The first weekend in December saw the running of the Alpine Cycling Club's very popular and tough 3 stage race. The "Tour of Bright" has with no doubt become one of the most popular cycling races in Australia, selling out this year in about 30minutes flat online.If you weren't sitting at your computer when entries opened the odds are, you missed out.I've spoken to friends who've raced it 7 times in a row that told me you used to be able to decide 2 weeks before the race if you wanted to compete.
Not any more,the entries are capped at 550 riders across 9 grades.I raced my second Tour in the Masters 4/5 field of 70+ riders, which is about double the size field of the next biggest race I competed in this year.
I've got loads of stuff in there,it was all put to good use too.
Who thought up the idea of these seat post stickers? I made a mess of mine.
Stage 1. The Gaps Loop.
Climbs both Rosewhite Gap,at around 50km,then finished on top of Tawonga Gap for a total distance of 91km.Last year,2011, the pace was faster than I could cope with on Rosewhite Gap and this year I was nervous about what would happen when our group hit the climb.Saturday morning, as we rolled along the Ovens Valley Highway with the customary surging, as riders tried to get off the front and were consequently chased down again.I must admit to be feeling pretty comfortable and how easy the pace was.Enter Rosewhite Gap,bang,the hammer went down as our large peloton of riders splintered to pieces.Watching the strongest riders disappear from view, I found myself in the company of who else but Dr Gav from Wangaratta CC, and many others as we crested the Gap in the next main bunch of riders.This was a better result already than last year and as we flew down the descent our chasing group was growing as we collected more and more riders.Local Cobram legend,Ray Jarratt, was in the group too,Ray has ridden the Bright Tour many times.We probably had between 12 and 20 riders in total and it was quite a task getting the group to cooperate.Half of them need some schooling in the art of Handicap Racing to learn how to work as a group.A few would ride through too hard making the pace impossibly high to keep up with.So after doing a couple of turns on the front you would have to sit on and recover,then they wondered why you weren't helping.
Our group eventually caught the front bunch a few kilometres before the start of the final Tawonga Gap Climb.That was my goal for this stage, to at least start the final climb with the leaders.I hung on to Dr Gav's wheel for most of the climb,it was quite warm and very humid at this point and I was soaked in sweat as we ascended.I lost contact with Dr Gav with about 1.5km left in the stage and just rode the rest of the way as hard as I could.Wangaratta Cycling Club member Matt Clark, overtook me about 300 metres from the finish of the stage.I knew he was about to win the stage in A Grade and I was thrilled for him.He also managed some words of encouragement which lifted my spirits too.
I'd come in in 18th place for my grade which was great and much better than I'd expected.
Stage 2. 15.7km ITT.
There was plenty of time between getting back to Bright around noon and my TT start time of 5.03pm.Recovery drink first then into the icy waters of the Ovens River to cool down and soak the tired legs.Out of the river and some real food,check stage 1 results and change the timing transponder onto the Time Trial bike.Plenty of time for a stretch and rest before starting to warm up around 4pm.Using my stationary trainer outside in the humidity, I'm not sure if I've ever sweated so much in my life.When it came to putting on the skin suit I could hardly get it on.
I've ridden the course for the Time Trial several times in practice and this was really reassuring, knowing the road,where the rises were,where you could rest a little and where to go all out.I managed 23min 58sec which was a little slower than I'd done in practice but still ok.My "Wiggo" style side burns had kept me at 18th on GC after the ITT.
Jo Upton kindly sent me the image below to use in my blog. Please visit her website
where she has been busy editing and uploading photos of this years race.
Image courtesy of Jo Upton Photography.
The recovery in the Ovens River,very important,drinking a Yowie with Howie.
Stage 3 "Mt Hotham Ascent"
Sunday morning saw us race from Bright to the top of Mt Hotham.A distance of 56.5km,I had it in my head it was 52.5km so was far from impressed when my Garmin ticked over 52km and there was still a long way to go,4km at the end of Mt Hotham is a long way, let me assure you.
A small breakaway rode off the front of our group as the race got underway on the outskirts of Bright.I saw Ray Jarratt ride across to it and thought to myself,that's a good move.I decided to stick with the main peloton.We kept a good solid pace along the valley towards Harrietville with a pretty large group hitting the climb together.It kicks up quite sharply right at the beginning and stays that way for the first 500-800m where the gradient eases of to a more comfortable incline.About 20 riders had ridden away on this section and I was trailing them by about 50 metres.Some self urging and digging into the "suitcase" got me back onto their wheels.
