Cycling: Lowe proves to be tour de force

Tauranga cyclist Courteney Lowe is back home for the summer after playing a starring role to help Team Optum win the American national cycling series for 2012.

Lowe is still coming to grips with the massive rise in her cycling stocks to the point where she is regarded as a first choice support rider needed to get the team's star riders home.

Her role is like a domestique in the Tour de France, where she does everything she can to get her top riders like Carmen Small and Jade Wilkinson over the line first.

"I am more of a hill climber and long distance rider, so I do road races and chase down attacks during the race and also make my own attacks and lead from the front early on," said Lowe.

Lowe was based in Asheville, North Carolina, and travelled all over America to compete in what is regarded as the second best cycling competition in the world outside of Europe.

"I loved the training there, and the climbing was incredible, which is what I like.

"The American competition is getting huge and they are bringing in riders from all over Europe to compete in it."

Working hard and pushing herself to the limits are fundamental to what she has achieved in such a short time as a professional rider, which began in 2011 with the Texas-based FCS Team.

It is just six years ago that she was first bitten by the biking bug, when she was a student at Otumoetai College, and now the golden glow of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and particularly the 2016 Olympics in Rio are driving her through the weekly pain barrier competing in the US.

What made it tougher for Lowe than any other rider was a debilitating leg problem which has seriously impaired her performances for nearly 18 months.

Her left leg used to get so painful during peak effort she had to use the right side only for periods.

She hoped the problem would go away and was told it could be an artery problem, which she chose to ignore.

"Surgery is a big deal so I didn't want that and it just stayed with me the whole year.

"It was really tough in time trials and criteriums where I was riding right-legged really.

"I got tested when I came home and it turns out it was an artery problem but totally fixable.

"They put a vein from my ankle into an artery in my hip in September and it was all successful.

"Five weeks off the bike and I feel I am almost back to normal speed."

Lowe is working on her strength and conditioning at Mount CrossFit, which she says is proving to be the best programme she has done.

"In the off-season you have to do a lot of weight strengthening, and I hate the gym. It's just not me.

"But at CrossFit it is like doing gym work with your heart rate up and it is addictive."

Lowe is grateful to the ongoing sponsorship of Tauranga company Craigs Investment Partners, who she says has made it possible for her to chase her pro career in the US.

"They started in 2011 to get me overseas for my first year, and that was important to see if I liked it and to show myself to the other riders.

"Then this year I joined Optum and it still costs a lot of money, even though you do get looked after really well.

"I am going away again next year and they are there with ongoing support. I wouldn't be where I am without their support, which has been amazing."

Lowe is not sure if she will compete in the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman but would love to do the bike leg for a corporate team, if anyone out there is interested.

The event is a week before the Elite National Road Champs on January 11 in Christchurch, which is an event she would love to win before she heads back to the States in mid-February.

Next year Lowe's Optum Team will go up a level to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) which means racing in Europe against the best teams in the world.

Not bad for someone who had never fancied cycling at all until one day she found her dad's old bike in the shed, took it out for a ride, and has never looked back since.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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