A strong field of 24 riders competed at Wangaratta yesterday and I was a corner marshall and also managed to sneak in a few photos.The Limit bunch were to strong on the day with the first 5 places going to that group. Peter Gottschling getting the win and Matt Clark (scratch) taking out fastest time.
Just released is the Wangaratta Cycling Club Autumn Series of Races.It looks excellent with a little bit of everything.Graded Scratch Races,a couple of big Handicap events and some ITT's.Not forgetting the excellent Club Tour on the first weekend of June.Come and join us for some hard racing with friendly competitors on quiet country roads.More details via Wangaratta Cycling Club's website.
I've been resisting writing anything about the Lance Armstrong saga,but on my recent training rides I can't get the story out of my head.So as an attempt to exorcise the demon from my head, I'm going to have my 2 bobs worth.
Many years ago I was heading to Tasmania for a couple of weeks, I'd be staying on my sister's fairly isolated farm in the Liffey Valley.I found myself in a book store in Melbourne looking for something to take with me to read.Picking up "It's Not About the Bike" I can remember thinking,"I've heard of this bloke,survived a pretty nasty dose of cancer and has won the Tour de France".At the time I had no interest in cycling as a sport, had only ever heard of the Tour de France,The Giro and our own Herald Sun Tour.
The book was an excellent read and I couldn't put it down,staying up till all hours and had it finished in a couple of days,bugger,what am I going to read for the rest of my stay.
So when the TDF rolled around that year it was time to tune in and see how Lance was going,I don't exactly remember the year but he's already won the race a few times.Reading this book got me interested in watching the TDF,before I would have changed channels to avoid it. L.A. owned the TDF,or thats the way it seemed to me.He had this awesome team who completely dominated proceedings.I cheered for Lance to win and thats what he did.I watched the TDF every year after that and was really disappointed when he retired.
Fast forward on a few years, after becoming frustrated with golf one of my friends suggested cycling. My first outing was quite memorable,it was hot and I was in Melbourne and we'd gone to the Kew Boulevard early in the morning.My bike was an old Malvern Star purchased brand new in the mid 80's.I was hopeless,getting passed on the hills by everyone.I smashed myself but went nowhere fast and had to lie down for about 2 hours afterward as I wasn't feeling very well.
That first experience seemed to spur me on and I've been riding now for about 4 years.The last 2 pinning a race number on quite regularly with the Wangaratta Cycling Club and the Hume Veterans CC.The more I started to mix with other cyclists,some who've been involved in the sport for many many years,I started to hear the doping stories about LA.What I also noticed was some people particularly seemed to really dislike Armstrong, whilst others worshipped him.I was probably in the camp of worshipper until about 12 months ago.Slowly more and more doping allegations against LA were surfacing and I couldn't help but think,maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.
Further on down the track and I'm not going into the whole series of events,most people know this stuff anyway.The USADA reasoned decision pretty much was the final nail in the coffin of the LA fairy tail.
Now we've had the Oprah interview and heard it from the man himself that he cheated in every one of his TDF victories,using performance enhancing drugs,transfusions etc.
The fact that he used banned drugs and transfusions is somehow not that big of a deal as it seems most TDF contenders were also doing the same thing.Of course I believe it's wrong and I'm very disappointed that I believed in something that turned out to be bull shit.And I probably feel quite foolish as in the past I'd backed Lance 100%.
The worse part is the way he treated the people who were bold enough to speak out.Even suing newspapers and ruining peoples lives when all along they were telling the truth.It's hard to reconcile this in my mind as here is a man who survived cancer (my sister in Tasmania is a Doctor and when I read to her how bad he had cancer,her comments were "it's a miracle he survived") and set up the Livestrong foundation helping raise awareness of cancer on a global scale.So it seems he has empathy for his fellow human beings so how could he be such an arsehole?
