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.