Quinn Findlay's Euro Report

Long term junior member Quinn Findlay travelled to Europe for two months to train and compete in some UCI races. The club provided some financial support as part of our junior sponsorship policy, and Quinn kindly provided some reports on her training and racing. Well done Quinn - what an adventure!

Part One 16th April 2024

My first ever European racing trip began on March 18 th departing from Brisbane to later arrive in Milan, Italy; before settling in the small town of Illasi in the Italian hills. The training ground has been amazing with no shortage of bergs and uninterrupted roads. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity provided my Down Under Cycling Academy (DUCA), giving me the chance to train and race in one of the most influential cycling countries. 

After recuperating from jetlag and finding my training rhythm again, we were given the opportunity to undergo Vo2 max testing with the UAE women’s world tour teams coach,
Luca Zenti. This provided new testing information for myself, my coach and the UAE and DUCA staff. The experience was so unreal, couldn’t wipe the smile off my face; after seeing a threshold increase and my uptake of oxygen per minute. Again, I cannot express my gratitude considering how rare and expensive Vo2 testing is for amateurs.

The next key moment so far was starting Grand Prix Féminin de Chambéry. This was already a very ambitious first European race, being a 1.1. We travelled to France by car,
crossing the border at Mount Blanc which provided unreal views to boost the morale. Pre-race was nerve-wracking after seeing the unforgiving course, where the initial ‘short and flat’ 2 laps included a 13% climb (super flat haha!). The following 5 laps were an 18km circuit that included 2 longer climbs as well as the earlier one. Lining up on the start line was the most intimidated I’ve been to say the least; we were accompanied by FDJ, Jayco, UAE, AG Insurance Soudal NXTG, Arkea, Canyon Sram and other notable continental teams.

Unfortunately, my race ended very early on from a crash in the wheels in front of me. We were travelling at speeds higher than 50kmh along the flats prior and subsequently had nowhere to go to avoid people front flipping in front of me. I surprisingly have pulled up with very minimal road rash but badly bruised hips and tailbone, and a dash of whiplash after a head knock. I was able to continue riding until being pulled while concluding the third lap. Unfortunate circumstances for my Euro debut but welcome to racing! I am super excited to build towards my next races and keep this space updated.

Part Two 11th May 2024

After crashing out of Grand Prix Féminin de Chambéry on a Sunday, I had to have a speedy recovery to be ready for racing to resume the next Friday. Thankfully both my whiplash and bruising faded rather quickly, being back on the bike after two days!

Our next race was Giro Del Mediterraneo in Rosa, this was a 5-day UCI 2.2 tour, that was the most challenging race i’ve done both mentally and physically. Each stage was 100-120km with relentless climbs and descents. Day 1 and 2 provided difficult racing conditions with cold almost torrential rain, resulting in an insane number of crashes. This race was situated in Southern Italy which is regarded as a lower socioeconomic area, where most of the cars are less efficient and release more oil and grime onto the roads. To add to this, the roads hadn’t seen rain in many months - so to say they were slippery was an understatement. On both of these days I would have passed over 20 girls who crashed on their own accord descending, not even a bunch crash! On multiple hairpins my back wheel was next to me from the inevitable skidding. Despite being terrifying, it was awesome to finish these two stages!

Stage 3 provided nothing for me to write home about, as it was more of a flatter transition stage. The final two stages were the hardest days I’ve ever had on a bike, Stage 4 consisted of a circuit around an 8km climb (so practically 3 x 20min FTP tests).

Stage 5 was another circuit through a wind farm and 12km climb to complete three times. Both of these days I was able to make the select front group during the first climbs, where the bunch was reduced from over 100 riders to less than 40. I finished both these stages in good company surrounded by multiple UAE devo riders and other notable continental teams, so safe to say I’m proud of my performance.

Finishing Giro Del Mediterraneo feels like the biggest achievement in my cycling career and provided the most testing moments of my life.

Then despite being shells of humans after this - we concluded the racing week with GP Liberazione 1.1 in Rome. This was a criterium/kermesse styled race with a 5km highly technical circuit that included 3 U-turns along with many other tight bends and road furniture. I started this race unbelievably sore and mentally exhausted but keen nonetheless, unfortunately I was caught behind a large crash very early on. Thankfully stayed rubber side up but lost contact with the bunch after.

Since concluding both these UCI races I have been back training and content with the progress being made, ready to rip into some more racing!

