28 M1/2/3 starters on the line in Warragul, the sun was out with a slight northerly on the way to Noojee. The bunch was relativity quiet up until the sprint at 11km. Tom Crebbin (HCC) was positioning himself well and when I yelled at him to go, I did my part sitting 4th wheel making sure whoever was behind had to come around the long way. Tom got the sprint and things slowed up. Shortly after, I ended up 100m off the front with nobody coming across so I sat up and had something to eat. Rolling hills for the next 40kms it was the same faces up the front, I was talking to a few of the riders who were willing to be on the front, trying to gauge interest in getting away. I spotted a HCC kit and introduced myself to Brent O'Shannessy (HCC), its always good to know other HCC riders in the bunch. There were a few surges on the ups and downs but nothing sharp enough to spit anyone from the bunch.
Around 2kms before the drop into Noojee I upped the pace on a rise and took over from a CCCC rider who was setting a nice tempo on the front. I let him know "If they're all going to sit on, make them work for it" as I came around for a turn. Before I knew it we had a gap, then Crebbin bridged. We only had time to roll one turn each before the bunch had realised this was a threat, we were soon all together through Noojee and the feed zone.
We'd overtaken C grade about 8kms back, but they stuck with us and were now overtaking M1/2/3 leading up to Vespers Hill KOM. We let them go, but a few M1/2/3 tried to sit in their bunch and escape. Up the front we kept them on a leash and took note. (The main offender DNF'ed in the end!) I lost contact with the front runners up Vespers. Wornes (Coburg), Broadway (St Kilda), and a few others were 200-300m up on me as they crested the KOM. I passed Crebbin before the KOM point and had expected him to stick on my wheel over the top so we could both work turns to get back with the Wornes/Broadway group. This would be a replay of what we did up Tawonga Gap at Bright last year, but at the crest I'd lost sight of Crebbin behind me and bombed the descent making my own way through a shattered C grade field.
"BB 40km" sign - This was going to be one long ITT! But after burning a few matches, I was back with the front group. Looking around the bunch there were only four M1/2/3 riders with about 8 C graders sitting on! The four of us, Wornes (Coburg), Broadway (St Kilda), Jones (CCCC), Miller (HCC) were working turns while the sharp end of C grade sat on for the ride. One of the C graders started asking if this was the right thing to do. I reminded him of the rules about drafting other grades. Broadway then piped up with a comment about drafting masters which made us chuckle - but would have had C grade thinking. The four of us rode our own race on the front, swapping turns from 1st to 4th wheel. I tried to keep the pace up but still saving matches to get to the top. If I was able to get back on after Vespers there was no doubt 24 other M1/2/3 riders trying to do the same.
The drop out of Tanjil Bren was quick enough to dump C grade off our tail for a few kms. But by the time we hit toll gate we had another two M1/2/3 riders latch back on. My recent training involved next to no hill climbing, and nothing resembling a 6km SE @11%, so I waved goodbye to the five M1/2/3 riders and tried to hold position to the top. 3km to go I was passed by an M1/2/3 rider who was flying. He'd dropped his chain on Vespers and was spat. He asked how many more were up the road - I let him know there were around 5-6 of them and he was off. This guy was on a mission, but it was a little too late. No doubt the final podium would have been reshaped had he been with us at the base of the climb!
In the end, Broadway jumped around 2km to go and soloed for the win. Wornes and Jones battled for 2nd with Wornes holding him off. I finished 5mins down in 7th place. Not a bad result, I'd have needed that 5mins at the base in a breakaway for a better result! This also meant another haul of points towards the final round of the Pinnacle Series (winners to be announced at a later date I'm told, fingers crossed!) Cheers to Carl from ABOC for his creative artwork, photos, and can of Coke at the top. Also big thanks to Von for the perfect feed station work, and for driving Jaywoo and me down off that monster of a climb!
1 BROADWAY, James MMAS3 St Kilda Cycling Club Inc 03:27:35.00 00:00:00.00
2 WORNES, Justin MMAS3 Coburg Cycling Club Inc 03:28:51.00 00:01:16.00
3 JONES, Ciaran MMAS2 Carnegie Caulfield CC 03:28:52.00 00:01:17.00
4 HANLEY, Luke MMAS2 Warragul Cycling Club Inc 03:28:52.00 00:01:17.00
5 BLAKESBROUGH, Ben MMAS3 Hobart Wheelers 03:30:09.00 00:02:34.00
6 SIETSMA, Kor MMAS3 Peloton Sports Inc. 03:31:57.00 00:04:22.00
7 MILLER, Shane MMAS1 Hawthorn Citizens Youth C 03:32:44.00 00:05:09.00
8 STILES, Shane MMAS2 Warragul Cycling Club Inc 03:37:45.00 00:10:10.00
9 MOORE, Craig MMAS2 Brunswick Cycling Club Inc 03:42:30.00 00:14:55.00
10 RILEY, John MMAS2 St Kilda Cycling Club Inc 03:47:38.00 00:20:03.00