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.
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.
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.
"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.