Guest Blog: Joanne Hogan's take on the 2014 Tour of Bright

While the Roxsolt squad battled it out in Launceston at the Stan Siejka Cycling Classic in early December the Sydney Uni Velo squad took to the roads of Bright, Victoria to conquer some pretty gruelling mountains. For the past few years Sydney Uni Velo and Roxsolt have had a close relationship; Roxsolt has been a major sponsor of women's cycling programs, fostering development and encouraging growth at the Sydney Uni Velo Cycling Club. 

The Bright weekend was no different. Taking the formula that has worked so well for the Roxsolt racing team Sydney Uni Velo recruited some strong, experienced riders to help mentor and teach up and coming Sydney Uni Velo riders. In this blog post Jo Hogan tells you about the race.


 

The town of Bright, Victoria, is one of my favourite places in the world. Surrounded by green foliage and mountains, it has a mystic, serene, tranquil feel as soon as you enter the town boundaries. I always feel a sense of inner calm approaching the town sign as it looms in the distance on the drive in from Melbourne.

Bright also holds one of my favourite bike races of the year: the Tour of Bright.  A three-stage tour taking in a time trial and two hilly road stages, this race also marks the start of my build up for the Australian Road Cycling National Championships in January.

For the event I was racing with Sydney Uni Velo Cycling Team, under the guidance of director sportif and team manager of my summer team (Roxsolt), Kelvin Rundle.

The team included my former Bigla Cycling teammate Taryn Heather, as well as Carlee Taylor, Holly Hawtin, and Marrisa Madden. On paper, we had some of the strongest climbers in the race; however, as we were all in different phases of our training for the build up to the 2015 season, we were a little unsure how we would fair. Personally I hadn’t tapered for the event, but I always have high expectations of myself, having also won the event in the past.

They agreed with my proposal: go from the gun! We would send one rider after the other and try and force a break. The race was shortened come race day so this played further into our favour.

The stage 1 time trial was late on Friday afternoon and claps of thunder and heavy rain fell right before my official start. I was lucky enough to get a dry run for my race and threw everything I could at the stage, getting as aero as I could possibly manage on my road bike. Time trials never tickle and I walked away happy that I gave it all I had on the day. Taryn was our best-placed finisher in sixth position overall.

The first road stage started early the following day; the “Rose White Gap Loop” finished atop Tawonga Gap.

Unfortunately, the race was extremely uneventful until the final, decisive 8km finish climb.

Our “little big team” tried to force a break early in the first part of the race, however, it was shut down numerous times. I took the first queen of the mountain (QOM) sprint over Rose White Gap, but the fireworks didn’t really start until 4km to go to, when Miranda Griffith put in a strong attack. I was positioned at the front when the move occurred, but I was unable to follow with my legs feeling like concrete blocks beneath me. I kept pushing the power down on the pedals as best I could, and found myself with a few riders to battle to the finish line.

Feeling a bit flat after not being able to perform as well as I would have hoped, I took myself down to the Bright River for some cold water recovery and to contemplate the game plan for the final stage up Mount Hotham the following day. Hard, aggressive racing suits me, so I formulated a plan to run past the team and Kelvin.

They agreed with my proposal: go from the gun! We would send one rider after the other and try and force a break. The race was shortened come race day so this played further into our favour.

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to execute the plan the way we had hoped. We attacked and attacked, but were chased down time and time again. It was worth a shot and it definitely made my day more challenging.

One of my good friends and personal trainer often talks about the mental challenges of pushing yourself to the edge, then going beyond what your body would normally allow you do when it hurts.  Finding that little something extra when you think you don’t having anything left is the challenge.

Come the start of the final 20km climb up to Hotham, my legs were feeling a bit juicy. The road rose up and I had to dig pretty deep to hold the initial pace, but I managed to recover and position myself back in the front group.

The infamous Meg, a sharp little pitch 5km into Hotham inflicted a sting in the legs once again, as Miranda powered up to win the QOM; I gave chase to take third. The front group then settled and reformed, with the pace was being set by Verita Stewart and Kate Perry.

As the kilometres ticked down toward the final 2km ramp, I went through moments of doubt and pain, but kept focused on the wheel in front of me with each pedal stroke I pushed. I knew my early attacks had taken a bit of energy out of the tank, but I wanted to walk away happy that I did everything I could to get the best result. Carlee was in the front group with me and as the finish approached, I told her that I would lead her into the climb. Miranda attacked and Carlee missed my wheel. But I didn’t have the legs to give chase — or did I?

On reflection, there were moments throughout the race where I think I can improve. This is especially true as I head into my summer of racing and the main event, the national championship.  One of my good friends and personal trainer often talks about the mental challenges of pushing yourself to the edge, then going beyond what your body would normally allow you do when it hurts.  Finding that little something extra when you think you don’t having anything left is the challenge. That is what it all comes down to, in a way.

From the weekend, Sydney Uni Velo took the overall team classification prize; I learned more about where my form is in preparation for the summer of racing — and what I need to work on to find that extra something that is going to see me on the podium on the 10th of January.