Just like Willie Nelson, I'm "On the road again". So far this year has been crits, time trials, and track racing... Gisborne South was my first road race of the year, with many more to come all the way through to Bright in December. It was 3 1/2 years since I'd last raced at Gisborne South, and for good reason, the course is brutal! 8km laps with one little hill, and one longer hill.... and brutal wind!
With a few other races on this weekend, 18 starters took to A grade. Our roll out resembled a race for the tea and biscuits at an old folks home (sans attacking goat) - I don't think we were pushing over 25km/h. After spending the last six weeks training for a race only 3kms long, I had no idea how my legs would hold up over 80kms. I'd decided that with the low chances of me lasting the distance, I'd attack early.... about 300m up the road from the start. Everyone hates an early attack, but its a good warm up, sorry everyone. :) Elliott (TFM/Brunswick) was quick to respond and pull me back, and soon the rest of the bunch was up to speed and we're all back together. Phil Smith (Kosdown/Coburg) drifted off the front of the bunch with nobody else jumping across to his wheel.
One lap down and Phil was 400m or so up the road. Back onto the main road Luigi Vecchio (SKCC) launches off the front of the bunch with nobody responding, I scrambled across to him as he puts in a monster turn up the small hill on the course. We were only a few meters from reaching Phil's wheel when the bunch had shut us down before the base of the main climb. The catch to Phil was never made and nobody pulled through to keep the pace up. Phil soon pulled away again off the front.
There were a few heavy breathers up the main climb early on - But the bunch was happy to keep the pace somewhat friendly. On lap 3 (I think, I lost count) I'd scoped out a good spot to attack the bunch but I needed help to make it stick. Elliott and I were never too far from each other so it was no surprise that when I jumped away off the front, he was on my wheel and ready to pull a few turns to increase the gap. We had caught the bunch napping and quickly had had a few 100m lead. A few kms later we'd made it across to Phil Smith who was powering up the climbs. The three of us worked turns for a few laps with the bunch never too far behind.
We'd lost count of the laps and when Elliott asked as we crossed the start/finish at the top of the hill, the reply was "Five to go!". Only another 40kms to go! By lap 5 or 6 we spotted two chasers who were bridging across from the bunch. Luigi Vecchio (SKCC) and Cam Lester (SKCC) had made it across to the break making it five strong. They'd burnt a few matches in doing so - but started contributing to the turns which ensured the break would keep away for the day.
We'd turned the scratch race into a five man team trial... or the scratch bunch in a handicap. All working turns to our strengths where we could to stop the bunch from shutting us down. The second last time up the climb Elliott and I had gaped the other three by a few lengths. This could have been our opportunity to launch away but we thought better of it - still too far out with the wind and hills involved. We all kept contributing to the break right up to the base of the final climb to the finish. Lester (who has sprinter hams), was a victim of the first attack. Down to four we had to keep the pace up so we didn't have to battle to the line with a sprinter. Situation was now: Smith, Elliott, Vecchio and me. Phil Smith threw in a few attacks that the other two responded to. Elliott and Vecchio both had digs at going off the front but were shut down. Each attack was bringing the pace down a little more each time, we were all hurting by this stage. I was planning on an attack but wanted to wait as long as possible as I'd only have one effort in me after taking a hammering from the other three.
The finish line at the top only comes into sight about 150m out. We crested the hill to see a huge number of people/racers/supporters there to see the finish. Vecchio was on the front, Elliott and I around second wheel, and Phil Smith not too far behind. I waited, waited, waited... then jumped at the line. Elliott knew I'd jump and was closing fast but he ran out of road, I took the win, Elliott second, Vecchio a well deserved third, and Phil Smith 4th. It was a great day out - an honest effort put in by everyone in the break right up to the final climb, all positive racing, and an epic final km. Great racing guys!
A Grade (18 Riders)
1. Shane Miller (Haw)
2. Nathan Elliot (Bruns)
3. Luigi Vecchio (SKCC)
4. Phillip Smith (Coburg)
A few pics here on Picasa by Alison