Gradually riders found their own pace with some going ahead and others falling behind.Who should I find for company along this section?Dr Gav,my Wangaratta Clubmate,friend and someone I've had countless battles with on the bike over this year.
By about this time we arrived at "The Meg", a nasty little pinch that only lasts about 400metres, but feels incredibly steep.It's all you can do just to propel your bike forwards.Once you get past The Meg it's a few more kilometres before the road levels out to what's known as the false flat section.Here I found myself pretty much alone and put my head down and rode as strongly as I thought was sensible knowing what was to come.The last third of Mt Hotham is the toughest part of the climb.There are a few very steep sections,that when you're fatigued from the effort of the previous days racing,plus already having climbed around 20km.So arriving at the ticket box you know your about to enter "A world of Pain".During this roller coaster section of the mountain, I seemed to be overtaking plenty of riders from other grades but not so many from my own Masters 4/5.In fact,I felt like many Masters 4/5 riders were passing me.I really now wanted to keep my spot in the top 20 on GC, as this meant automatic qualification into next years event.When I finally crossed the finish line,exhausted and relieved, I was pretty concerned that my top 20 may be gone.
Kindly, Howie and his wife Bid had space for me in their car, which meant I didn't have to ride back to Bright.I can't begin to put into words just how good that felt.Also booting up Howies' iPad to check the race results, my GC place was number 20,you bloody beauty.Last year I'd finished 53rd in the same Grade so felt quite happy to have made up 33 places.
Many people are responsible for making "The Tour of Bright" a success and The Alpine Cycling Club and all the volunteers do a wonderful job.They have been always very welcoming and friendly at any event they run.
To finish I'd like to share a couple of paragraphs from an email I received yesterday.This was in response to a message I'd sent to a friend to find out why he hadn't ridden Stage 3.He was riding in my Grade and I was concerned about him when I saw DNF next to his name.
"I was a DNS on stage 3. I was pretty keen to have a crack, woke up Sunday
morning ready to go and happened to see the Cycling Victoria website that
outlined the entry criteria for next year. The fact that the first 20 in
each age group get auto entry next year and that the rest was open to
ballot gave me a clear indication that the event has become more for elite
riders, not riders like me.
That's fine, it should be for elite riders - not riders like me. I just
felt no longer welcome and that I didn't belong anymore. I didn't feel
like riding then and will not participate next year. I will go back to
Audax in January 2013 and focus on training for the Gran Fondo and Southern
Masters club rides. Cycling Victoria has a TT series that I might look into
as well. Maybe I belong somewhere else?"
His response put me in a reflective mood as to why I race my bike and what I want to get out of it.
Should/is "The Tour of Bright" for elite riders only? One of the things that attracted me to it
in the first place was that anybody who had a race licence could line up and have a go.
No doubt with more riders wanting to enter than places available they have no option than to
make changes to the entry system.It will be interesting to see how the race evolves over the next few years.
Below are some photos from the presentations and at the bottom the video highlights package that has been put together.
President of The Alpine Cycling Club and Race Director, Aaron Smith, addressing the crowd at presentations.
Local rider Matt Clark won the A Grade Men's race and surely has a bright future in cycling.
Friends and keen competitors Shane Miller and Stephen Lane finished 1st&2nd in Masters1 respectively.These guys are great supporters of country clubs and races.
After the presentations, the 2 of them were still at it. Shane gets the aero award but the race was a dead heat.
If your looking for something to do on a Monday evening, Alpine Cycling Club
may have your answer. Starting a couple of weeks ago and running through until the Tour of Bright in the first week of December.They're running a TT using the exact same course that is used for the Time Trial in Stage 2 of the Tour of Bright.The first rider starts at 6pm so get there in plenty of time to warm up and let them work out the starting order.
Warming up before the start of a Time Trial is very important.Dont forget all your fast bits.
A few of us went up from the Wangaratta Cycling Club on Monday for a hit out and I must admit I'd forgotten how tough the course is.The first hill after about 1.5 km is just long enough to really hurt as your already going close to maximum pace.I'd forgotten my cycling glasses and kept getting little insects in my eyes which wasn't ideal but a good lesson learnt.The results each week are posted on Alpine's Website here
James Boal from Wangaratta in action on the course.This photo is from last years Monday night Time Trials.
