Stage 1 - Rosewhite Loop 108Kms
With 90 riders in the M1/2/3 category I thought there might have been a fight for starting position, there wasn't. We rolled off and I was on the front chatting to Graeme Allbon for the first few kms. Stuart Morgan had given me the heads up on this ex-Pro mountain bike racer, it was good to find out first hand he was a nice guy. A few kms out of Bright we both rolled back into the bunch before the racing started. The first sprint was at 10Kms so there were a few people trying to hang off the front. I wasn't contesting the sprints, so I was happy to sit on and get pulled along with the surges. A counter attack went after the first sprint which strung things out with the chase. I was mixing it up around the front and watching and jumping on the wheels I knew were strong (Crebbin, Morgan, etc) when they were jumping from the bunch. As we entered Ovens there was still one or two up the road and we were waved around a major stack from B grade. Ambos, a few riders standing around (including Peter Braunsteins!), and one rider being stabilised on the road. As we swung right there was a rider had missed the turn - the marshal had been caught napping and a break away guy had missed the turn! Arh well, we all had been given maps at sign-in the night before!
Not much action before the Rosewhite climb, a few up the road, with the bunch content to keep them at arms length. At the base of Rosewhite everyone got into their climbing rhythm and tapped out the first km. I was around 20th wheel when I heard someone at the rear tapping out the road with their face. "Fall!" was the call, I turned to see Spinny swerving out and around whoever had come down. Head down, keep on tapping away, that's racing. Things bunched up about 500m from the KOM. I was riding on the white line as someone squeezed around the outside. I went to move left to give him some room, I didn't want anyone disqualified for going over the double white lines. In doing so I brushed elbows with another rider. I apologised but in return I cop a swift elbow back. "Hey mate, what the...?".. I got some obscenities as a reply and was now being tapped on the arse by his handlebars. I raised the white flag and dropped back a bike length, offering him my position. "I'm out, its all yours". I wasn't going to fight for the minor KOM points. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and didnt fire anything back at him - we all react different when we're on the rivet. The descent was safe, but slow into some corners. A few riders jumped up the road after the turn towards Mt Beauty and they were again kept at arms length. Stuart Morgan started recruiting up the front to chase down a GC contender who was up the road. I told him I was targeting the TT later in the day, but would do a little bit to help out. The bunch was all back together before the base of Tawonga. As I wasn't too concerned about GC I climbed Tawonga tempo, picking off the 20-25 riders ahead in ones and twos. I spot Tom Crebbin about 2km from the summit. I pull up next to him and tell him I'd pace him to the top. Tom was no doubt happy to see me and immediately planned with me the descent and run to the finish, and how we could minimise the time gap to the leaders. True to our plan, I pulled Tom to the KOM and he pulled me down the other side safely. On the way down were two riders sprawled on the road and there were cars stopped attending to them. We had another 6am'er with us who chipped in on the front where he could. 5kms to go Tom and I worked turns at full power. Into the final km Tom tells me his goal is time gaps not position and he wouldn't sprint for the line. Knowing I wasn't going to be left in the wind alone I drove to the line. By this time we had a few other M1/2/3's with us and we came in 15-19th 3 1/2 mins down on GC. Not too bad considering the size of the field. I later head the front guys all worked turns like machines. Good on em, great collective tactics for Stage 1 putting time into anyone back down the road. After the head to head racing at the Doherty tour with Tom it was good to be working with a friendly wheel towards a common goal - getting to that line and minimising the damage. I was now 15th in GC. I wasn't too impressed with that until Mat said "but out of how many riders!?"! Thanks for the reality check Mat :)
Stage 2 - 16km ITT
My new Zipp disc was held up at Customs on Wednesday, so that wasn't on the bike for the weekend. The planets aligned and I ended up with the next best thing - a Zipp 808 rear as a lender! Jaywoo and I had rolled the TT course with the eventual A grade women's winner on Friday night. It was the first time I'd seen the course and I liked what I saw. False flats on the way out with three short climbs, and super fast straights and small punchy rises on the way home. Just under 8kms each way, with some strong landmarks to both break up the ride into sections.
