Going to Goulburn. Womens Masters 6 first time competitor Meriel Custance.
Meriel took up the sport in 2011
The 2012 Cycling Australia Masters Road National Championships.
I won three bronze medals!
How on earth did that happen? Well with a LOT of support from friends, family and fabulous cyclists!
Big, huge thankyous to:
My wonderful husband, Patrick for surprising me with a time trial bike a few months ago & supporting
my cycling passion.
Tish, for encouraging text messages, sharing her bike wisdom, Oakley’s and a couple of wheels.
Phoebe, for her inspirational performances in her own sport and for her special hugs.
Lynette Collins and the CSA Cycling Commission – the women’s’ track sessions were the accidental window I fell through into this whole new world!
The Skinny Lattes – you changed my life! Seriously
John Murray – the little things John said in my early days on hybrids and hire bikes were pivotal. I would never have thought of competing even locally, certainly not nationally! I just wanted to get fit and prove something …
John’s programs came through my email and the difference they made to my performance was almost immediate.
To Mello, Glen, Darren, Chris and the others at Trak Cycles, Norwood for servicing my bikes and
keeping my gear up to date.
Craig Cotter at Bike Society on South Road – for setting up my three bikes. This made anything
Nick Wood Fitness spin classes – the hardest part of my week – made me realize I can get out
of the saddle and it’s more value to be in E4!
Graeme Zucker’s Wednesday night track endurance sessions and all the participants for being
inclusive & friendly
Steve’s Saturday morning 30kph bunch – my bunch riding skills people
All the people I ride with; I can’t mention everyone – Catherine and Sharee have been especially
encouraging. Annabel Cox, from PACC was my inspiration and handy distraction in Goulburn!
Cycling Australia, & Cycling NSW did a fabulous job of organising the Championships – the
event was very professional.
Chris, (he must be a legendary Wilier/Campy mechanic and knows almost as much about cycling
as the great Graham McArthur) at The Greengrocer CafÈ And Bike Shop for repairing my wounded
Wilier after the crit!
Race Reports follow – with little tips for newbies considering such events in the future …
and to remind myself of what to do…next time!
Individual Time Trial (the one with a funny hat):
This was at Breadalbane. Always make sure you know where events will be held.
I went out the day before to drive and ride the course. Lucky. Cos I got REALLY lost finding the place!
Annabel went a different way on the day – but she does some of her best work under pressure!
On the day, I arrived about an hour and a half or two hours before my start time so I could get a
good spot to warm up, sign on, get my helmet and bike checked and weighed, go to the loo
500 times, hydrate, eat another banana, pump up my super-duper Bouwmeester wheels (couldn’t
get them to what I was supposed to- o well. Move on) and put Goanna oil on & warm up.
I use the warm up schedule that John Murray and Lynette Collins provide via the Skinny Lattes.
I have a playlist on my phone that matches the parts of the warm up. All good except today it
wouldn’t come through my headphones and just blasted from the phone. Gahh. Embarrassing
choice of tunes broadcast to pro-looking old riders to the right.
Got to start line. ooops. A RAMP! Like in the TDF! At the top of the ramp someone held my bike.
I looked down (not recommended). eeek. WHY? Didn’t they move the whole contraption a meter
to the right? Where it was, meant speeding down the ramp and risking the wheel catching in that
big fissure between random pieces of bitumen. Sigh. Count down was on. Congratulated myself
for clicking my Garmin at 10 seconds. Then immediately started wondering if I should stand up
like standing starts at the track. Or not. Seriously considered if this might scare (or scar) whoever
was holding me. Can’t remember what I ended up doing. But I was off down the ramp. Decided
immediately I should change gear. This caused my spiffy looking TT bike to slew off to the right
and through a couple of cones. Gah. Would I be disqualified? Decided to just ignore what I’d
done and head out hard. As per instructions from Lynette, Vicki and John. It was a head wind.
After about 5min I checked my Garmin. Had turned it off not started it at the ten second call.
O well. Turned it on. Wondered what the hell I was doing and why. Reminded my self I always
wonder this in time trials. Then I rode as hard as I could, up hill and down, crouched as low as
possible to cheat the wind. Passed a couple of riders. Remembered I had been told not to rest
on laurels when you catch some one – just keep going as hard as poss. Find the most direct
and smoothest route along the road and around the bends. Check your speed and ensure
the gear you have is the quickest. Suddenly(ish) the turnaround is advertised on a sign at the
side of the road. oooomagawd. It’s half way down a descent! Seriously? Mental note: always
find out EXACTLY where the turnaround is and practise this the day before.