Of course for those into Strava there is a segment for the Bright TT course, which is pretty close to the actual Race Day course.I've included the Strava Segment below.To get on the first page you have to be pretty quick,I'm currently in 42nd place from 183 riders.
Apologies for my lack of blog entries of late but for some reason,there has been other things taking precedence. It's interesting writing a blog and sometimes getting stressed because you've not been posting anything, then wondering does anybody really care anyway?
I could probably write a novel on the last few weeks,but I will spare you from that, which included a trip to the Goulburn area to compete in the Australian Masters Time Trial Championships.Whilst reasonably pleased with my ride from a personal point of view there is plenty of work to be done if I'm going to be competitive at the pointy end of that competition. I placed 15th from the 23 riders who started in my category, Masters 4. Special thanks to Tully Lyster who was my travel companion and competed strongly to finish 6th in Masters 2.We also were given help and support by Shane Miller
,who blitzed Masters 1 and also claimed fastest time of the day,his Fiance Von Micich who finished 3rd in WMasters 1 and Stephen Lane
,2nd in Masters 1.
Returning from the Masters the dust had hardly settled and it was time to line up for the Keith Esson Memorial Road Race.This race is run by Shepparton Cycling Club
is 147km long, starting and finishing in Dookie.Riding well in the C Grade bunch I was involved in a crash on the second major climb and came down heavily on my LHS.I was pretty gutted afterwards and without the help of Laurie Lyster, who towed me most of the way back to Dookie I would probably have abandoned the race.
So last week I couldn't get interested in riding and decided, with the advice of others, to have a few days off the bike.
Coming into the weekend I could feel the urge to jump back into it and with the Tour of Bright
on the horizon,I didn't want to miss a weekends racing. On Saturday. the Wangaratta Cycling Club's Spring series continued and was a great hit out with 2 climbs over Taminick Gap.I was unable to sprint past Dr. Gav on the line and had to be content with second place in B Grade.
The back of my Hilux loaded with lots of gear for our Goulburn Trip.
(L-R) John Kent (A), Dave Webb (C), Seamus Lane (D), Gav Frawley (B)
Hume Veterans Handicap
This race was held over a course I'd never ridden and was basically 1 lap of a 44km circuit and then 1 lap of a 22 km circuit.Pretty much flat as a tack with the only incline the freeway overpass.Not my preferred terrain but you have to work with what your given.My bunch contained 3 other riders I'd ridden with before in handicaps and I knew we would have a good group.My group,Block,were given 5 minutes start on a well credentialled four man scratch group with 15 minutes to the middle markers and the two out marker groups, 20 and 27 minutes.
Before the completion of the large loop scratch has lost Grealy due to a mechanical which reduced their fire power but the group had reduced the 5 minutes deficit to just over 2.
My Block group managed to catch the 15 min group just nearing the end of the first lap, which increased our strength, but were still 8 minutes behind the leaders with just 22 kms to go.
Next to be caught, the 20 minutes group as they turned into Emu Bridge road, but scratch were making no impression on us now, with our reinforced strong, 11 man/woman bunch.
Turning back onto Kilfeera Road with 8 kms to the finish we were still 4 minutes down from the limit group and the race was really on, trying to hold scratch at bay and also catching the limit pair who were travelling strongly.
I put my head down and pulled some really solid turns along Kilfeera Road nearly popping myself in the process.I knew the pace had to be lifted if there was any chance of catching limit.We could see them in the distance but were starting to run out of road.
The freeway overpass is about 600 metres from the finish and it was just after this when limit succumbed and had to watch the race lead get snatched from them.I'd found myself on the front with around 300 metres left in the race with no other choice than to lead out the sprint.At around 150m to go I hit out for the line with every ounce of energy that was left in my body, expecting to be swamped on the line by the following riders.It seemed to take an eternity to ride that last 50 metres and Dr Gav came through right on the line.Neither of us could be sure of the verdict, with the line judges initially giving Dr Gav the victory.However the camera revealed that it was 15 cms that separated us and getting the judges verdict was me with Morley a bike length back for 3rd in one the most trilling sprint finishes the Club has seen for a while. Strang sprinted in well for 4th just ahead of Davison with limit man Lea home in 6th place and the other limit rider Cathie held on for 8th spot.