Jaywoo was off at 5:10pm, I was off at 5:50pm. My warm up was sluggish, it was hot and muggy and I didn't want to burn a single match before the clock started. The legs were fresh from the dip in the pool between stages, how the lungs and heart would hold up was the unknown. Jaywoo crossed the line and I was there to meet him. "How was it?". "Arh that farkin hurt!". I shouldn't have asked, of course it hurt - ITTs always do! We found a spot in the shade and did a rear wheel tango - and I was off to the start line. ATTA and training with power has been excellent prep for TTs. In the starting house it was 100% focus. Open the lungs, large breath, look down the road. Visualise the course, revise my plan, think angry, think speed - BANG WE'RE OFF. Spin the gear up to speed past Von I let out a "C'MON" to jeer myself into the mood. Slamming down the bar end shifters I cranked up to speed in the areo tuck. I'd mentioned the night before I wanted to catch my 30 second man at the top of the first hill (2kms). I did, next? Pegging back the effort just a little now I was a few minutes into it. I could see another rider up the road but he was too far to use as a marker so I stuck to the game plan. Passing the Wandiligong Pub there was a few families on the side of the road watching the stage and the kids were cheering. I lifted through there and gave it everything. Seeing those kids getting into the racing meant we were their heroes for the day - big guys with slick shiny TT bikes that they might have only seen on TV before - flying at full steam past their house with race numbers pinned to our backs. I'd picked off one or two more riders before the turn around and was on the homeward leg. This was going to be fast - I was feeling good, had kept enough in reserve to keep the power down. Past the pub again and the cheering was again lifting - again I gave it everything through there and used the spectators as energy. 2km to go and I'm feeling good, 1km to go and I'm gaining on a ute! Spend everything - this is it. Finish in sight - leave it all on the road - down into the 11 tooth and I pass the ute - two riders up the road are grovelling to the line, one even opening up a sprint! I kept TT form and passed the last two like they were standing still. Over the line and I was spent - 100% effort without a doubt. I couldn't see properly, my legs would not turn over, and my mouth could not open wide enough to suck in oxygen - just how all TTs should end! 22:05. The second 1/2 was done at 47.9km/h.
I rolled around and spotted Tom Crebbin. Tom had put 1min into me over 32kms a few months back so I was expecting him to stick 20-30 seconds into me on this stage. I was floored to find out I had stuck 30 seconds into him. I thought a top 5 might have been a chance but there were some big units in M1/2/3 who should be able to crank out some big watts in a TT. After dinner we drove back to the clubrooms and checked the leader board. I'd won the TT by 16 seconds! Stage winner! It took a while to sink in and I sent out a few sms's to inform the masses. I was now 9th in GC and had to decide to either defend my top 10 tomorrow or shut down and enjoy the Hotham ascent on the back......
Stage 3 - Bright -> Mt Hotham
There was only a few minutes separating me in 9th GC to about 25th place. 9th place paying $15, so there was no real incentive to defend for money! :) I started at the rear of the field and I was happy to sit around the back of the bunch. Until I caught the express train to the front by sitting on the right wheel - I let out a 'toot toot' as I spun past Jaywoo just out of Bright. The 6amers controlled the pace all the way to Harrietville (cheers guys!). We hit the base of the climb and the initial swam surged, and as expected, 1/2 did the reverse surge after a few minutes. By the Meglett we had 25 riders with Jaywoo setting the pace. I was holding onto the back and keeping an eye on where everyone else was off the back. In a few minutes our bunch was clear of any stragglers. There were a few dropped off the back before the Meg - then it was my turn. I just tempo'ed up the Meg and watched the contenders float away. A CycleCity rider I'd chatted with at Mt William had got his chain stuck 1/2 way up. Poor bugger. I wanted to tell him to keep calm while fixing it, but I thought that might get on his nerves. After the Meg I picked up a few popped riders and checked if they wanted to work - they were toast and I powered on. CycleCity was clawing back and I encouraged him to keep it up. He knew I won the TT and was happy to see me. I said that if I was with him at the false flat I'd drive him back up to the bunch - The poor bugger had a mechanical and it wasn't fair to see him off the back. We worked together and got back to the main bunch before the false flat and sat on.