I'm not sure if I'd be riding my bike it it wasn't for Lance,nobody can answer that,not even me.My curiosity in the sport was certainly piqued by the reading of "It's not about the Bike".Maybe if golf hadn't been so frustrating I'd still be out there smashing that little white ball up the fairway (or in my case usually in the rough).My friends may have had more to do with actually getting me involved in riding and racing.I've done several things I swore black and blue I'd never do.Wearing Lycra,buying the latest carbon bling and last but not least shaving my legs,(when I read that I still wonder how it's come to this) :)
By nature I'm a pretty forgiving person and I also am a believer in what is good about the human spirit.Everyone on earth deserves the opportunity to redeem themselves from past wrongdoings.For me I still think of Armstrong as an amazing cyclist and I'm not sure about his 7 TDF victories,mainly because they didn't or couldn't award then to anybody else as most of the contenders appeared to have been doping also.
History will tell us how he'll be remembered.He made some big claims that the rest of his life will be spent trying to repair the damage he has done to the sport and the many people that got in his way.There is no doubt he is a powerful character and should he choose to embrace his own sentiments then hopefully we'll see some good come out of this tale of deception.
For me now when I roll out in the morning on a 3 hour solo ride in quiet Australian countryside I'm hoping there are better things occupying my thoughts than this sorry tale.I love to ride and would be lost without it now.I love the sport and want to believe in the current crop of amazing athletes.Past dopers should be encouraged to speak out not kicked out of the sport.Let them help by giving them the chance to own their past and not be fearful about losing what they love.
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.
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.
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.
A BBQ was a fitting way to wind up the Wangaratta Cycling Club's spring series of races.A couple of beers and some snags and burgers went down a treat after a hard fought series of races.Generous prize money was donated by McDonald O'Brien with $500 going to the overall winner, Seamus Lane with 25 points.John Kent from Alpine Cycling Club was 2nd and made the races very hard always attacking.Myself and Dr Gav were tied on points for 3rd but Gav had more wins than me so got 3rd on a count back.5th went to Michal Trnka from Mt Beauty in his first year of racing.
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.
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
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.
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.
Last weekend's racing was the second weekend with back to back racing. Wang CC club race on Saturday and then a drive over to Eildon for the Damian McDonald Memorial which was held on Sunday.I would be racing in C Grade which would also incorporate the woman's A Grade in the same bunch.After the Wangaratta Club Race I drove over to Eildon where I'd booked accommodation at the Golden Trout Hotel which was one of the race sponsors.
There was just enough light left in the day for a drive down Skyline Road which would be the major climb of the race and more than likely where the major action would start.The KOM sign was just being erected so I made some mental notes on it's unusual position.1.5km after the main climb finished was what my speedo showed and almost on a downhill section.
The start time for our bunch was just after 10 am and me being an early riser there was heaps of time to get organised. We would have around 10 C Graders and 5 Women in their A Grade race.Everything seemed very well organised and I'm pretty sure everyone started on time.There were a couple of Wangaratta riders in my group,Chris Howard and Trent Hyde, also included,Thomas Slingsby and Michael Stringer, a couple of young 17 year olds whom I raced against earlier in the year at the Wangaratta club tour.
Our race began with a 25 km circuit of what's known as the Pondage Loop which is largely flat with some very gentle undulations, but nothing that would create any selections in the race.There were a few attacks but nothing that looked likely to succeed.Eventual race winner William Key had several attempts to get away including riding off the front of the bunch at the start.
That would all change however when we hit the Skyline Road climb.
Four of the C Grade bunch,Key,Slingsby,Stringer,Hyde, and Amy Bradley from the women's A Grade group, managed to gap the rest of us initially, but after delving into the "suitcase of courage" 3 more of us,Howard,Everard and myself managed to ride across and make contact with the front group about two thirds of the way up the climb.The further the climb went the better I felt and we all crested the major part of the climb in our small group.There was no sign of other riders behind us and knowing where the KOM point was I put the hammer down.After a glance over the shoulder, and seeing only empty road, gave encouragement that I may be able to get the KOM for our group.I was disappointed when passing the KOM sign there was nobody there so my attack had been for nothing but it felt good.