Scratch, who’s firepower was reduced still did exceptionally well but didn’t make any more ground on the eventual winning group in the last 12 kms finishing just on 2 minutes down with visiting Northern Vets rider Simon Welsh (Team Kosdown) taking out the Fastest Time honours at an average speed just under 40kph.
A photo of the photo finish.
L-R.Ian Strang 4th.Gavin Frawley 2nd,Geoff Morley 3rd,Myself,Graham Davison 5th and Simon Welsh Fastest Time
This just came in from the Alpine Cycling Club this afternoon. I spotted a couple of locals in there and it made me pretty excited about the 2012 edition. Right now I feel like some motivation is needed, hopefully this will do the trick.We are so lucky this excellent event is held right on our doorstep.
It appears that after the Tour of Bright I am suffering from some form of riding hangover. Talk of the Audax Alpine Classic 200km makes me feel like going on a cruise or the thought of riding 3 hill repeats of Mt Donna Buang with some of the captains crew, had me heading for the flat,busy and over lycra'd Beach Road with another few members of the crew who didn't want to go climbing either. For a country boy who rides mainly on deserted country roads I would suggest Beach Road is the exact opposite of my regular riding experience.It's certainly nice to have some company and to check out so many cyclists on the one road outside of an organised event,this surely must be a very unique experience anywhere in the world. For me it's nice to visit and have the experience but I'm glad it's not my usual training ground as it's far to busy for me and a little dangerous I reckon. It would be pretty easy to get taken out by inexperienced riders from what I saw not to mention cars flying past your right leg. I must confess to being pretty happy with all the options for a coffee and I had to venture in to the famous Cafe Racer just to soak up a little of the Urban Cycling scene. Not much different to home really but multiply the riders by a few thousand and the bling factor too.
In the afternoon I had the chance to venture into DISC
to have a look at some Junior racing where a couple of local lads from Wangaratta were competing. I had a chat with Dean McDonald who filled me in on some of he rules and how things worked. Dean's son Thomas was racing as well as Tomarsh Loki from Wangaratta whom I have often raced with on the road.I had never been to a Velodrome before and found it very interesting. The steepness of the banks at each end of the track are what really stood out for me. I would love to have a ride on the timber track to feel what it's like. I don't think track racing is something I want to do myself but certainly from a spectators point of view it is very exciting. I'll add a few of the images I took below.The other exciting news is that my 2012 Cycling Photography Calendar
has been sent out by courier from the printers on Friday so should be arriving in Wangaratta early next week. Already more than half of the Calendars have been sold so I'm hoping I have enough for everyone who is yet to purchase one. They will be available to purchase at West End Bike Hub
as well as directly from me.
Tomarsh Loki in action
Thomas McDonald at the start of a handicap race
The Home of Cycling Victoria
My 2012 Cycling Photography Calendar is currently being printed and should be available very soon. I have been promised they will be available before christmas so I have added a shopping cart to the home page as well as to the 2012 Cycling Calendar Gallery
so they can be purchased online for $27 which includes postage within Australia. I will be able to deliver them locally for free so the cost without postage is $20 so you can contact me via email
to organise this.Below is an image of the front cover of the Calendar. I really have not printed very many and expect them to sell out pretty quickly. I will be able to get more printed but that would likely be after Christmas.
Friday night was registration time.
Wes pins on his race number. No turing back now.
Bikes fitted with race numbers and transponders.
The Tour of Bright one of Australia's biggest and best cycling races was held over the weekend. It was my first attempt at the race after spending the 2010 version photographing the action.There was a large contingent of local riders competing and it felt a little like an extended family as we all checked each others progress on the excellent results website which updated the moment you crossed the line. You can view the results website here.
Stage 1 on Saturday morning saw my group of Masters 4/5 start last at 8.45am and I had been awake for hours raring to go. After deciding to drive out to the base of Tawonga Gap and ride into Bright as a warm up. I figured after the stage I could save myself the 10 km ride into town.For the 90km stage I had some company in my group with Gavin Frawley,Stephen Fields,Ray Jarratt who had all raced the TOB before and Tony Barton who was like me a first timer. The highlight of the stage was flying down the Ovens Valley in a big peloton and feeling like you were almost a pro at speeds up to 50kmh. The lowlight was getting dropped by the main bunch up the Rosewhite climb. That being said I wasn't the only one and forged a small working group of around 8 to ride to the bottom of Tawonga Gap. Just after starting the climb the A grade bunch motored past like we were standing still. I did the climb in around 33 mins and was greeted at the top by several local riders waiting at the finish line.
