Roll out and the first 20kms was leisurely. The tone was set early on that continued throughout most of the race. We had three TFM riders working together (careful boys!), two Coburg guys keeping them in check and the bunch honest, James Broadway foxing around the back of the bunch but making an appearance every now and then at the business end, Cam Lester (O2 Networks) and Tim Retchford (TORQ) looking very strong and keeping the bunch moving, and a few others in the mix that were bouncing around. I had no plans for the race, but seeing Cam Lester in the bunch meant I didn't want to see it come down to a sprint! The most active TFM rider who I've raced before when he was in Giant kit was out to claim 'most aggressive', but he never really got far from the bunch before we brought him back.
Into the wind out the back of the course and we were in the gutter, but at a gentle pace. Broadway described it to me as 'practice racing'. Kos (Coburg) was up near the front and by this time we should have been racing, I came past and let him know it's time to 'go'. I dig in hard on the front for less than a minute and swing off, the pace lifted for a little while longer, but no damage was done. Back towards Hanging Rock the bunch almost shattered, a TFM rider was 20m off the front, a few riders put in good turns and people were scrambling for wheels. This was a perfect point to stick it in the gutter, sitting out about 1m meant two or three of us willing to pull turns would get a sit and the rest would suffer. That somehow didn't sit very well with one rider, he was yelling orders at me to get 'up the road' as I was putting them in the gutter. I wasn't out for an E grade introduction to road racing, so I snapped back at him. It was still early on in the race so I rolled up next to him and made sure we 'were cool', and that he understood that it wasn't personal. But telling other riders off when the going gets tough in a scratch race? Save that for a handicap where riders HAVE to work together.
'Most active' TFM was off again, we latched on and shut him down. By this time it was getting a little boring so I had a word to Kos that I was happy to work with Coburg today to keep these guys in check. That'd even the numbers, three on three. Finally onto the Lancefield loop and the small climbs, by this time I was feeling good and looking for a break away. I dangled off the front over the Newham rise, nobody came across. A few minor accelerations on the road towards Roachford were closed up quick smart. I also hit the bunch and almost hit the lead car at the same time, Kos scrambled across to me, a TFM rider was then with us, and one other rider. In theory this was the perfect number of riders from the 'teams' we needed to get away. We hung out for no more than a single km before another TFM rider closed us down, bringing everyone else with him. I couldn't work out that tactic. They'd spent the first half of the race trying to get a rider away, now they chase their own man? Maybe they weren't teams racing it in the first place? Onto the Roachford long-drag-climb, I throw in another attack hoping a few riders would respond. I hang about 100m off the front of the bunch waiting... nothing! Still too far to try anything crazy solo, so I sat up and waited. Tim Retchford (TORQ) comes past and let me know that he was thinking about coming across to me but I sat up and waited so he didn't. These are the issues when riding for yourself, you don't know other peoples tactics or plans.
Through Lancefield and onto out final lap. 30kms to go and there was a scramble at the front of the bunch. A strong tail wind meant nobody was getting away and we were all still in the race. By this time Kos and I drifted to the rear of the field as we knew something was going to happen on the last lap, we just didn't know where. We sat on and enjoyed the ride. Onto Dons Rd and into the wind, there was a high chance it was going to explode here - Retchford (TORQ) puts in an effort out of the corner and into the wind, but its matched by everyone else. Shortly after TFM rider #2 shot off the front, perfect! I jump across and pull through to keep things rolling, we had a gap, he sits up.... argh. Bunch back together, all present.
Through Newham and up the short climb I'm out of the saddle and drag racing side by side with TFM rider #2. It wasn't full gas, but enough to stop anyone else coming over us. At the top everyone sits up and the pace off. I'm still riding hard and find myself 40m off the front solo. I look around waiting for someone to jump from the bunch, nothing. Maybe Tim Retchford would bridge across if I hung out long enough this time? Waiting... riding... waiting.. still nothing. I slowly creep up my pace until I'm in full time trial mode - 12km from home. Showtime! If they're going to catch me, they're going to have to work at it! My gap blows out to 300-400m but its still a long way from Lancefield. I keep ticking along - as smooth as possible, checking the gap every now and then. I've time trialed this course a few times and know this is a quick section of road back to Lancefield solo or in a bunch. 6km from the finish, up the long drag climb, they were pulling me back but over the top I couldn't see anyone around the bend behind me. I was well rested after the 80km/h downhill, straight back into time trial mode. Over the last rise and Lancefield was in sight. I kept a little in reserve on the final 2km just in case I was reeled back in and needed to jump on. The bunch had splintered over the final climb so there were less riders working together to close me down. Final 1km. I could see Retchford and Lester were together and closing.. onto the final straight and I made sure I'd calculated it right and kept on the pedals until I saw the chasers. Across the line for the win... plenty of daylight (200-300m?) in it and no sprint finish! Perfect!
A Grade 80km
1. Shane Miller Haw
2. Tim Retchford Mt Beauty
3. Cam Lester CCCC