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2015 Forrest 6hr & Top Bike Tour of Corsica

17 May 2015

10949730_10152776129186003_6622238648638219890_nNearing the mid point of 2015 already reminds me that even though each day might be full of tasks to achieve, in the end these days go far too quickly and this new age “living in the moment” movement really has some merit.  For if we spend so much time planning and preparing and ticking off boxes to achieve the next thing…we have lost the moment that is today.

10995439_10152770668766003_4042567100685909980_nMy todays will soon be memories of 2015 and today I am sitting on a ferry from Ajaccio (Corsica) to Nice, with 5.5hrs to kill and no internet I chose to spend my time getting to know more about the people I just spent 10 days with riding and also peruse my old photos on my laptop.

Creating new memories and reminiscing the old.

The photo collection I have is huge and triggered the memory of many moments, people I have met and places I have been. It brought tears to my eyes with pictures of my dog Socks including his last day with us on the beach.  I can’t believe how lucky I am and have been and recently I have been guilty of being unappreciative, feeling burdened by responsibility instead of excited by the prospects. 

Again…the past few weeks have flown by and its time for me to download these amazing experiences into words and share with you how awesome the world is from my perspective. 

Since moving to Geelong, Norm and I did not sit still, with much to plan and get done.

11188290_10152766824931003_4284623831549453182_nThe Forrest 6hr was one of those things, being in its 7th year for 2015, we did want to ensure it was as fantastic and if not better than ever before.  Of course I was racing the 6hr solo, with Norm being the race organiser and MC and everything else that needed doing.

Race day on Saturday 2nd May was perfect, sun shining all day long, the perfect mix of riders from elite to first timers, with the trails being in some of the best condition I have experienced in a long time.  Just perfect.

In the lead up to this event, I had tested out the Shimano XTR Di2 on my new 2015 Lust Advanced 0 at the Bendigo 100miler.  After making a few adjustments todays race was the next opportunity to really nail this addition to my bike fit out.

There was just one more thing I had to manage on top of this race, pack, prepare and get 100% right all my riding gear, bike and clothing to head straight to France right after the race.
Yep, race from 9:30am - 3:30pm, shower, attend presentations, hop in the car and get a lift to the airport, ready to depart Melbourne at 9:25pm, arriving in Nice the next day.

It seems that I just can’t seem to manage keeping things simple, but hey, at least I did not have to help tidy up that night and the next day after the Forrest 6hr.

But let me get back to the race.
A perfect day, sunshine with just a sprinkle of light rain to settle the dust.
The course of around 12km long for solos never really felt like there was much up to conquer, and any vert was quickly rewarded with a seriously fun and flowing downhill section.

Scattered around the course were seriously amazing support marshalls including my dad and coming up the only hill in the village the vibe of all the marquees and team riders always lifted my sprits.

In the solo female field I knew that Jenni King and Karen Hill would have my measure, but it was going to be a whole heap of fun willing myself to ride as hard and as fast and as consistent as I could - that was my aim for this race.  I was also really keen to see how Tobias Lestrel and Paul Van der Ploeg would go over the 6hr elite mens race.  Tobias unbeaten in this discipline for some time now and PVDP was a first timer to the 6hr solo arena - both totally capable of winning I was hoping to watch some of the action on course as I raced.

The race started and whilst I had done a good warm up, I knew that my legs & lungs could not go the solid pace of the front runners leaving an early split - thank goodness!  As always in these kind of events a bit of angst is amongst the riders, some caught up in the slower team riders, and vice versa but the first lap is a good chance to check out other riders and warm up the brain and body.  A few riders I knew passed me early on, so I kept them in sight and over time eventually passed them - doing this and being accountable to keeping them in view gives me something to focus on for a whole 6hrs as well as worrying about my own position in the women field.

There is some seriously fun gravity fed sections where I was able to regain energy and get off the brakes.  I didn't see Karen or Jenni all race long but I did get to see the boys, PVDP, Tobias and Tasman Nankervis pass me on lap 4 in a close bunch half way through the race.

I havent seen the results as yet, but apparently my lap times were within seconds of each other, so achieving that result made me happy with my race.

Personally I had a great race, finished strong, passed riders later in the race, could have gone out for an extra lap (but couldn't due to my tight schedule to catch a plane) and felt happy 100% of the time, no sore back, no cramping - just stoked!

Jenni came 1st and Karen 2nd with me coming in 3rd.  I guess my aim is to keep competing in this event each year and maintain a podium finish.

On my final lap, PVDP passed me with Tobias about 1.5 minutes behind.  The elite mens race finished with Pauly for the win, Tobias a very close 2nd and young up and coming Tasman in 3rd. 

The Forrest 6hr event for me was amazing, such a great vibe and awesome people in attendance, it certainly makes me proud to see Norm and his crew work hard to achieve this too.

With the race over and done with, next in line I had to get in the car with the Muir family for a lift to the airport where I caught a plane to Nice via Dubai.
I was now off to work as a cycling tour guide for Dave and Emma with Topbike Tours with a group on the island of Corisca.

Racing the 6hr solo was easy compared to sitting on a plane, I am yet to embrace long haul flights and I suffer from puffy ankles and knees all the time whilst flying, let alone straight after racing.  Compression socks on, many books in tow and a willingness to watch many movies I was now on my way to France.

The finer details of the flight include a 10pm dinner - yay! I was starving. A few good hours of sleep interspersed with movie watching and book reading.  4am Breakfast was a Godsend as was an aisle seat.  Compression socks were doing their job however I could certainly feel the pressure.  I drank as much as I could, tea, coffee, juice & water so as to get up and go to the toilet as often as I could.  Landing in Dubai I still had a couple of hours before the final flight to Nice, I chilled out with Wifi and a Mc Donalds coffee only to interrupted by none other than a Melbourne couple wanting to know about my wifi situation.  They had no idea I was Australian but thought I looked approachable.  Funny how you go all the way to the other side of the world only to sit down and chat with people who live an hour away from home.