Stage 2 on Saturday afternoon was a 16km time trial which is 8km out the Wandiligong Rd and the turning around and riding 8km back. My start time was 16.48 precisely. Riders start every 20 seconds and you even get to roll down a proper starting ramp . The out leg is a gradual climb up the valley punctuated by a couple of small hills particularly the first one which takes the wind out of your sails. I had a decent ride and came in just under 26 mins which was a little slower than I'd done the course in practice but after stage 1 in the morning I could live with that.
Stage 3 on Sunday morning was The Queen stage from Bright to the top of Mt Hotham. Due to pretty bad weather on the top third of Mt Hotham the race organisers made the decision to end the race and the end of the false flat near the ticket box about 10km short of the summit. My bunch was still together at Harrietville after all the breaks were kept well under control, but as we rounded the first hairpin the sounds of chains being shifted up cassettes into easier gears for climbing could be heard reverberating throughout the peloton. The first part of the climb is really tough and any disappointment felt from not being able to finish at the top quickly evaporated into relief. After the initial pinch it settles down for quite a while until the Meg which is a real gut buster section albiet quite short but enough to make the legs hurt and the heart rate climb skywards just to maintain forward momentum. After a few more kilometers of 5-6 percent gradient the road levels out to around 2-3 percent for around 10km and in this case the end of the race. It was great to be cheered on at the end by the local riders and their families who had made the journey up to watch the finish of the race.
It's been fantastic to have had support and encouragement from heaps of people. All the local riders who have had to put up with me asking endless questions about racing and gear etc. The health professionals who looked after my injuries when about 2 weeks out from the race I thought I would not be competing. Also the help of all the volunteers that make events like these possible and the Alpine Cycling Club for putting the race on.For the record I finished 53 rd out of about 70 riders in masters 4/5. As I sit here this morning typing my legs are sore and I'm feeling pretty stuffed but I reckon I'll be back again next year.
A few little anecdotes from the weekend.
Watching all the riders sizing each other up on our Friday afternoon ride around Bright.
Having a chat with Bridie O'Donnell at rider registration but at the time not being quite sure it was her.
Meeting Wade Wallace from the CyclingTips website in person after some of my photos from the Bright race last year were used in his race report.
The constant surging of a big peloton and the smell of burning carbon under heavy brakes.
When Wes said "you know when you think you might well be right on the back of the bunch but don't want to turn around and look just in case you are" and knowing exactly what he means.
Ashley Baines screaming out "Reeeeeckmaaaan" as he blasted down Hotham as I struggled up.
Shane Miller the leader of The Mount Buffalo Challenge saying he is not riding up Buffalo again on Monday.
Seeing some of the older guys in your group fly up the hills leaving you in their wake.
Watching Laurie Lyster climb onto the podium several times during presentations.
A classic shot of Wes at the end of stage 3 taken by his wife Kylie.
Bridie O'Donnell nears the end of stage 3
I reckon Larie Lyster on the right would have been exhausted from the number of times he climbed onto the podium at the presentations.
Last night I ventured up to Bright with my camera to see if I could get some decent photos of the Time Trial session being held on the Tour of Bright TT course. The Alpine Cycling Club run this every Monday night leading up to the Tour and post the results on their website here
. Below are some of the images from last night's event.
I may be going a little crazy making another cycling calendar after giving most of last years version away. But enough interest has been shown to inspire me to make a limited run for 2012. I'm certainly not doing it for any financial gain the truth is I really had fun making them last year and the feedback was great. So below are a few images under consideration for the new calendar.This time around it will be all local events and mainly local riders with the exception of a couple of shots from 2010 Tour of Bright.
Wangaratta scratch bunch on Boweya Road.
Dr. Gav zipping up for the photo at last years Tour of Bright
I think this is the A grade women's peloton as they round the Porpunkah roundabout Tour of Bright 2011
I've just been going through my photos on the computer and realised just how many get taken, looked at a couple of times and then left basically taking up hard drive space. With that thought in mind I've just added 111 images to a new gallery
of riders suffering up Mt Hotham in last year's Tour of Bright. I've entered the race this year and I'm not sure if looking at them was such a great idea.