I went out to Strath Creek today to photograph the Preston Mountain Classic.A chilly winter's day which produced some nice light .Check out the Image Gallery.
The past weekend saw the hotly contested Wang. CC 2 day tour featuring 4 stages of racing.The A Grade field was seriously strong with many competitors with National Road Series credentials.As I race C Grade my blog will mainly cover our race.
I also really appreciate Steve and Helen Bean from the infamous "Captain's Crew for making the effort in coming up from Melbourne,as did many others,to attend the weekends racing.Steve won just about everything in D Grade so looked pretty pleased with himself on Sunday arvo.
Stage 1.Road race over 52km depending on your Grade.
Stage 2.14km Individual Time Trial
Stage 3. 25km road race with a hill top finnish.
Stage 4. Kermesse over a 6km course.2-6 laps depending on Grade.
A chilly morning greeted us in Wangaratta as we rolled up to register around 9am.I was in C Grade and checking through the field I recognised many of the names and new it would be a competitive weekend ahead.
C GRADE FIELD
Zane Douglas, Wayne Reid,Dr.Gav(Gavin Frawley),Geoff Morley,Geoff Damm,Aaron Smith,Tony Reeckman,Mick Carmellotti Andrew Doyle,Michael Stringer U17,Thomas Slingsby U17,Stephen Damm U17,Gifford Crosswaithe, Stephen Field
I've had many a good tussle with Dr.Gav, and knew this weekend would be no exception,with the other strong riders in the field any victories would be hard earned.We rolled off somewhere around 10.30am for the first stage, which is the Under 17 Road Race course.This meant 2 climbs over Taminick Gap, which would help sort out who made the finish for the sprint.For the first few km's there were a few attacks but everything was chased down.As usual I messed up the intermediate sprint and with generous bonus points on offer, these are important.Managing to stick with the first 6 over Taminick the first time, the race was on.We rolled turns most of the second lap to ensure we stayed away,the 6 of us got over the gap again for the second time together.Knowing sprinting is not my strongest point I was wondering if I could get away solo.First attack turning into Warby Range road, unsuccessful,hit them again on the run down Shanley St,gap opened maybe 30metres but I was again closed down.Ended up finishing 6th for the stage as the last attack had hurt.
Would be a 14km Individual Time Trial with no time bonuses,a race against the clock.Pure and simple,no hiding.I love them in a weird love /hate kind of way.They hurt big time and you have to look deep inside yourself and be prepared to suffer the whole way.In some way I reckon it's a spiritual experience and I always get very anxious before the start of a TT.
Rolling off at 1min. intervals we were underway around 2.30.Remembering the golden rule of the ITT,dont start to hard,dont start to hard,dont start to hard I tried to keep the excitement under control until the Warby Range Road turn.Managed this partially well and was pretty well at full effort by the first turn.Passed my minute man before the first turnaround and pushed hard into the head wind.Rounding the first turn around I was in too big a gear and laboured a little to build up speed(mental not,dont do this at next one) coming back along Warby Range road the pace was much quicker with a tail wind helping matters.Passed another rider,good.Head down passing Shanley St and next second I'm off the road in the gravel,shit,that's not in the race plan.Hold on and slowly look to get back onto the black top.Relief, I'm still upright,put that out of the mind and keep pushing.Around the next TA point in a better gear and back up to speed.Rounding Shanley St corner managed to pass another rider from my grade and all out for the run to the finish.Trying to hold top gear the legs were burning.Finish,relief.
Official time 22min 42secs and first on the stage by 54 seconds from DR.Gav and Gifford Crosswaithe a further second back in 3rd.
I had the big guns from "Team Kosdown" staying with me over the weekend,so we had a great evening on Saturday eating home cooked lasagne and toasting a few marshmellows on the open fire.The big Lama can toast a wicked marshmellow( and is also especially handy on a TT bike blitzing a star studded A Grade field in their TT).
Sunday's weather forecast was not promising with showers predicted for Sunday afternoon,after checking the BOM radar upon waking,a band of showers was just to the east.
A 25km hill climb.After the ITT I'd managed to be leading the GC for C Grade by 20 secs on who else, but my favourite nemesis,Dr. Gav.Time to play the game.I glued myself to his wheel and didn't go to the front once.This caused the reaction from some in our group.I heard"you should be up front protecting your lead","the way you can TT why are you not driving the pace?" Well the answer to that was,"there is a hill to climb at the end and I'm planning to go up it as fast as possible". Intermediate sprint came and the points were won by others is the bunch with myself and Gav getting none.Suits me fine.
