Spanish put to use on tour

By Jared Smith

Wanganui's international cyclist Hayley Giddens has found a use for the seventh form Spanish class she took six years ago.

The 23-year-old professional is heading back to America for the coming national racing circuit in March, but before that her life is about to get a lot more exotic.

Pumped through with various cocktails of vaccinations, Giddens is headed for one of the toughest vueltas (tours) in the world racing all around South America for 16 days with the new ISCorp Intelligentsia cycling team.

Her baptism begins with the five stage, four day, 334km UC12.2 Vuelta Internacional Femenina a Costa Rica on February 21.

We'll just call it the Tour de Costa Rica for ease of translation.

"They have the second biggest cycle race in the world every year," Giddens said yesterday on the eve of her departure.

Her young team is in their elite women's debut so there is no expectations other than giving their best, but Giddens' personal ambitions remain as focused as ever.

"In South America, it will be race, race, race.

"In America, there will be more training emphasis."

Giddens never slows down her return home on 'vacation' these past few months saw her win the Dave Logue Classic in Taumarunui, the Tour de Manawatu, and both the Dave Mitchell Cycling Challenge (track race) and the Round the Mountain race in New Plymouth.

In her hunt to one day enter the Olympics, Giddens relishes this coming chance to perform in a completely foreign culture where the climate, diet and communication barrier takes on a whole new level.

"I didn't expect it [growing up], but that's what I wanted.

"We've got a nutritionist for South America.

"I told her, 'I don't really eat anything that's really spicy food', so I will be losing weight."

And being a professional means she has to act as spokesperson for her team in explaining "racing with power meters" to the local cycling fraternity.

"I've got to learn all this stuff in Spanish. It started as a five minute speech, now it's a 30 minute lecture.

"I'm good at languages, but the accents are hard to understand.

"It's like the Bronx New York versus the Queen's English."

Maybe that determination is what always set Gidden's apart from her peers growing up at Wanganui High School.

Having been "training my arse off" for nearly 12 years, as cycling followed her career as a national-level track competitor, Giddens always knew there was more to it than just the Saturday morning cycle meets.

That's why, today, describing her upcoming jaunts through Costa Rica, El Salvador and San Salvador Juayua draws such wide-eyed expressions from her more causal-living mates.

"It's friendly jealously they're happy for me but jealous as well.

"But they forget, you're riding your bike 25 hours a week just to get to that lifestyle, it's not all fun.

"Gradually the pressure does increase, like 'we need to win this race, we need to secure sponsorship, we need to get our team mate to the front'."

Giddens will compete in five races during the South American tour three one day events ranging from 93-100km long plus the two big five day rides.

As well as Costa Rica, the Vuelta Ciclista a El Salvador will be seven stages, 563km.

It might make the United States season with its freeway car rides seem like a cake walk.

Then again, with races like Iowa's Snake Alley Criterium to look forward too complete with its 18m ascent up the 84m alley once named by Ripley's Believe It Or Not as the crookedest alley in the world who can say what's easy.

Giddens came sixth in that race last year, marked by the "captive fans" on the course who get into duelling chants over their favourites as they slog up the cobble stones.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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