First up Stage 2 report redux. Very late last night the numbers were crunched and TT times were posted for the TT and Stage 3. Phew... the show was back on the rails. I'd got the TT stage win and a few small gaps had opened up in the GC battle. Nick 'The Beard' Bensley (SoulDevotion) didn't have a bad TT after all with 6:31, and was now on our GC hit-list for Stage 4. Tim 'Chain Twister' White (Hawthorn) had ripped a 6:29 for 2nd place in the TT, but was an unfortunate DNS for Stage 4.
Stage 4 - Pastoria Loop x5 (100km)
80km on the #NC3dt website, 100km in the official program.... so it was 100km we'd be doing. I was only 4 seconds down on Nathan 'E Dog' Elliott (Search2Retain) for overall GC at the start of the day. In all honesty that is a huge margin against someone who's in form and flying up hills at the moment. I was looking to fight to hold that 2nd spot, and if the opportunity popped up, I'd have a dig at some bonus seconds if I was there at the end.
Roll out was somewhere out the road, we managed to get there on time and rolled off after being wished luck by Klaus 'The Godfather' Mueller (Cycling Australia). A ripping southerly wind again today, which ironed out the climbs nicely. All day we were pushed up the exposed/moonscape climb and over to the rolling hills on the back of the course. Kos 'The Smurf' Samaras (Kosdown) and Aaron 'Teh Kitteh' Christiansen (The Big Ring) were allowed up the road and were kept at a 25-45 second margin for a lap or two. The bunch was happy to let them sit there, team work-horses keeping the pace. After a dash for hill points, Andy 'KOM Kid' Christie (Lawson Homes) and Marc Loecherer (Italo) tip-toe away from the bunch and set off towards Samaras and Christiansen. The two pairs off the front in sight at all times. When they combined it was noted by the bunch and the pace driven higher by the assigned work-horses.
Christiansen was the first to drift back to the bunch before the next Bald Hill climb, with the other three getting reeled in over the next 15km with perfect precision. Not too fast, not too slow. The reel-in was done by Elliott's team mate, Tom 'Motor' Donald (Search2Retain), with a massive pull on the front. Christie was back in the bunch and no longer a threat to Elliott's GC. David 'Attacking' Abraham (Lawson Homes) who was well down on GC launched a few solo attempts off the front coming into the final lap. He was left to dangle, no chase was on, but he was swept up each time as the pace of the bunch lifted towards the final kms.
The bunch was together leading into the final rolling hills towards the final ascent of Bald Hill. Conor 'Way too many Wheatbix for breakfast' Murtagh (Quick Cycle) made life hard for us with a few punchy attacks off the front. At one point getting a gap with Elliott that had me and Gabe 'The guy who's name I now know' Carey (LSDSports) chasing, swinging elbows, and wishing someone else would help out. Shannon 'MotoGP' Johnson (Bike'n'Bean) and Luca 'GC protector' Giacomin (Kosdown) offered the assistance we were looking for and closed the two down.
The finish was only a km or so downhill from the Bald Hill KOM, so whoever made it over the top would contest the stage, and possibly GC. Just as we hit the base of the climb, Murtagh attacks. Elliott goes with him and jams it on the front. Only seven survive over the top.... six of them being the top six GC contenders! The pace was up on the run to the line. I sat at the rear of the group as a few attacks were quickly closed down. Line in sight, one last attack went, I can't recall who it was. Christie on his wheel, me third wheel on Christie. The sprint opens up. Bensley smoking it and hitting the front, I rip up the windy side on the rough-as-guts run to the line. Elliott on my right and closing. A drag race to the line. Bensley taking the win, I threw at the line and saw Elliott's yellow jersey beside me on the line.
No stage win for me and no riders between Elliott and I, so no change to our 1-2 on GC, Elliott taking the well deserved overall. I claim "second or third" to the claims judge, they asked if I wanted to contest it. Sure, why not. Nothing to lose. It'd only mean the difference between Elliot winning by a few seconds less. Christie listed as claiming 4th on the stage. Somehow in the wash-up I was given 4th..... I don't know how a close battle for 2nd ends up with 4th?.... did anyone get a finish line photo? Arh well, no change to my GC position and I'm bloody happy to have mixed it up so well with a field of quality riders over the 100km Stage 4.
Update 1: I got the photo! Stage 4 finish line.....
Bigger resolution version: Here. Thanks to http://robertgroom.com.au!
Update 2: Ripper finish line shot by Brian Mangano...
|63km/h and 2m from the Stage 4 Finish Line. And I'm on the hoods!!?? Photo (c) Brian Mangano.|
As I've mentioned in previous posts, Elliott is a good mate, and a bloody classy bike rider. He rides hard, rides smart, pulls monster turns in a break when it counts, and attacks like there is no tomorrow. I've spent the at least 7hrs this weekend either on his wheel, not sticking him in the gutter when he is on mine, and responding to his attacks. To see him in yellow from day one and keep it through to the end - in words he would use himself, "I rate that'.
A Grade Overall GC
1. Nathan ELLIOTT (Search2Retain) 7:01:52
2. Shane MILLER (Kosdown) +10
3. Andy CHRISTIE (Lawson Homes) +26
4. Nick BENSLEY (SoulDevotion) +27
5. Gabriel CAREY (LSDSports) +40
6. Conor MURTAGH (QuickCycle) +57
7. Thomas DONALD (Search2Retain) +1:01
8. Luca GIACOMIN (Kosdown) +1:02
9. Dean SANFILIPPO (RapidoCycles) +1:06
10. Trent WILLIAMS (Bikes Direct) +1:29
Full Results HERE
I'll gather a list of photographer links and things over the coming days and post up. Heaps of happy snappers out there on course getting great shots in the sunshine, one being Kathryn Feldmaier who made the awesome video below. I make an appearance at 1:21, TT hurt box. Watch it in HD and full screen for best viewing.