Monday, 27 August 2012

Sam Miranda "Strade Nero" Road Race - A Grade/Teams. August 25th 2012.

Last weekend saw the running of the Sam Miranda "Strade Nero" weekend of racing (Great pre-weekend summary by Tony Reeckman). The Saturday was the Grand Fondo (the race for cyclists who don't want to race), 100km graded scratch races, and the Sunday was the 85km handicap. The name "Strade Nero" has some connection to an Italian cycling folklore.... this weekend we knew it as the 6km dirt climb at 52km into the scratch race. Tony also did a post about the Strade Nero itself in a another great read here.

If you've been on Twitter, Facebook, or spoken to anyone who was a part of the weekend you'll know it was a total success from start to finish. Marty Tobin from Sam Miranda and his crew deserve a nomination for one of those awards they give out at a function room full of cyclists in "normal people clothing" every 12 months. I'll give my race run-down from A Grade and also pick out what made it such a good event.

While this wasn't an NRS race, the A Grade start list read just like one. Riders from Drapac, Budget Forklifts, John West, AXS Insurance p/b Spencers RACE (who get the award for the longest team name), Charter Mason-Drapac Development (2nd place team name length competition)... along with a list of other riders who've always been high up on the result sheets in NRS and Open races. Marty must have been pretty happy to see the caliber of riders and the teams who got behind his race.

In A Grade it was on from the drop of the flag. Early attacks. Chase downs. More attacks. I went with one within the first few km, then let a few others go as other Kosdown riders were in the move. At kilometre 3 or 4, Tim McGrath (StayTrue) went for a flyer off the front and I went along. The two of us were given 50m by the bunch for a short while. We were soon joined by Rhys Pollock (Drapac) and a handful of others. The pace lifted and didn't let up. With the arrival of Darren Lapthrone (Drapac) we had a group of 10-12 riders off the front at the 10km mark that was looking like it had a good chance of staying away.

Solid turns through to the sprint point at 31km where a few of the boys had a bit of a tussle for that competition, with Matt Clark (John West) taking the points. We were soon joined by Lachlan Norris (Drapac), Ben Johnson (BikeBug), Luca Giacomin (Kosdown), and another rider. More kms, more solid turns, then an acceleration 500m out from the first KOM. I was on borrowed time and far outclassed, but hung on over the top and onto the Strade Nero. Three riders gained a few seconds on the descent into the Strade Nero, I was in no-mans-land chasing, the rest of the bunch just behind and resting their legs for the acceleration up the climb.

EDOG putting on the hurt.
Photo (c)

Sprint and KOM winner Matt Clark.
Photo (c)

Yeah, I'm in the box.
Photo (c)
Things exploded around 3km from the KOM. The hitters doing their thing, the rest of us getting dagged and limiting our losses. The final 1km up the Strade Nero broke the back of a few riders. I'd caught Kosdown team mate Luca Giacomin near the top and it looked like it would be a two-man TT trying to limit our losses. Back on the main road and less than 30km to go we could see the front group. We soon swept up Ben Johnson who began powering monster turns with us. The possibility of a top 10 for the three of us was motivation enough to keep the pace up.

Truckin'.... and B Grade tagging for a few kms..
Photo (c) Jo Upton Photography

With three Drapac riders in the lead group of 6, they had the numbers and came away with the win, Rhys Pollock going back-to-back after his win in the event last time. Jason Spencer in 2nd, and Darren Lapthorne in 3rd. Nathan "EDOG" Elliott also deserves a mention for his (ginger) ballsy 4th in a sprint with Lachlan Norris after riding the final 40kms with about 40psi in his rear tyre. Just under 2 minutes later I lead out Johnson and Giacomin letting them battle out minor places. Johnson taking 7th. Giacomin's 8th was good reward for his hard work and confirms his new coach has him on the right track.

Rhys Pollock takes the win.
Photo (c)

Apart from being dagged up the climb, this was the most enjoyable race I've done in a while. Getting in the break with the who's who, swapping turns with the likes of Lapthorne and the other guys I read about in NRS race reports. I wasn't a contender with these national (and international!) level guys but I didn't feel too out of place either. Getting two Kosdown jerseys into the top 10 was something we'd never expected before the race.

A Grade Top 10
1 Rhys POLLOCK     Albury-Wodonga CC        2:29:37       Drapac
2 Jason SPENCER    Blackburn Cycling Club   2:29:37 ST    Sam Miranda
3 Darren LAPTHORNE Coburg Cycling Club      2:29:41 +0:04 Drapac
4 Nathan ELLIOTT   Brunswick Cycling Club   2:30:06 +0:29 Wang MotorGrp
5 Lachlan NORRIS   Cycling Australia - MTBA 2:30:06 ST    Drapac
6 Matthew CLARK    Wangaratta Cycling Club  2:30:07 +0:30 John West
7 Benjamin JOHNSON Footscray Cycling Club   2:31:29 +1:52 Grapeworks
8 Luca GIACOMIN    Brunswick Cycling Club   2:31:30 ST    Team Kosdown
9 Shane MILLER     Coburg Cycling Club      2:31:30 +1:53 Team Kosdown
10 Luke KNOX       Bendigo & District CC    2:34:18 +4:41 AXS Insurance

Full Results: Cycling Victoria
Official Race Photos by Tony Reekman
Photos by Jo Upton Photography
(Part 2 for more by Jo Upton Photography)

Why this weekend was so good:
- Pre race communication to riders. Event details. Rego. Course information.
- Bunch sizes. With only 1/2 a road to race on, groups of 40-60 are perfect. The Tour of Bright suffers with 100+ riders in each bunch and only 1/2 roads. They'll need to be sure next year that the race doesn't suffer from the same problem as the ToB, as entries are sure to double in 2013.
- Great facilities. Parking, PA system, MC for the day, loos, food and coffee!
- The course itself. Even with the dirt/bumps, it was safe and made for good racing.
- Post race meal for competitors right before presentations.
- The race atmosphere was on par with the ToB.

Big Thanks':
- Marty Tobin and his crew (and his boss Sam) from Sam Miranda. As I've mentioned, someone give this guy a nomination for something shiny. He deserves it.
- Event sponsors Champion System, Grapeworks, Wangaratta Motor Group and Hydralyte Sports.
- Personal thanks to Kosdown and our team sponsors. (I need a wheel sponsor after picking a pretty bad line on the Strade Nero!)
- And last of all, the official event photographer for hosting both Von and I at Ch√Ęteau de Reeckman for the weekend.

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