It all very nearly ended in tears as I wondered if I could execute a turnaround at 40kph. No. I
couldn’t. I would need to brake. Ah. Move arms from tt position to brake. Another mental note:
practice this – as at the start, a sudden move of position causes bike to slew wildly. Left this
time. Aghhhh. The side of the road was dust, rocks and a different level. Mentally screeched
very loudly in my head that I had to stay on. Braked hard, eventually. Rounded cone. The
official congratulated me for staying on. Off up the hill I went. After not enough time I passed
a couple of my category coming the other way. With the wind at my back I rode as fast as I
And that was it! Good enough for my first national bronze medal on the road.
Again, I would advise being super-sure of the location of races ahead of time. I went to find
it the day before – LUCKY, because Marulan Driver Education Centre is on a farm in the middle
of nowhere! Got hopelessly lost before finding it!
Annabel Cox (PACC cat 3 STAR and winner of the inaugural CSA/Skinny Latte Women’s Series
in 2012) and I went out for a practise on the morning of the event.
It was hot with winds up to 65kph. Joy. Nothing like Vic Park. We did a few laps to experience
the hills and the swirly winds and headwinds and the corners, then returned to our apartment
to hydrate, eat (Annabel and PACC(?) recommend McDonalds for pre race carbs), cool down
We drove out in plenty of time for Annabel to warm up on the trainer. There was plenty of
excitement in the race before. A legendary race caller from Sydney certainly engaged the crowd.
During Annabel’s race I watched her first couple of laps then moved to the shade to warm up.
I could see part of the track and was kept updated by the commentator. He mentioned Annabel
several times and at one stage, I thought she had won – he was so excited and called one of
her attacks “the move of the race”!
Annabel finished with a bronze medal and her tactics arguably caused a bit of an upset in the
Then it was my turn. Warm up completed (head phones replaced). Seventeen starters. Six in
Cat 6. I had a lacklustre start. I thought I had engaged the big chain ring as I moved up the hill
to the start. When I glanced down after the Commissaire had finished telling us the rules I
was only in the small ring. Hmmm. And rats! I was towards the back. I should have been more
awake and lined up behind that one who got silver in the TT. O well. No point worrying now.
We’d surely just pootle around for a few laps. It was 30min and then 3 laps. And it was soooo
hot and windy. We are mostly older-ish ladies.
How WRONG!!! Can you be?
As the Commisairre waved us away they took off like bats on steroids. I stood up and my chain
But wait:- you get a lap out for mechanicals (I was calling this a mechanical- I hadn’t even got
on the track!). Chain on, some nice man held me up and said he’d push me on the back of the
bunch. I wondered if I got a flat if I was allowed another lap out? I was about to ask, but I
needed to tell the nice man to straighten up my bike, here they come!
I expected a whistle to start. Nah, They were OFF!
The next 30 min were manic.
Seriously. I didn’t have time to look at my Garmin. After about three laps I was breathing/gasping
so loudly – I would have put Sharipova to shame. Certainly seemed to scare a few of the other
riders! Towards the end I actually heard the commentator say I was at the edge of my threshold.
Whatever. (How did he know that? Must have been my super loud gasping noises). Those
women absolutely smashed the hills and the winds. Remembering Annabel’s face at the end
of her crit and her instruction to keep chasing no matter what I “dug deep” (technical term). By
the second-last lap I had dropped off about 12m. I thought I could maybe still get back on. I
thought I was 2nd in my cat. So I gunned around the big curve at the bottom of the home straight,
pedalling like crazy.
A big mistake. “Cornering 101” says you must lift UP your leg on the inside of the bend. Otherwise
your pedal “clips” the hotmix and you skeeter off your bike. Pity cos I was just deliriously feeling
like I was looking very pro leaning over like that. Ah, conceit! Well I got up and checked my
preferred point of landing was my right elbow again. Yep. Blood. Please let my knicks be ok?
Nah. Ripped. Raw skin. Blood. Then I jumped back on my bike before the first aid people could
get their claws into me. Figured if the bike went – it must be ok. And I was worried the woman
behind me would chase me down if she could. So off I went for that last lap.
I was actually 3rd. And very happy. Happy that the crit was over mostly. Wow. That was hard.
My Garmin indicated a new max heart rate. The first aid man did a great job with my wounds
despite me refusing to take my knicks off!
The Road Race:
Luckily there was a day off for Annabel & me before the road race from Gunning.
We apprehensively moved from our Goulburn apartment to the Gunning Motel.
This was mainly because Gunning is about 40 k from Goulburn and my race started at about
The Gunning Motel needs to sex-up its web site. We were expecting a grotty/pokey/run- down
place – but it was great! We had a room each, with a little balcony for the trainer. The manager
got me a microwave so I could make my porridge and a toaster for Annabel to heat up her
McDonalds hotcakes for breaky.
Dinner was surprisingly amazing and delicious. The dÈcor is kind of Aust/Asian fusion meets
Las Vegas in a very nice welcoming way.