Part 3
After arriving home from GP Liberazione 1.1 in Rome, I had two weeks to both recover from the previous tour and get primed for more racing. Two weeks later we arrived in Porto Sant’Elpidio for ASD GC Tutti Campioni, this time we were greeted by beautiful coastlines and blue water. Prior to the race start we drove the course and had some very nervous commentary in the van. To our surprise – the gravel sectors we were warned about were both a -15% descent and someone’s driveway that only had two possible lines. This first sector was a mere 2km into the race, I unfortunately found myself on the rear end of the bunch approaching this. As expected, there was a pile up on this gravel driveway and I had to resort to some CX skills across the local’s farm to keep moving. After making it back onto the tarmac, the front group was already ascending the first climb about 300m up the road.

The next 5 minutes I spent chasing up climbs in attempt to make contact, upon cresting the main climb I was 20m off the tail end of the select group. Unfortunately, I lost further contact during the steep gravel descent (not quite as fearless as the Italians). For the remaining laps I was solo between the front and second bunch of girls, before being pulled with 1 lap to go. I am still annoyed about being pulled – being less than 2 minutes down. To my surprise, they only allowed 30 or so girls to finish this race out of the 140 starters.

The next day we raced Club Corridonia, where we had our largest peloton yet – 178 riders! This race began with 4 laps of a flat 8km circuit before ascending two laps of a 3km climb. During the flat laps I was keeping safe in the bunch and taking on my nutrition. When we hit the first climb, I was further back than I would have liked, having to climb past most the bunch. I managed to crest the climb in the second group of 7 riders, having 10 or so slightly  further up the road. During the flat section and descent, we reconnected with this group before ascending the final climb. The pace slowed in the initial 2km of the climb before the attacks in the final 1km; my legs felt good and I was able to finish as 10 th elite, finally getting my name printed on a results sheet!

Next up was Tour de Feminin, located in Czech Republic, had been classed as the ‘goal race’ for almost every rider in the team. Despite this, we departed Illasi with only 4 riders, due to sickness and injuries from nasty crashes. The 15-hour drive was rude on the body, but it was incredibly scenic through both Austria and Germany. We arrived at our accommodation very late and got straight to bed before stage 1.

The tour began with a 12km individual time trial, which was far from flat. There were several steep climbs, descents and sharp corners to keep it interesting. To my surprise, I was very pleased with my effort, finishing 61 st against a stacked field on time trial setups. Although finishing quite far down to the AG Insurance Soudal – Quickstep girls, I still felt as though I was strong enough the contest in the remaining stages. 

Stage 2 provided us with a storm that lasted the first hour of the race. This was some of the heaviest rain I’d ridden in, and this resulted me in being dropped on the descent a mere 3km into the race… I spent the next 40kms chasing through the convoy and dropping riders before reconnecting with the front bunch. By the time I made contact – it was reduced to about 60 riders, where I felt much safer. After wasting so much energy early on in the stage, I got dropped on the final GPM climb, joining the second group on the road. I finished this stage in 37th place, which I was rather pleased with. 

Stage 3... was insane. We began with a lovely day in the sunshine but were eventually
greeted by a hailstorm. Visibility was reduced to almost nothing, even without glasses, causing many crashes into barriers and bushes. The roads began to flood, with mud and
gravel running across the roads from the surrounding hills. Despite this – the race went on! I would be unplaying it by saying I was terrified, so I spent the remaining wet and dark kilometres at the rear end of the bunch. My goal was to stay upright and finish without losing time in the sketchy cobbled sprint, which I successfully achieved. 

Stage 4, the queen stage that contained over 2,100m of climbing and 12 GPM climbs. This was my hardest day on the bike yet (seems like I’ve had lots of those here). Each climb was full gas and I managed to grit my teeth and crest them in the front bunch 10 out of 12 times.For the second last GPM I re-made contact with the reduced front bunch whilst descending. The final climb was 1.5km in length, about 3km from the finish, before a fast descent back into the town. The field blew to pieces over this climb with everyone trying to establish a gap, my legs were riddled with cramps but I hung onto 30 th only 45seconds down from Julia Kopecky of AG. I finished exhausted knowing I’d given it my all. I’m proud of my performance despite the placing not sounding too high. 

This rounded out the camp with a high, as I could finally see large improvements both within the bunch and my results. After being home for 3 weeks, I have become even more grateful for this opportunity and experience. I have developed immensely, both as a person and cyclist; somehow, I am noticeably less timid and shy, which I’m grateful for. I cannot thank Four PL and Women’s Cycling Project enough for helping me achieve this! And I hope it has been interesting to follow along with my experiences.