“In the Land of Oz”
So, 2018 is well and truly upon us and gone are the days of Catalan Winter base-miles, meandering around rather slowly on our bikes seemingly always searching for a long and probably not really well deserving lunch-stop. For us Aussies (and our Kiwi mates) racing commences as early as it gets, the first weekend in January to be precise with our National Championships. As always, Ballarat proves it’s weight in gold (…get it?) as a perfect host for a great week of racing. Being my first time in the elite category it was pretty special to see the insane amounts of people piling on top of each other on Mount Buninyong, it’s like a carnival/party atmosphere up there. Lycra-clothed and shaven- legged humans with beers in one hand and sausages wrapped in bread in the other, going bananas as they watch Australia’s best go at it lap after lap. I prepared well for the race and was feeling pretty good as it progressed, choosing to lay off the wheels a bit and pop around dropped riders on the climb. With a couple laps to go I started to get excited about being involved in a finale and to start to be more aggressive, it was about the same time that my right hamstring also decided it wanted to be aggressive. A nasty cramp came out of nowhere and despite at first thinking it would dissipate, it certainly didn’t. I ended up just doing a bizarre statue-impersonation roadside with some expletives, it would have been pretty decent viewing for the convoy though. Anyway, Nationals is an unreal event and I really think the new change of course this year offers the possibility for any type of rider to win or do well. I’ll be back in 2019, maybe this time with some pickle-juice or whatever in the leadup…
Since Nationals I pretty much went straight back into a good block of training, with some more race specific work to get ready for the season. Obviously not finishing the race in that sort of fashion left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth (not pickle juice) so I found it pretty easy to get some decent work done. My old man’s home is nestled on the top of the Dandenong Ranges and I spent a week there after the race looping around the hills riding up and down pretty much every hill there is out there. For a visiting cyclist in the Melbourne area, do yourself a favour and head out to the Dandenong Ranges. It’s a pretty special place to ride a bike, you can find yourself getting lost in there and the hours just seem to fly by without you even really realising it and the awesome scenery is well worth the trip out from the city. During this time, I did a hard effort up the famous 1:20 climb to kind of blow everything out after nationals. This turned out to be a bit of a bigger deal than anticipated… I felt good and seemingly so were the conditions and as a result I broke B.Canty’s Strava record. Content with that I went home, uploaded the ride and from there I got all sorts of reactions, who knew Strava could cause so much commotion? At the end of the day, training and Strava is one thing and racing is another, and as a competitive cyclist, the latter is all that matters. I find chasing KOMs every now and then a fantastic way to break up training and test yourself alone against the clock inorder to see where you’re at going forwards to your next race. I did the same back in my running days, doing solo time-trials before an event in order to ready and test myself. I think Strava is a pretty cool platform and seemingly in Australia its popularity is quite immense. I’ll definitely be continuing on and chasing some KOMs when it works in with training and racing, basically because it’s fun and besides, someone’s got to keep those flaggers busy.
During the Nationals period I was lucky enough through a few people to be put in touch with the new Continental outfit – Australian Cycling Academy. Having recently signed for the team I’m super excited to be a part of not only a young and talented rider-cohort but also such an experienced and knowledgeable group of staff. I couldn’t think of two better people than Ben Kersten and Matt Wilson to run a development-team and I’m looking forward to learning from them as much as possible over the next few months. The team has a strong focus in developing riders on the bike but also just as importantly off the bike. Both Ben and Matt through their years of experience know that a well-rounded person with skills in all areas of life will be far better equipped and ready to reach the highest levels of professional cycling and then be able to sustain that level for many years. It’s a super outlook to have as a team and I’m fortunate to be involved in it. With some exciting plans in place for later in the year, I’m looking forward to racing in Australia and Asia with the team until then, building up some nice friendships, learning as much as possible and of course going after some good results.
My next race on the cards will be the Herald Sun Tour with the Australian Cycling Academy team, starting with the city-centre prologue on the 31st of this month and finishing up around Kinglake on the 4th of February. It’ll definitely be one of the bigger races I’ve ever done in my short career as a cyclist and I’m pretty excited to get stuck in and see what we can do within such a strong peloton. Obviously, it’ll be my first outing with the team and plus my first stage-race of the year, so there’s quite a lot to look forward to and some pretty hefty days to get through. I remember a few years back when I was just getting into cycling and heading into the Melbourne CBD to watch my teammate at the time, Tom Hamilton, bash around the prologue. It was a pretty surreal spectacle seeing the cycling circus in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the world and I was hopeful at the time that I’d be able to get a shot at riding the event one day in the future. Fastforward a few years and here we are, funny how things turn out sometimes…
After the Suntour I’ll head back to Europe for a little over a month for a training-camp and to spend some time back in my home in Girona, Catalunya, before heading back for a race in Japan, late March. So, a busy and exciting period is upon me these next few months, the next time you’ll hear
from me I’ll be sure to have an array of stories from all corners of the globes, on and off the bike. Until then, happy riding, never skip leg-day and don’t be a flagger.
All words and images: Freddy Ovett