Stef's ride at the Elite National TT Championships

Wed, 11 Feb 2015 04:17:00 +0000

Local rider Stef Frawley recently competed at the Elite National Time Trial Championships at Bunninyong in January, which she is using as part of her training in the lead up to the World Duathlon Championships later this year. Stef gave us an account of her lead up to the race and the event where she was competing against world class athletes.

After more than a year long rest off the bike, Stef’s training began seriously 9 months ago when she completed a 1200km Audax ride – a cycling club that organises long distance rides, then a few months later she did another Audax ride completing 700km. This gave her a massive base to start building up from and set about her plan to try and regain the speed and strength needed to compete at the National time trial level.

Stef, a multiple SA time trial elite women’s champion was spending many days training for 3-7 hours and was beginning to overcome doubts about her progress when she competed at the National Duathlon Championships in October qualifying for the World Duathlon Championships to be held later this year.  All the time and effort spent training was paying off so Stef decided that the only way to measure where her level of fitness was to join MCCC club again and start time-trialling on Tuesday nights. Stef had not competed in local time trials since 2010 with some impressive PBs so it would be a good measure of how much fitness she had.

Throwing herself in the deep end, the first TT Stef did was only two days after competing in the National Duathlon in October. Just to make it harder she competed on her road bike. It was a very painful ride on a slow bike with her legs feeling like they were cactus. She was 6 minutes slower than her PB over the same distance and course. From then on, Stef switched to her time trial bike with the full rear wheel disc and 3 spoke front wheel complement and decided that if she could whittle off 20-30 seconds each race she could survive the National Time Trial champs in January.

By the end of December, Stef had managed to achieve this goal and the 38km TT held at the end of December was a great confidence booster as her legs felt good with no pain allowing Stef to shut the mind down listening only to the swooshing of the disc wheel as she covered each kilometre.

Of course, Mildura racing happens on flat roads, but the Bunninyong course where the National Time Trial Championship is held is hilly in comparison. Fortunately for Stef, a flat course is much more challenging. There are no ups and down to increase speeds or have a slight rest on. All the effort is purely and simply put into each and every pedal stroke, which means that every inch of the road going under the tyres has to be pumped to the max. For Stef, it can be the most painful feeling ever experienced on two wheels, or it can be painless achieving a zoned out feeling, which achieves good results.
Leading up to the National Time Trial Champs Stef was feeling good. She had a good warm up, riding the course twice in the two days before the event. The course was hilly and windy with a tail and headwind on the out and back course.

On race day, Stef’s start was at 12:32pm and she had a good, solid, hard warm up pre-race. With 20 minutes to go she met Errol at the start line who was to drive her support vehicle and did some gear adjustments. Then her start time was delayed by 10 minutes, which meant without rollers or a trainer near the start line she had to kiss her good warm up goodbye! Improvising, Stef kept warm by keeping a steady step up and off the kerb trying to keep her legs in ride mode. She then had 45 seconds to pick up her bike, get up the steps onto the start ramp, mount her bike, clip in and focus on her start. Fortunately for Stef, her best starts are this type with no time to think. Fast start = good speed = legs feeling strong = mind shut down. All going well, Stef hit the turnaround with no thought of times or effort, but with 10 km to go, things started to go wonky - literally. She began to feel some movement in her aero bars and with 7 km to go the up and down movement was getting stronger and Stef realised she was starting to worry more about the bars than the race. With 5 km to go the aero bars were loose and with only 3 km to go the bars were going up and down and Stef began to feel loss of control in the front wheel. With doubt set in and relief that the fast downhill sections were past Stef stopped with 2 km to go. But Errol in the support vehicle yelled to Stef to use the top bar and just ride, ride, only 2 km to go! So, with 2 km left to race, Stef rode on, with much speed lost and doubting her control over the front wheel. At this point she was passed by a rider from behind and did not catch the rider in front, which were race goals – not to be passed and catch the one in front.

While not an ideal finish, Stef found the race exhilierating and was really pleased to say that at 56 years of age, she had achieved her goal of competing at one more National Time Trial Championship at the Elite level. What an amazing effort!
Stef is hoping that next year, if all goes well and she can maintain motivation and hard work, she will return. In the meantime, there is the SA State Time Trial Championships and the World Duathlon Championships to compete at this year.

Stef’s last thoughts on the National Time Trial Championships – “As far as I can tell with training here in Mildura, we are not disadvantaged by lack of hilly or mountainous terrain.
One just has to work harder and longer to achieve results in a "flat land flyer" district.
Thank goodness for Merbein!”