At this point the decent had started and I love descending,it takes me back to the days of riding my 1982 900SS Ducati in the mountains around Bright.I could sense another rider on my shoulder, so without really thinking about it tried picking the best lines and keeping off the brakes as much as possible.It was great fun and I only wish I knew the road better so as to be able to really lay into the corners.By the time we reached the bottom I was alone again but was soon joined by Slingsby and Stringer.Our little trio rolled a few turns together but were eventually joined by the balance of our climbing group minus Chris Howard.Bugger,Howie is a good friend and I hadn't given any thought to the fact descending is not his strong point.Talking with him after the race, he had to come to a virtual standstill on the descent, trying to avoid another rider who had taken the wrong line into a corner.As he's quite experienced and we'd of had our 3 Wang riders in the bunch that would of been handy.
This was not to be however,with our group riding strongly into a head wind there was nothing to do but keep rolling turns.
After the climb, it's around another 40 km until the finish and our group worked pretty well for most of it.The young riders were pulling through pretty hard causing the bunch to surge which made it tough at times.I ended up saying to young Key that if he wanted me to come around him at the front then not to pull through so hard.This helped, and made life easier for me at least.We had one rider sitting on the back of the group, not contributing, which was a little concerning but I wasn't about to make a big deal out of it.That pretty much remained the Status Quo for the remainder of the race.There was a little excitement when my rear derailleur and somebodies front wheel came together in a hell of a clatter which apparently nearly caused a fall.I didn't position myself well near the finish and was caught behind at the roundabout which is around 300metres from the finish.Not that it would of made that much difference as the young trio bolted to take the first 3 places.Replaying the finale in my head the only way I could have made a difference is to have tried to attack with about 1km to go and hit the roundabout first.But it had been a tough race and after Saturdays club event I didn't have the legs anyway.The young riders deserved their results and all have a bright cycling future ahead of them.Amy Bradley came in with us in the front group so taking out the Women's A Grade race.
Men's C grade
1. 52 KEY, WILLIAM1:59:001:59:00Ballarat/Sebastopol C C
2. 53 SLINGSBY, THOMAS1:59:00stPreston Cycling Club Inc
3. 51 STRINGER, MICHAEL1:59:00stBlackburn Cycling Club Inc
4. 84 HYDE, TRENTON1:59:00stWangaratta Cycling Club Inc
5. 57 REECKMAN,ANTHONY1:59:00stWangaratta Cycling Club Inc
6. 56 EVERARD, CRAIG1:59:00stBlackburn Cycling Club Inc
7. 55 WEBBER, VAUGHAN2:04:455:44Blackburn Cycling Club Inc
8. 29 HOWARD, CHRIS2:04:485:47Wangaratta Cycling Club Inc
9. 54 O'SULLIVAN, CRAIG2:06:307:29Blackburn Cycling Club Inc
10. 28 JEHU, NICHOLAS2:09:3810:37Wellington CC
11.50 WOODING DREW2:21:0622:06Blackburn Cycling Club Inc
Full results here.
Read about Damian McDonald here.
Thanks to the Blackburn Cycling Club for organising the event and all the helpers and volunteers who make these events possible.
Also the Wangaratta Cycling Club had a large involvement in the day bringing Damian's Race(Under 17 men) across from Wangaratta.
Racing has returned to the Wangaratta Cycling Club and this weekend sees the first race for points that will count for the
McDonald O’Brien sponsored WCC Spring Series Aggregate 2012
$1500 Series Prize money –
1st -$500, 2nd -$300, 3rd - $200, 4th- $100, 5th - $100
+ $100 for first unplaced rider in each grade
Graded Scratch Races – A, B, C, D