Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Big Price to Pay for One Tiny Mistake

Slinging in Sean on our way to a hard fought silver medal

Me sprinting against Grant Irwin (National Scratch Race Champion) for every point i could grasp.....he beat me by less than a tire : (

Myself (right) and Sean Finning on the podium after one of closest Australian Madison Championships on record. (notice the hole in my left hip)

For those of you who dont know, the Australian Madison Title was run this Saturday just gone. I went in with high hopes and excellent motivation for the event, given my recent form and my love of this event.

The race was awesome. From the beginning, me and my partner (Sean 'Shrek' Finning) established ourselves as one of the two dominant teams in the event and this continued throughout the race.

At about the mid way point the team of Olman and Clarke started gaining the upper hand on us in the sprints and it wasnt until a mid race attack that saw them chasing us fro 12 laps that the momentum started to swing back in our direction. One of the most defining sprints with 40 laps remaining of the 200 lap event saw Sean roll Miles and give him the glare to end all glares......telling him that we were again in charge.

Coming into the last sprint we had a 1 point advantage and i rode a long turn that would see me sling Sean in on the bell to contest the final sprint. All was well.....i moved into 3rd wheel.....then disaster.....Sean rolled off the banking and came in too slow, i tried to sling him but the pace difference was too great and we both came crashing down in an almighty heap.

The pain of the crash was irrelevant.....knowing that i had watched Sean crash beside me meant that we had absolutely no chance. I lay on my back down the base of the track banging my head on the ground.....we were so close.....we were in perfect position.....Sean was sprinting well and would have been fresher than Olman after taking a long turn out......But it wasnt to be......my 6th National Track title for the year and my 5th medal....but still no gold. I have now won more National medals this season than any other Australian rider.....and man am i happy that i have the Criterium title to hang my hat on....otherwise the disappointment may send me into a downward spiral.

All is not lost.....im currently organising my trip over to the US, but before then i have been given a ride in the Individual and Teams Pursuit at the Sydney World Cup. I leave Melbourne next week for 7 months away from home, as i am off to Adelaide to do the qualifying times in an attempt to earn a spot at the Track World Championships in France this coming April. Even if i do the qualifying times it doesnt guarentee me a spot, but it does offer me the best possible chance for getting picked considering my recent form.

So fingers crossed that it all works out. Im a little nervous about how quickly leaving home has rushed up on me....but that is the life that i have chosen and i am looking forward to taking my new found ability and motivation to the US this year where, hopefully, i can turn some heads and land myself something special for the 2007 season.

Later all....keep in touch.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

So Close...yet, Oh So Far

It has been a week of extreme highs for me in Adelaide at the 2006 Australian National Track Championships. I have come away from my most sucessful ever meet with 4 medals from 5 events and some performances that i can honestly say, even defied my expectations.

It all started for me on Tuesday when i lined up in the individual pursuit. I was racing in the 2nd last heat, after winning the bronze last year, giving me a good look at the standard of riders and times being pumped out this year....and i have to say....it was bloody high. Before i rode off the fastest qualifyer was close friend and team mate Michael Ford (a former junior World Pursuit Champion) who covered the distance in 4:29.7. For me to make the top 4 i had that to beat which for me to achieve would mean that i would be setting a 3.2second PB. Well not only did i go out there and beat it i shaved another 1.6 off it and in the end qualifyed 3rd with a 4.8 second PB (4:28.045, only 0.045 outside the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games).

Me being pushed all the way to the finish, by coach Dave Sanders. It looks like i was hurting a little.....or a lot....you make the call.

I would later take out the bronze medal in my ride off with Michael Ford in a 4:30.6. Not a bad start to my National campaign, sucessful defence of my bronze medal from 2005.

Next i would front up in the Teams Pursuit 2 days later, where Victoria (my state team) would go in favourites after qualifying all 4 of our riders in the top 8 in the individual. We qualified fastest in the afternoon session in 4:13.2 and would have to ride off against Tasmania (the defending champions) in the final. Later that night we were out classed by the team comprising of 2 Commonwealth games representatives and would have to settle for 2nd despite pushing them to ride a new National Championship record and ourselves covering the 4km in a 4:10.1 (not bad i must say).

