Race reports often get out of hand, so here's a short summary of the weekend probably missing heaps of stuff.
Stage 1 – The Time Trial (TT)
An intense atmosphere, heaps of equipment, lots of wind cheating, and lots of riders. TT bikes are pretty much the standard. The TT was on a short 13km course with a formidable hill around the halfway point. For myself this was probably going to be my strongest event, being a bit on the heavy side and what I had spent the most time training for. Fortunately Kelly Linden leant me her TT bike, and Maddy Wright lent me the super fast wheels you see pictured. Actually pretty much everything I had was borrowed. My TT went pretty well, finishing 31st in my grade, however I wasn't completely satisfied with it because, I guess, you always want to go faster. Reflecting I think I rode the first section out to the roundabout too fast (I mean hard, you can never ride too fast!) with the speedo at times sitting on 50km/h, but you can't help get excited I suppose, it's the Tour of Bright!
Stage 2 – The Gaps Loop - 90km.
I can never understand the Tour of Bright. The bunch rolls along at 40km/h+ and I sit there thinking, who the hell is doing all this work and why? It's like sitting on the back of a Tuesday night ride for 80kms with steep hills thrown in. I had my plan for the day, save everything for the 20 minute+ effort up Tawonga gap. Rosewhite was the first real test of the day. This year Rosewhite seemed a lot flatter than previous years, I think we just hit it that hard that you didn't notice the hill as much and were able to get some draft. Even on Rosewhite, plenty of people were happy to set the tempo for the bunch.
We made our way across the rolling flat on our way towards Tawonga, again, the bunch quite content to sit on 40km/h. The bunch was extremely tense, we knew what was coming, a few near misses and dodgy maneuvering did not helping things. We passed the sprint point in Tawonga which is always frantic because it's a downhill sprint at 70km/h. The bunch mostly together now. A final fight for position as we pass through the feed zone. We took the right hander, and the climb started. My legs were tired, but I kept reminding myself that everyone else’s legs are tired too! I forced myself to ride with the bunch for as long as I could. After a few km's though I had to let the bunch go, or more realistically, they dropped me. It started raining about halfway up Tawonga, but you really don't care at that stage, in fact it was actually kinda nice. I finished the stage midfield in 30th. To quote Nath Tooley from seeing me cross the line, You didn't look good, but you were going fast!
Stage 3 – Mt Hotham
Rumours were storms were coming and if they did, the Mount Hotham Stage would be shortened for safety. They weren't wrong! The storms and bad weather came and we got the news Sunday morning that the stage would be shortened. Everyone was REAL disappointed. Not really, I was actually really grateful. However, the shortened stage would make it a very intense one. Rain, stress and a lot of intensity in the bunch. The bunch didn't want to let anything go early on. Well actually they did, but then someone would chase it down really hard. A few times I dropped the wheel in front of me because the bunch was just going that hard. This was not a great sign, but I reminded myself that most people probably had bad legs too. Eventually just before Harrietville the bunch sat up completely and the break was up the road. The guy who was second on GC wasn't that happy though. He's like "uh, hey guys... That guy up the road won the stage yesterday". Everyone cracked up laughing because, well, we didn't care all that much. Nobody was interested in wasting energy before climbing Hotham. The guys 1st and 2nd on GC were forced to ride on the front of our bunch to limit losses, which was actually quite impressive. We rode through Harrietville, made the left hander onto the climb and it began! I expected a much more furious start to the climb than what we had. The fury came however a few k's up the road when the GC guys started digging in. You'd think drafting doesn't make much difference on such steep hills, but it really does. It might no longer be 30%, but potentially 10%, much less noticeable. I hung with the bunch until the Meg when, pretty much... yeah... I got dropped.
I was fortunate to find a few guys to work with on the way up. This is critical on Mount Hotham because there are some undulating sections half way up where you can really work together. Our little bunch actually turned into a bigish group with some absolute stompers in it! So strong I found myself only just hanging on. I knew however that if I got dropped, I'd lose minutes!
The 1km sign couldn't come quick enough! Our group pushed up the climb and finished roughly together. 35th On the final stage.
Stage 4- (The Secret Stage) - Now you won't find this stage on the program and if you ask the cyclists, they probably won't admit to it, but anyone who's ridden back from Harrietville to Bright after stage 3 knows what I'm talking about. It's kind of a secret shared between the bike riders who dare to make the venture... or just couldn't get a lift back. This stage can be one of the hardest because the legs are already smashed. The speed is often as fast if not faster than the racing. It's the last opportunity for people to show just how strong they are, and finally a chance for the riders on the heavier side to impress! Every year it seems this stage gets faster! Myself and Peachy found a good group to ride back with. We were flying back at probably 35km/h. Then a guy went flying past at well over 40km/h. My thoughts were that he was going close to 50km/h. Then another guy, then another, now we've got 3 guys chopping off just in front of us. So everyone in the bunch decides to jump on. It starts raining. We're now single file, can't see where we are going because the spray off the wheel in front, no brakes because it was so wet, completely saturated, sitting on what was a bunch of now 5 guys rolling through monster turns. Matt Tooley had left 5 minutes before us from Harrietville, we caught him just down the road, as we rolled past I yelled out to him Yeah buddyyyyyy! I was quite happy that we had caught the express to take us home. His bunch jumped on and we had a massive train rolling back in. Then the first attack came! One guy launched it off the front of our bunch which was already travelling at over 40km/h. This guy was ridiculously strong, because 5 guys chopping off couldn't bring him back. He stayed out there all the way to Bright, a very impressive effort. There was one question that came to mind as we rolled into town though. Why? I guess I will never understand it, but it's part of the fun I suppose.
Congrats to everyone who raced! Albury Wodonga Representatives included:
Declan Gregory, Matt Hamblin, Angus Harris, Taryn Heather, Ryan Allen, Stephen Damm, Jacob Hanna, Errol Flemming, Brad Piestch and Matt Tooley. Sorry if I forgot anyone.
Results can be found here:
Special thanks to Lyn Heritage & Geoff Damm for lending me jackets when I was freezing on the top of the mountains. Also to Johnny Guerin for letting me in the coffee van to keep warm! Can make a good coffee! Also thanks to my Swanny's Maddy Wright, Danielle Ruedin. And thanks to Neil, Kelly & Maddy for the wind cheating gear. Also thanks to Aaron Last at the Full Cycle for making the gears and brakes work seamlessly all weekend!
I encourage everyone to check out the tour of bright next year, such a cool race, spectacular scenery and great atmosphere!
Also a special mention to The Jolly Blue Giant AKA Neil Van Der Ploeg who won the Launceston Crit last night. Crashed twice and still won the sprint! Well done Neil!