Sunday, 17 June 2012

Roly Kelson Memorial - Macedon Ranges CC. June 16th 2012

A 60km scratch race around the Newham-Lancefield loop in honour of Roly Kelson hosted by Macedon Ranges CC. After taking out 'fastest time' in the 2009 handicap race I've always wanted to return and have a shot at getting more glassware (they have the coolest trophies on offer!). As this was a club event there were only two grades, A and B. This was a chance for some strong B Grade riders to step up into A, an opportunity they might not get at other races.

I recall about 20 riders rolling off at the start after a humorous race briefing. For a country club race the fire-power in A Grade was not lacking. Jason Spenser (Budget Forklifts) was the stand out for sure. He is in blistering form and would easily be a GC contender at the Tour of Toowoomba, but he was stuck back in the Arctic conditions of Victoria. Croydon CycleWorks had entered five of their young chargers, with Tyler Spurrell sporting #1 for the day. With Roly Kelson being Team Kosdown's Lauretta Hanson's grandfather, we put in a good showing to support the race. A handful of other riders were also there in the bunch, Giant (HCC rider), a Wild African Safaris rider, and Coburg and SKCC riders.

From the roll out, I was on the front with zero energy being put into the pedals in the first km.... to get proceedings under way I threw in the first acceleration off the front. After the Coburg CC TT earlier in the day I wasn't expecting to ride away from the bunch... it did however cause a quick chase-down and then the fireworks started. A 60km scratch race is a large crit, if you're fresh you can keep punching all the way through it. I was far from fresh, so I had to choose where to throw my punches. For the next few kms everyone was on the attack trying to split the field. Eventually two Croydon, two Kosdown, and Spenser were clear of the bunch and were seen ripping turns like clockwork. At this point I was happy to sit back in the chase group and hope for the racing to settle down. Giant had made the initial break but was swallowed back up by the bunch. He and African Safaris then went to work on the front for a few kms before requesting help to pull the break away back. The Coburg and SKCC rider not being near the front either didn't hear their requests or simply didn't have the legs to contribute. Being a club A/B combined the latter might have been the case.

Race situation: 5 of the strongest guys up the road in the break. Peloton was 14-15 riders and unorganised as a chase group. The group I was in was four 'solo' guys, and about the same number of both Croydon and Kosdown riders. Giant and African Safaris were working together and attempting to recruit help in the bunch. The elephant in the room (or was that on the road?) is that there is no chance at this point either Croydon and Kosdown riders would help them chase the break. They'd have to entice the Coburg and SKCC rider to either help out or attempt to get across themselves away from the peloton. This being A Grade we all knew the situation. If the teams chased their own guys, with other riders in tow, they risk their spot on the team. Not to mention the ridicule from their peers (both their own team, and others who see this taking place). This situation happens week in, week out in scratch races. Be it with team mates, club mates, friends, or people just not having the legs to contribute. Giant and African Safaris were pretty vocal but didn't crack under the pressure. They went about getting the job done with what they had.  "So the two teams blocked?". No. There was no blocking of the road or stopping of any other rider getting to the front of the bunch, at any time... And I'll stand by that 100%. If Kosdown or Croydon ended up on the front it was to keep the group tempo up while the others stopped pedalling. Croydon and Kosdown had to go to the front at times to keep the bunch rolling.

The rocket-powered break was long gone. Most of us have raced the Newham-Lancefield course a lot over the years so we know being out of sight means you'll stay away. With Spenser in the lead group with a number of strong TTers I knew very well my race was over. I'd missed the break, and so had the rest of the guys I was with. It was now a race within a race, we made what we could of it. A Mexican stand-off was in effect within our group. If Croydon moved we all jumped on it. If Kosdown moved it was jumped on. If anyone else moved off the front it was shut down. A typical scratch race.

The bunch math was pretty simple leading into the second lap. We were battling our own little game for bunch line honours, 6th place, or maybe better if the break imploded/had mechanicals/or they hit that elephant on the road I mentioned before. Croydon and Kosdown would not be allowed to get up the road from the peloton, and only a solo effort would be allowed by any of the others. If two of them went, it was followed. The only thing that would break this situation was the course itself, the hills or the wind would need to come into play to shake things up.

Rolling towards the Rochford climb on lap two I launched from the group sweeping past the Croydon guys asking one of them to come with me. My recruiting was successful, the two of us were finally clear of the group and swept up Spurrell at the KOM mark who was dangling in no-man's land. He was happy to see us and the three of us got on with the job, rolling solid turns into the wind and back towards Newham. They were great company for the rest of the race. Pulling honest turns and really digging hard for our little race-within-a-race. I timed my hunger flat perfectly, getting to the final 2km downhill tailwind section with nothing in the tank. I lead the two boys out and Spurrell kicked 500m from the line. I just managed to pull back enough of a gap to get same-time with him and his team mate who rolled me on the line in our mini-battle, then sitting up for a hand shake and smiles at the end. Yeah, we were off the pace, out the arse, call it whatever you like, but we raced like nothing else getting to that line in the end.

The data from the race tells the story: On from the gun like a roller coaster. A drop in power and speed at the 40min mark (1hr5mins on the chart) when we were slowed up and passed a message by the roving commissaire confirming the time gap and that we were pretty much out of contention (confirming what we already suspected). The power/HR/speed dropped from this point on in the race. Things picked back up from my attack up Rochford and the steady-state turns with the boys to the end.... nothing like a 20km TTT to finish the day!

Up the road Spenser attacked solo with 8km to go for the well deserved win after contributing monster turns in the break, Croydon getting up for 2nd, with Kosdown in 3rd (Luca Giacomin) and 4th (Stephen Lane). The post race feed in the Newham hall was amazing, I had to take a photo of it before I demolished the lamingtons and Luca demolished the sausage rolls.

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