Stage 1 - Rosewhite loop. 108kms.
The pace was on. The StKilda/NA-CIO-AL/Capo(?) dudes were out in force on the front. They had the numbers and drove the front hard to the sprint. The whole bunch was flying! I don't know any of these guys personally, but we've all seen them. Mr Massive Chops crazy-hair, Malachi (Mal-a-kai, Mel-and-Kim?), a few guys on those Ronald McDonald sponsored Pinarellos, and a few others. These guys _were_ the race on the flats. I was tucked away mid pack for most of the 'transitional' sections but from what I saw, these guys dominated the front. Their pace kept things safe, the bunch strung out, and every time I had a chat to Massive Chops he seemed to be loving every moment. Great work guys, I hope someone sends you a link to this blog so you can read my man-love I've just dished out! haha!
Through Ovens and towards Rosewhite was a little slower. On one downhill #100 had the wrong brake pads on his rear carbon wheel - each time he'd feather the brakes his bike would BARK... at one point he had the rear wheel locked up in front of me (and 40+ others) at 60km/h. Note to self: don't descend behind this dude! A short lull while the peloton had to pass about 30 cows a farmer was moving on the road. Through this rolling road section a few riders were pushing the boundaries when it came to crossing the double white lines. There was plenty of room in the pack not to creep over them - and the marshal on the moto was soon policing the bunch closely. A young TFM rider pushed things a bit too far for a bit too long - the moto was soon beside every TFM rider giving them heaps of 'advice'. He was very lucky not to get thrown out of the race. He is riding well, too well to get thrown out of the tour for picking a bad line.
No fireworks on Rosewhite climb. We ticked it off under 10 minutes and were flying down the other side. More double white line action by a Ronald McDonald Pinarello rider - and the moto was on him. Gone. DSQ. From what I could tell, the move was a bold one on a bend and the moto was on it. Word quickly spread through the pack that the moto was DSQ and everyone was well behaved. Towards Mt Beauty there had been a stack in one of the women's grades. One ambo passed us with its lights flashing - our race was neutralised for 20 minutes(!!!!) - 70-80kms into the race and everyone got to soft pedal for 20 minutes. Everyone would have fresh legs for Tawonga so I was expecting fireworks there. Race back on and the pace was on for the sprint point. I was well back and had no idea who took it, looked like there were two escapees who'd spoiled the party for the bunch. (top work guys, I love a good break away!) :)
Tawonga time! Right turn up the climb went a bit like this.... "wowa, guys, wrong side of the traffic island, fark, 4WD!". The corner marshals threw down their signs in disbelief. Whoever was on the front of the bunch (and who are ultimately responsible for the line AND SAFETY of the entire peloton) took us up the right hand side of the turn... right into an oncoming 4WD. These riders needed to be DSQ. Whoever it was you've got 78 riders who were very unhappy with your decisions or misjudgment. Argh! ok - so over to the left of the road and still alive, the climb started. I slowly filtered my way towards the front. The main pack was down to about 30 riders - and getting smaller by the minute. I was sitting on the back and as soon as the guy near me started to fade, I went around. I was attempting to conserve as much as I could for the TT but I wanted to see how well I could hold up against the leaders. A few very short attacks around 3kms in went nowhere. By the time they'd sat up and the ripple effect reached me around 10th wheel, I didn't need to do anything. 3kms to go a short gap opened to 6-7 leaders. I watched them drift about 20m up the road before getting off my ass and bridging. #175 from Adelaide, Merlin Spranz saw I was on the back of the lead riders and kept encouraging me and the others to hang in there. We had dumped the field on the climb and it was a boost to have someone talking it up - getting us to hold in there and keep things moving to hold the advantage we now had. I held onto the leaders until they fought out the KOM points. Descending Tawonga a few of us were caught behind cars and things split up - a few kms down the road a Cycle City rider and I latched back on and started working turns to the finish. There were now 10 of us at the head of the race. 3kms out the pace was dropping as riders started thinking about the stage win. I did a few turns and tried to get others to swing through, the contenders for the stage were happy to give up some of their time advantage for the shot at the stage. 1km out a few moves went but nothing that split the bunch. 500m out the bunch sped up - nothing that set the road alight. Calvin Watson took the sprint easily - I didn't contest, happy with same time knowing I had a good shot at the TT later on in the day. In the wash up I was 9th across the line with ST as the winner. The 10 of us put a minute or two into everyone else - a very handy lead!