The false flat section was a tea party up the back. There were a few surges but they shut down within a few 100m. I was surprised to still be with the leading bunch of 20 at 15km to go! I started chatting to a few of the guys as we were drinking/eating/etc up the back. A sheep truck passed us that was coming down the hill. I let out a "Now this reminds me of home".. I get a "yeah, same here, I'm from Albury". To which I reply, "Yeah, I'm from Horsham". "I knew it, you had to be a country boy - you're a friendly one!". I laugh.. by this time the guy I was talking to was a few riders away. I quickly bark "so... what you are saying is all city people are c**nts?" (said with a huge smile). I get a bite! Someone else yells "OI!". I burst out laughing and tell the other guy not to worry, "I'm only trying to pick fights at the back of the peloton". Everyone who heard knew I was taking the p*ss and it was all light hearted.... until the toll gate!
Toll gate means up, up, up, hurt hurt hurt, and repeat for 10kms. This is where the GC contenders made their move. I cranked away at my own tempo knowing I'd come in top 20 for the day without much worry. Again I pick up a few riders up the road, but they all pop off the back and I'm solo again. I grind up CRB passing a few B graders and dishing out some encouragement to them. Everyone returns a smile and keeps pushing - we're all in this together and the tour is almost over. 2kms later I catch up to a familiar face from Mt William in 'Unibet' kit. He was with another M1/2/3 rider and I pull past him without a worry so I pull over and give him a good sit from the wind. I ask him if he can work to the top - he's shot, but I get some random abuse from the other rider - what the? He's third wheel and I'm driving. "Mate, what's your problem?"... the reply "If you can f'in talk you should be up the road". "Mate, sit on, I'll shut up and tow you to the top, will that make you happy"? More abuse followed so I stuck the f**king boot into it and dropped the c*nt. No prizes in guessing who the guy was - Mr Elbow-and-Arse-tapper from yesterday. So not everyone is friendly in the peloton....not even me when someone doesn't play nice. I may have even mistaken his words as abuse when he was only tying to rev me up to do better - either way the result was the same - I was off! Cheers mate, sticking time into you was a driving force for me. No hard feelings, I forget that cycling is a mind game too - and if that's how you play it fair enough. Somewhere near the top I catch Jaywoo and scream abuse at him for not beating me up Hotham. He went with the GC surges from the toll gate and they'd cooked him. I try rev him up and he lifts - but those cannibals up the road have had their way with him. I'm solo over the top and am ready for the quick downhill burst to the cycle2max timing point - but nooooo... 200m of rough as guts gravel! Now I'm hurling abuse at the road surface! I keep it upright at only 40km/h and push onto the sealed road again. Flat stick to the finish, I'm guessing I'm top 15 and have a chance to hold my GC spot. I spot Tom Crebbin RUNNING his bike through the bridge and to the line - he had punctured on the gravel and was bringing it home Steve Moneghetti style! I stop the c2m clock at 1:25:34. A PB up that climb by a few minutes which was a big surprise given the shutdowns and joking around on the flat section. The finish was a few 100m down the road - a 4WD pulls across the line and stops. I'm clocking 74km/h, don't have much room. I have an excuse to yell abuse, so I do. The commissionaires are screaming at the 4WD twat and I'm giving the crowd a lesson in French on the Doppler effect. Thankfully I thread the needle and pick a gap - phew. Tour over, and I'm still upright. I came in 12th on the final stage, around 3 1/2 mins down on the winner.
So in the end I managed to hold onto my 9th position on GC, that along with the Stage 2 win made for another rewarding weekend on the bike. I have a whole bag of stories on everything other than racing that I won't worry about blogging - but one thing I have to mention is Master Les' weekend efforts. Les stacked hardcore on Tawonga limping home with half the skin off his back and ass than he started with. Team Lama director sportif, Von, patched him up - then gaffed him up - and he took on the TT. He went straight from the TT to the hospital for more attention. Then after what would have been a shite night sleep - he completed Stage 3, Hotham. Les mate - any harder and you'd be a diamond! Super human!
Weekend happy snaps here: http://picasaweb.google.com/gplama/TourOfBright2007
Full results published here: http://www.tourofbright.com.au/results.htm