The final leg to Nice was still a good 6hrs, I had now caught up with Vince who was coming over to do the Corsica tour and the Giro with TopBike and Kahn who I would be working alongside for this time.  Another couple of movies, another book read, and finally the cankles take hold and I can feel my jeans get tight around my calves.  This always takes a good sleep and a walk or ride to flush the puffiness out and its one of the things I despise about any form of long travel sitting down for hours on end.

Dave picked us up and the three of us went out for a meal and starting to discuss logistics for the Tour of Corsica.  From now…we are “on”.

The next day, up early, breakfast, pick up the clients, catch the ferry to Corisca and then the fun began.  

11102675_10152784469251003_5059273711012489105_nOn the trip, I made 9 new friends, well 10 if you include Kahn Franke! 
Lew the ninja - disappears into thin air and appears just the same.
Rushy the quietly spoken photographer who was also the techno wizard supplying us with Garmin course downloads and other gadgetry troubleshooting.

Stevie “boy” Wonder who turned up only 6 weeks after a broken collar bone and ribs, the satirical comedy act but also tough as nails.

Paul “POC” - the person that I likened to a very excitable Staffordshire bull terrier, happy, devoted, often misunderstood as rough and tough, but seriously just wants to be loved and given attention all day long…and would chase a ball all day long too!

Trav was the dark horse, zero ego, but 100% fit and fast and able. OMG, he would pass you on a climb like he was on a recovery ride.  

VINNIE! - Thanks Vince for your quiet sense of humour and ability to make my job so easy, probably the most consistent rider every single day. Oh and the very smooth and fast descender too.

Jeremy the gracious one, wicked sense of humour but as polite as hell. Mr consistency on the bike as well.

Carolyn made us jealous whilst riding away from us on the uphills on her electric bike, but come dinner time, she made me jealous with her ability to match her glasses with her shoes and with her scarf and this changed every single night!

SCULLY! Oh David, you are a man with much history and much to tell, thank you for inviting me into your wisdom and experience, when I am 70 something I could only wish to have done what you have and are still doing.

…and finally my partner in crime Mr Kahn “Kanye” Franke - could talk underwater, eat and never stop eating, the person who could say whatever he wants and get away with it, and ride fast, strong and yet still look like a Praying mantis as he rides his bike. Just how does your wife cope?

The ferry trip was 6hrs long and whilst my descriptions of the people I got to ride with over the next 9 days are retrospective we did get to learn a lot about each other during that time. 

…and then we arrived, in Corsica, where the weather was fine the whole time, the roads were just ridiculous in every sense and the scenery around every corner to die for.
We landed in Bastia, spent the night in Brando and enjoyed Limoncello at a local bar and started to let our hair down and get to really know each other.

Having been a rider on a TopBike tour, I had an idea of what I would be needing to do, but its not until you are actually in the role that you realise that its so multi faceted.  

My French is limited and Corse language is a slight variation on French, but quickly I learnt how to get room allocations, order food and drink, request things and just look after myself and our group.

By the 3rd day, it was Kahns turn to ride and I got to drive, for the first time ever overseas and on these tiny teeny roads, it was pretty fun to learn new skills and have fun doing my job whilst doing it.

13530_10152774160916003_4099107294686196423_n11205501_10152775683076003_6609963087884489127_nOur trip went from the tip of Corsica, staying night one in Brando, riding to Port of Centuri, and then a magnificent loop around the tip of this region, then onto Calvi, then Porto, which was just a most beautiful ride to do with a 2 night stay here.  I got to drive again out of Porto to arrive in Calacuccia, which is in the middle of the island but none less more magnificent than the coastline.  In May the mountains still have snow on the top and now we were in amongst it.

11245491_10152781481441003_4999096713617832635_nThe ride from Calacuccia to our our next stop, Sant’Andrea di Bozo was rural and very inland, but what is remarkable is how the roads are built. A climb up to a certain height above sea level, often around 500-600mts contours nicely around the edges of the mountains and hills with the occasional climb over a pass or a mild descent to allow for the roads to meet the next hill or mountain.  These roads are often skinny and with rock walls on one side and sheer drops on the other.  The most majestic thing occurred on this ride, about 3 birds of prey circled up above and made their screeching noises and floated above us for a time, I have never seen or been part of anything like this.  perhaps they thought we looked like good prey, as good as dead with all our climbing!

11049558_10152781517441003_7776807297459810953_n11110365_649166795217248_6144615543905877681_o_1My accommodation in Sant’Andrea di Bozo was the best out of every place we stayed where I was gifted a rural rustic old barn apartment that had been renovated authentically and I had this to myself for 2 nights.  The ride the next day was just as memorable where we looped around the region for nearly 120km with more corners than you can poke a stick at.
On our final day, it was again my turn to drive and we arrived for our final night at Ajaccio with our accommodation being just the kind of luxury you need for the last night.

What did I think of this trip? wow, the kind of experience you can have on these roads of Corsica on your bike is nothing like I have ever done, nothing like riding in France or Italy, the Great ocean Rd in Victoria is not even close…and of course the fact of being on tour, with great people and Dave Olle is also a heap of fun.

What place did I enjoy the most? Definitely my private apartment in Sant’Andrea di Bozo.

The best ride would have been from Calvi to Porto with the Sant’Andrea di Bozo inner loop being a close second.

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