No sign of the SRAM neutral spares for B grade, or the moto with water up Tawonga we were told would be on the climb. Did anyone spot them? I'm all for having the support supplied - but they can't claim kudos if they didn't follow through and were not questioned! There was water at the feed station before Tawonga but I hope nobody was betting on water up the hill!
Stage 2 - Time Trial.
No hiding now! All or nothing effort for just under 16kms. At the start line #154 Calum Middleton (Colac CC) in front of me turned and said "don't pass me too soon". I got him just under 2kms in! After the turn around as I passed him coming the other way, he was screaming at me to go hard! It was awesome to get that kind of support from a fellow competitor. I ended up having a good ride, 21:14 @44.37km/h. I pulled off the stage win by 40 seconds. I was happy with the pacing I rode and the power I managed even after 108kms earlier in the day. This put me in GC by 40 seconds. No real pressure going into stage 3 as I knew some of these kids would excel when the road went upwards greater than 10%! Presentations at the brewery, $50 for the TT win, and awesome pancakes at the Cosy Kangaroo - which I almost renamed to something else starting with 'c' after they forgot my order!
Stage 3 - Mt Hotham.
All aboard the StKilda/NA-CIO-AL/Capo(?) train (minus one Ronald McDonald rider)! Steady pace out to Harrietville where Simon Welsh (Kosdown/Coburg CC) and I had to pull some swift moves to get at the front of the race. A lead pack of about 30 riders made it to the base of 'the meg'. Along the way I had a chat to the TFM rider about crossing lines as we were on some dodgy blind corners and the bunch was dangerously close to the wrong side of the road. The moto was hot on our tail and would be DSQ'ing riders without notice! I was playing 'police man' for a while in the pack as people were pushing over the single solid line. (technically not a double white, but the road laws changed as at Nov 9th this year!)
Up the Meg the pressure was on and my choice of gears saw me pick through a few popped riders and keep with the main bunch. We were down to about 15 riders through to the false flat where the pace was SLOW. So slow that within a few kms another 10 riders or so had bridged back on. No major attacks on the easy gradients, the lightweights were saving their energy for the really steep kicks. And like clockwork there were fireworks up the Toll Booth climb. I was caught at the back expecting to ride the rest solo - but I manged to tag the back of the leading bunch and hold on a little longer. We were caught up behind cars (argh) before the descent towards CRB. I latched back on but there was an acceleration on the front that was my undoing. 10% gradients and my TT motor just don't mix. 6kms to go, I cranked away and ramped things up towards the top of CRB managing to hook up with two other riders, one being Footscray crit DOMinator, Dominik Dudkiewicz. Dom had been struggling just before the false flat but manged a monster effort to haul himself up to CRB before tailing from the main pack. Dom and I worked a few short turns before he wished me luck on my mission to the top. I was soon on another dropped rider and working turns. I could see the B grade leaders on the final climb but I wasn't in their watts-per-kilo league today and did what I could to limit my losses. I rolled in 1min 40secs down on the winner - A lot less than what I thought I'd lose up the monster climb that is Mt Hotham.
The Wash Up
I ended up only 41 seconds down on GC, in 5th position overall for the tour. They were paying GC money down to 5th so that was a nice little addition to the wallet before leaving town. After stacking on Tawonga last year and not even reaching the TT start ramp, it was nice to get this race out of the road, keep it upright, collect a TT stage win, and top 5 on GC along the way.
The event was run beautifully, it seems to get better each year. Registration was fast (phew!), commissionaires and traffic marshals were on top of their game. Things ran on time. The instant time results posted to the web was awesome! Can't ask for anything more. This event is a credit to the Alpine Cycling Club and its management. B grade riders were much less agro than what I've encountered in M1/2/3 - the past two years there has always been some agro prick in the bunch thinking he's Lance Armstrongs missing left nut and is out to prove it to everyone. B grade had a whole swag of up and coming future stars - the majority of them were safe, respectful, and were enjoying the event.
Von's Photos Link