a first for me. This was quite disappointing for me as this was my main focus for the trip and the team was real keen on helping me get a decent result. The team still raced to plan and delivered Logan to the line in the front bunch. The team did a great job and all rode themselves into the ground to get the best result possible for us as a group.
I was determined to get a better result today in the Criterium. At the start of the day there were 90 riders split into heats. I managed to win my heat, and three other riders from the team made it through to the final as well. Feeling better today, the team plan was to get me to the line. The race was very fast from the get go, so I just tried to ride near the front as much as possible. This is not as easy as it sounds with 50 riders fighting for the front on a track no more than a few meters wide and reaching speeds of 65ks. So obviously this takes a lot out of you. The team was outstanding at keeping me up the front and rode themselves until they could not ride anymore. With three laps to go a crash at the front caused a lot of confusion, I ended up being around 10 riders back with one lap to go. I managed to fight my way to 7th over the line. Not the result I was looking for but it is still not a bad effort considering I still have another year in u19.
Overall the trip was the best experience I have ever had. I had the ups and downs but came back highlighting the positives and negatives, so I can learn from them and develop myself into being a better rider for the years to come. For now my main focus is to get better, so heaps of rest, which then hopefully may lead to a spot on the road world’s team towards the end of the year. I would like to thank everyone who helped me to get over there and to where I am today, Especially mum and dad for putting up with me and getting me over there, Kevin Laskey, for making sure my bike and gear was running as good as it could get, my coach Blair Taylor for making sure my body was performing to its absolute potential considering the condition I was in, Dr Greg Oke, who has looked after my body week after week and given me endless advice, the Bike NZ team that came over with us and looked after us which may have been a bit of a mission at times… Bike Manawatu, for helping me get over to Australia. And last but not least the other 5 guys and 6 girls that made the trip one to remember you all raced hard and selflessly for the teams.