We went to ride the course the afternoon before. Hint: Always take a light. You never know when
it will get dark. Also. If possible make sure you know where the start and finish are.
The morning of the race promised rain.
Annabel & I were apprehensive that the road race would be a 68k crit and we were still getting
over the shock and intensity of the crit on Thursday!
Having organised a late check out from the Motel we were grateful for our own toilet pre-race
and a private place to warm up.
As seventeen Cats 5-8 lined up to start, the commisaire barked instructions about the neutral
zone and going up the hill at no more than 18kph and the turn around and the finish.
I should have paid more attention.
I decided to turn on my Garmin as we rolled into the neutral zone. Off we went, around the corner,
up the hill, following the commisairre’s car with his little red flag fluttering out of his window.
At some stage he disappeared. I looked around. Had the race started? We’d done about 6k,
so I thought of asking someone, but remembered this was a National event and somehow
I should have known they wouldn’t blow a whistle like they do at the track in Adelaide and
didn’t at the crit in Marulan.
The strong women who had placed in previous events were on the front and pootled along at
a civilized pace. Annabel had pointed out to me all the places she thought there would be
attacks. I thought – gosh! This is my first real road race. Pootle pootle pootle. I thought.
Hmmm. Maybe they will wait until our second out and back before some one has a go.
Just then, someone whizzed around the outside and attacked the hill into the wind.
We were all on her like a flash and the pace picked up. For a while. A couple more surges
saw several riders fall away. Just past the first turn around the number one Cat 6 rider had
to go to the loo. She excused herself and four of the faster Cat 5 riders positioned themselves
across the road and said we should all wait for her to get back on. A new friend (Jo) from
Armidale and I wondered about the wisdom of doing this! But we were clearly not invited
to ride through. I should say that there were actually 3 Cat 5s on the front and a Cat 7
woman who routinely beat the entire Cat sixes AND Cat 5s!
So Philippa rejoined the bunch. The pace picked up.
The last turn around came and went. I shoulda looked at where the finish was. Sigh.
I was sad to see Jo – from Armidale fall away. Then they pace slowed again. Soon Jo was
back. YAY! I said to her. Then heartlessly, someone surged at the front and away we went.
Poor Jo. She had no time to recover. Onward onward. Philippa did an attack and I was on
her wheel like a limpet. I thought at the time they were probably just checking out who was
paying attention. Onward with a few more surges and higher pace that prompted my
Sharapova impersonation. I heard someone asking someone else if I was ok. They
couldn’t have been in the crit. The rider responded, “She always does that”.
Then somehow I was on the front. How did that happen? I thought of that cycling meme …
“On the front…what do I do now?” Act cool. Act nonchalant. Like there’s nothing unusual
about riding on the front in a National road race. Haha look at meeee. I’m on da front!
Climbing this hill. Dada! O this is soo cool. Whoops! There they go! Attacking up this
little hill that Annabel said they would! Sharapova in over-drive. Up and over the hill
and I was desperately trying to hang on, talking to myself. Assuring myself I could do it.
Rats. But they got away and ooo surprise two other riders had come with me. So we
rounded the last turnaround and hammered on. I thought there were two Cat 6 riders
in the lead group of about 6. I thought the women with me were both cat 5 riders.
One was a cat 6. At the end I thought it would be silly to sprint against a cat 5. So I
kind led one out for a while. Where was that finish? Up there somewhere. One of them
dropped right back and the other was looking at me. Then went towards the finish. I thought
I would see what it was like to be led out so hopped on her wheel. And sprinted past her.
She sprinted out of the saddle. Then she sat down. She looked deflated? I was ahead.
Where WAS that damn finish? Next minute (or Nek Minit) she was up and going again.
It dawned on me that just maybe she was a cat 6. Up I went again and heard a beep.
She was point zillion of a second in front.
Well. Believing there were 2 Cat 6s ahead I thought I had just thrown away my medal. So
took a deep breath and made mental notes to check which numbers were in my Cat (this
was her first race – she didn’t do the TT or crit) and always be sure about where the finish is.
Lucky for me I did get bronze because only Philippa was ahead!
The other Cat 6 women were all so lovely and gracious. They are all amazing and I am truly grateful for the whole National experience.
I am also very grateful for Annabel Cox’s company during the whole event. We hunted and gathered food & coffee, the occasional beer, shared some laughs and while I don’t think either of us would call it fun, we had amazing experiences and learned a great deal. I was reassured when Annabel also racked up a new max heart rate during her crit.
I think we’ll do it all again one day. Hopefully you will consider ramping up your training and come along too?
You don’t know what you can do – until you really try! Hope that a few of you can join us for the 2013 Australian Championships (in Goulburn again I believe)