The 2 events i had remaining turned into 3 when Shane Kelly withdrew from the Team Sprint and i was called in as the new starter....not because im quick.....but because i was there. I started in a very ordinary fashion that even some of the slowest women sprinters would be embarassed by but fortunately i had 2 of the fastest guys in the country coming off my wheel and we managed to salvage a bronze medal. But the scratch which was much more up my alley followed shortly after where team mate Michael Ford took a lap with 2 other riders and after coming off a perfectly executed lead out by myself and Zac Dempster sprinted to 2nd place behind well known fast man Grant Irwin. Did i mention that once we started our lead out the field splintered and shattered with only 6 or so riders ending up finishing the race.....not bad again.

Sunday saw me begin the points title, with the intention of helping close friend and madison partner Sean Finning defend his title. As the race developed however i found myself to be in a winning position with 50 laps to go and the new team leader for the Victorian's. I was fighting it out for the win against Miles Olman (former junior World champion of this discipline) and after a hard and aggressive 40km he had the better of me and took the gold 6 points ahead of me in 2nd and then back to Sean in 3rd. It was by far one of the best races i have ever riden and, in my mind, confirmed me as probably the most consistant senior endurance rider of the meet.

This is me giving the bike some stick on my way to silver in the points race.

So after 5 races i had missed out on a national title leaving only this weekends Australian Madison Championship to top off a fantastic series for me. I will be riding with Sean Finning and we are both highly motivated for the event considering ourselves very good chances for the win.

Off the bike for anyone who is interested my life is finally gaining some sense of normality. I obviously still am dealing, in some way, with the break up of Amy and I but i am finally beginning to fill the hole that it has left in my life.

Currently i am organising with my team when i will be heading over to the US. It is a complicated process with trying to organise my team commitments with that of the National team and my track program. I am still very hopefull of qualifying for the world Championships in France and will be trying my best to work out if the 2 parts of my cycling career will be butting heads or if a i can find a solution which keep everyone happy, including me.

So for now i say good bye....and i will update you on my plans and the success of the upcoming madison, this coming Saturday.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Learn to Appreciate Where You Come From

I would have thought that as an Australian, that seeing places such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were really not that big a deal....after all they are pretty much in my back yard.....i see them on TV every other day and know about all there is to know....but nothing could be further from the truth. I found myself getting a little bit excited as we drove past the monuments and over the bridge. They are far more impressive close up than i ever could have imagined.....and though i still chose Melbourne as my destination of choice, Sydney is a very nice looking city....especially from the sky, when you can over look the harbour.

I had a great weekend in the biggest city in Aus. I spent some quality time on the bike....training with some friends i have formed over the past few years, namely CJ Sutton who heads off to France in the next couple of weeks to take up his position on the Cofidis team. But off the bike it was also an amazing weekend for a whole host of different reasons. I stayed with a close friend who lives in a suburb called Paramatta, about 25km from the CBD. She took me to see some of the sites when we weren't training and i got to experience Sydney from an insiders perspective.

I had a great time meeting some of her friends and family, during a traditional Australia Day BBQ. For those of you who are from the US, Australia Day was on the 26th of Jan. We arent quite as patriotic as you lot but nothing will get in the way of a BBQ. Hopefully over the coming weeks i can return the favour and show her around my great city as she is in town for the Commonwealth Games in the not to distant future.

But now, i am off to the airport....yet again....destination Adelaide for my 5th National Track titles. I am alomost the oldest rider in the team, thank god for Shane Kelly. I have been so happy with my training over the past 3 weeks and i honestly believe i have something special in me for this year. (now that ive said that, if i dont deliver there could be trouble). So the next week and a bit of racing is all geared towards trying to qualify for the worlds. I let my chance at Comm Games go, but im focussed and ready to give it my all in an attempt to pull on the National colours in mid April.

Hope everyone is well and ill let you know how Nationals go when i get home next Sunday.....keep a look out for me on cyclingnews because if i go as quick as i want to i could get some attention :).