Monday, 2 May 2011

Back to Bright 2011 - Hills and unofficial races!

HCC setting the early pace.
The 8th running of the annual Back to Bright weekend was held this weekend with around 25 Hawthorn CC members and friends in attendance. Held over three days the rides normally include Mt Hotham, Rosewhite loop, then an unofficial/unsanctioned handicap race up Mt Buffalo on the last day. Many legendary things have emerged from the B2B weekends - dead animal sprints (bonus points for bunny-hopping it), animal sign sprints, and hill climb PBs just to name a few. Although the rides are long and the climbs are tough, the toughest part is listening to everyone try to talk down their performances all weekend for a generous handicap mark up Mt Buffalo. This year Calvin Tulloch had the unenvious task of chief handicapper. Even with the assistance of others and a database of previous Buffalo ascent times, he had a tough task ahead.

Day 1 - Hotham. We couldn't get up to Bright early enough on the Friday so we missed this. From all reports the weather was perfect and a number of riders knocked minutes off their PBs from previous attempts. We'd been streaming the royal wedding in the car on an iPhone and we were pleased to see everyone glued to the TV watching proceedings when we arrived. Telstra 3G is worth every cent, Optus 3G was nothing short of shitful in the country.

Day 2 - Rosewhite loop. Perfect weather again, even the arm warmers were off after a few kms. No fireworks as we hit the Rosewhite climb like in previous years, the bunch gently split as everyone tapped up at their own tempo. Everyone finishing within a few minutes, not showing their cards to the handicapper. I made sure I was well out of Calvin's sight before scrambling to the top. The pace into Mt Beauty always creeps up as people start thinking about the lunch stop. With the 7km Tawonga climb just out of town, there is a skill to eating enough food to get back to Bright, but not too much that it ends up as road art on the climb. The pace out of town was similar to that of the tortoise setting on a grandmas Gopher. Slowly slowly. The bunch shuffled as we hit the climb with Liz Hall on the front showing us how to climb. I hovered mid pack for the first few kms to scope out who was sandbagging and taking it easy before bridging back to the front markers, then going up the road for a few kms. I turned about 1/2 way up and dropped back through the riders to Von who was fading fast after a long day. This fade quickly turned into a Ricco like effort as she soon passed no less than four riders up the road, finishing only a few seconds down on Laurie Lovelock and Bertie. It was as if she'd had a hand on her back pushing her for the final 4kms up the climb. Amazing what a new bike can do! (and a push for 4kms). The decent was super-fast and thankfully uneventful (half of my left elbow and arse cheek is buried somewhere on that descent). Back into Bright for an epic eat-fest and Mt Buffalo handicap assignment. The homemade pasta was amazing, topped off with Tamara's Tim Tam tarts and ice-cream. If Satan and Hitler were a team on My Kitchen Rules, they'd make Tim Tam tarts for the judges, and win.

Von showing us her best cyclist shadow puppet. Nice one!

Lunch - Mt Beauty panorama....
Ceiling cat
Ceiling Calvin - Reading out Mt Buffalo handicaps.

Day 3 - Mt Buffalo Handicap. No entry fee, no race numbers, no politics, no hand-in-the-till from a governing body, no worries! Nowhere will you get a race where the atmosphere at the start line is so relaxed, and everyone is really in for a chance at the title. No sheep stations up for grabs, but the trophy is mighty impressive! Official time-keeper Matilda Vaughan, armed only with a Noika phone, start list, and pen had the show underway right on time. No delay, no interruptions. The jokes and jibes were quickly forgotten by each rider as they took off up the road for the 20km upward trek - once the clock started, it was serious business! As I lined up to start, 42 minutes after Frank (limit) took off up the road, Matilda jumped next to me on the start line for a photo. That made my day. This is why I love club level, or even social group run events. The people running the show know your race history, performances, ups and downs in the sport - over a number of years. Something that is completely lost at a higher level and a problem that isn't any closer to being solved. (*insert national grading system debate here*)

5...4...3....2.... STOMP and don't stop. That's about it. The Garmin/PowerTap was reporting good numbers at 85 rpm, so I kept it in that range. The first catch-and-release was around 23 minutes on the false flat section. Then riders were appearing up the road at regular intervals. The last ride up Buffalo I did in November I pulled the pin around the 30 minute mark, I had nothing in the legs. This time I had eaten well the night before and wasn't faltering from the rhythm I'd set at the start. I passed four riders between the switchback hairpin a few kms from the top and the KOM point - I thought I was in with a chance. No sign of the five riders up the road as I dropped down off the KOM towards the chalet turn. A car was soon on my tail and we were fighting for road space at 50km/h.... I won out when the road kicked up to the chalet. 53:35, fastest time, and 6th place in the handicap. I knocked 3 minutes off my Buffalo PB set in 2006 and hit a new high for power over 50mins. The ladies filled the podium with Manuella Marasco (Cycling-Inform) taking the overall win, Tim Tam Tamara Allen in 2nd, Von Micich (StKilda) 3rd. Full results below. (btw - these are spot-on accurate, professionally presented, and emailed out to all riders on the same day, how good is that! Matilda is a star!)

Our ever-present support car (ute) was a welcome sight at the top, packed with our warm gear for the descent. We finished the weekend with a ripping descent and roll back into Bright. A quick stop at the bakery, then a forgettable detour via a winery cellar door - where we were out-poshed by the menu and patrons, yet out-boganed by the mediocre service and night club pass-out tattoo on the waitress.... Anyone who says they didn't call into Maccas on the way back to Melbourne is lying!

Manuella - Winner 2011 Back to Bright Mt Buffalo Handicap

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