In 2017, Wiggle Nutrition have partnered with L’Etape Australia as the official nutrition partner for the event. L’Etape Australia is a challenging 160km or 120km ride through the Snowy Mountains of NSW, organised by Le Tour de France. Leading up to the event we touched base with Rochelle Gilmore (ex-pro cyclist and manager/owner of the Wiggle High 5 Cycling Pro Team) and her friend Melissa as they prepare for the event. Melissa Campbell is a runner-turned cyclist and here she shares her experience of the road to the L'Etape.
Call me crazy
I don't proclaim to be a serious cyclist. In fact, I'm probably more runner than cyclist. Nor do I profess to know every technical aspect about bikes or gear ratios, and I'm sure on most occasions I'm in breach of several of The Velominati Rules. But one thing for sure - I love it. The freedom of it, the camaraderie, the hum of those well-oiled machines marching in unison, the matching kit, the post-ride coffee. Taking part in any cycling sportif combines all these things and more. And L’Etape Australia delivers the cherry on top – a taste of the Tour De France in our own back yard!
Some may call us crazy. Others, insane maybe. I guess when you take a step back and analyse it, riding a bicycle for 157km through the NSW Snowy Mountains does sound a bit ridiculous. But for those who understand, it’s an adventure to awesome-town. You might say I’m relatively new to cycling. I purchased my first road bike in 2011 – an Italian-made “Ferrari of road-bikes”, so I was told. Go big or go home, I thought. And total novice I was. I recall with fond memories my first ever bunch ride, when one of my companions commented on my gearing. “Oh, you’re riding Campagnolo!” he said. “Che?” I thought to myself. What was he even talking about?
Fast forward a few years, and my passion for cycling and all that comes with it has continued to grow. A host of new friends, several new roads explored, too much kit for one person, and a stack of cycling adventures that have taken me near and far. Seems only fitting then that the very friend who introduced me to cycling was also responsible for one of the best adventures I’ve ever had in my lifetime – a trip to the French Alpes to ride L’Etape du Tour earlier this year, my first ever gran fondo. And we’re about to go ‘round that round-a-bout again.
Enter Rochelle Gilmore, former Commonwealth Games Road Race Champion, ex-professional athlete and now owner of the most successful women's cycling team on the UCI Women's World Tour – the Wiggle High 5 Racing Team. Practically neighbours, Rochelle and I met in 2011 when she was back home in Australia from racing in Europe to do her strength and rehab with us at Jock Athletic. Now retired from racing, Rochelle has more tenacity and grit than most people and athletes I know. Moreover, she is an exceptional champion for women͛s cycling, having also founded the High5 Dream Team, an Australian womens racing team aimed at providing a launch pad to professional racing for the next crop of Australian talent. Total Girl Boss! Fresh from that trip to France, Rochelle has tapped me on the shoulder again, this time to take on L'Etape Australia as my pacer. 'Yep, pacer. ͞Bring it!' I said (whilst at the same quietly rocking back and forth in the corner).
This next dance is a chance to capitalise on the things I learnt from L͛Etape du Tour – better heat acclimatisation, better altitude plan, better nutrition, as well as targeted intense interval training sessions to work on lifting my anaerobic threshold.
This all seems great in theory, but with 3 young children and a business to run, but who am I kidding? I can only take comfort in the fact that 99% of the people who take on these adventures are in the same boat. The key is to make a plan and go for it.
1.Get it done early. Train before you start the day, then nothing can get in the way. No meetings that run overtime, no pop-up appointments.
2.Be smart with your training time. It's all about quality vs quantity.
3.Leave the excuses at the door. Excuses are no good to anyone, and only affect you.
Amateur vs Professional
I came into this sport in my mid-30s and I'm as hooked (and as competitive) as ever. L͛Etape Australia is my chance to mix it with those as equally insane and with some of the world͛s best. When else would I get to race alongside the likes of Amanda Spratt (OK, well on the same road as her at least) or Froomey? Having Rochelle alongside me is icing on the cake!
I think it's really important to point out that there is a lot of synergy between a professional athlete training for an event similar to this and an amateur like me:
1.We both train just as hard, but the amateur must do it without team support and to work their training around kids, family, full time work.
2.We're both as committed to giving it our best shot.
3.Whilst their careers aren't on the line, most amateurs take it just as seriously. My advice to any woman (or man) thinking about tackling a challenge like this – just do it.
- Join a supportive squad or club in your local area
- Find a babysitter, get training and leave your mother's guilt at the door.
- Register now. Set your goal. Make the commitment. You won't regret it.
Melissa Campbell is the co-Director of high performance training companyJock Athletic, is a Level 2 Running Coach, amateur cyclist and the current Surf Life Saving 2km Beach Run World Champion. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @_melcampbell.