All together at the base of the climb and this is it.We had 2 under 17 riders in our bunch and boy could they climb.They took off like scolded cats leaving us mature aged gentlemen gasping.Me and the Dr. going head to head for the minor placings.
Now at this point I must digress.Back prior to the start I noticed Jake Morgan and Ash Baines looking on.So I wandered over to say g'day to these likeable fellows.Their instructions"after the last left hander on the climb,hit it in the big ring,nobody will be able to go with you"I'd been chewing this tactic over all race and had decided to give it a go.
With the 2 under 17's up the road it was also important not to lose too much time as one of them was not to far back from Dr Gav on GC.So with this is mind as we rounded the left hander I applied the required pressure with the left index finger to shift the chain into the 54.This is gonna hurt.Out of the saddle and go for the finish about 350metres away.Dr Gav is holding,we are side by side,another 100m passes in slow motion,I have half a wheel,another 50m the doc is gone and I'm looking at third.It's hurting now and I'm not sure if I can make it in this big gear.No negative thoughts, c'mon of course you can it's not much longer, 200m,100m finally the top, 3rd,happy,stuffed.
The Kermesse,4 laps,24km.I have a 20 second lead in GC to Thomas Slingsby,one of the U17's,and Dr. Gav another 11 seconds back.We roll off a little early it seems and Dr. Gav is not on the start line.Bugger,he has missed the start. My plan is to stick on young Slingsby's wheel and not let him get any time.With sprint bonus points on offer at the intermediate sprint and the finish he could still win the race for GC.His young friend Michael Stringer road a gutsy race pulling some big turns on the front helping close down any breaks.I had others to watch my back too shall we say, and had also been offered good advice from my more experienced riding friends.Also Dr Gav had turned up and was allowed to join the race after one lap. Young Slingsby won the intermediate sprint and I could do nothing about it,wow,that boy can ride.He picked up 10 seconds so had narrowed the gap by half.After the intermediate sprint Mick Carmelotti went up the road which was fine by me,he was no threat to GC and I would be more than happy for him to win the stage and get the 20 second bonus for the win.It was up to the younguns to chase and the efforts of Michael Stringer were nothing short of outstanding.However when he took off again and his young team mate failed to go with him this also was good for me.All I had to do was sit on and not let the others get to far up the road.When Geoff Damm took off from the bunch this was also great for me,I expected my young counterpart to go with him, but it never eventuated.Along the back straight of the final lap Dr. Gav's bike started to make some unusual noises and it appeared he was in trouble.By this time I had ridden to the front as I wanted to asses the lead of the 3 riders up the road.Making a quick calculation, they had about 13 seconds, all I had to do was make the finish line with the others and the GC was safe.Rounding the final bend the group go a little ugly and I bumped another rider pretty heavily but we managed to stay upright,not to stressful but you never know what can happen until you cross the finish line.
The weekend was a great success for me personally and the Wangaratta Cycling Club ran another wonderful event. I heard nothing but praise from fellow riders who attended the weekend with many talking about next year's race already.
You can also check out Wangaratta Cycling Club's facebook page for more.
Shane Miller also has a write up of his experience in our neck of the woods here
Shane is Australian Masters 1 ITT Champion and races at plenty of events.
"From the secretary Paul Lane who should also be thanked".
THANK YOU : John Myles, Rob Greenway (Mansfield) Dave Wohlers, Ros and Geoff Clarke, Suellen and Frank Loki, Maureen and Ian Bott, Meredith and Rosie Lane, Mal Kay, Bill McKay, Jim Samon, Fred Pane(Brunswick), Cathy Boal, Sarah & Dean McDonald, Graeme Rose, Jeff Little and anyone else that I didn't see or escaped my failing memory. Great team effort. Our Race Director was Frank Loki and our Commissionaire was Ian Bott. Top job by Both.
On Sunday I decided to head down to Warragul for the "Baw Baw Classic", which incorporates Victoria's Mountain Climbers Championships.The race is run by the Warragul Cycling Club over a tough undulating 103km course starting in Warragul and finishing on top of Mt Baw Baw,which in itself is a reasonable challenge,the final 6km averages at a 13% gradient and peaks at 21%.As I was already in Melbourne, having driven down Saturday, and there were two local riders,Matt Clark and James Boal competing in A Grade, it was the perfect opportunity to check out this prestigious event.The A Grade honour roll includes names such as David McKenzie,Simon Gerrans and Simon Clarke to name a few.
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.