Monday, 18 March 2013

Mt Buller Road Race. March 17th 2013 - Masters A.

My race report from the Mt Buller Road Race last year caused a little controversy for telling it like it was. Fast forward 12 months and to the credit of the race organisation team, Cycling Victoria, sponsors, and volunteers, they stepped up and addressed everything to make the event a better experience.

Pre-registration the day before, electronic timing with results online in real-time, a grading system (finally! Not perfect, but a great start). Add to this the inclusion of the Victorian Road Series and ability based Masters grading. You can't deny that things in our sport are progressing at a rapid pace.... So much so that a few riders are drifting off the back of the collective bunch waving their fists screaming "This isn't how my sport used to be! Damn it!" More on this later on.... First up, a race report!

Masters A

Masters A Grade wasn't the biggest field of the day, 40 riders on the start sheet. Quality over quantity, with more Tour of Bright podium place getters than you could poke a stick at and a few well known flat landers to keep everyone honest before the hill. Nobody knew who to watch. Still too early in the season to know who is flying and who is creeping.

Masters A - Start line.

Roll out. New Kosdown kit on show too.
Right from the start the Charter Mason boys had the numbers and used their riders to perfection. 2-3 of them on the front driving the pace in the gutter for the first 20km. One rider thought it best to ride in the gravel on the shoulder of the road..... and was soon a DNF with a puncture. No surprises there. Charter Mason's man mountain, Rohan Andrew, was providing the best wind break we could ask for. He was stomping along! I heard there were a few splits in the bunch within the 20km of gutter action. No surprises there either, this kind of riding takes a lot of energy, concentration, and risks.

The two riders just off the front of the bunch were soon swept up as we started the climb at 31km. Stephen Lane (Kosdown) went to work on the front. Full gas can only half describe the pace he set. What was left of the climbing group after only 2 minutes were all in the hurt box! All except for Michael Gallagher (VIS). He was soon on the front setting an even higher tempo, dropping more riders from the climbing group. Not content with just a high tempo, he was throwing in accelerations every few minutes.

Decision time. Do I keep fighting and respond to every attack, or peg my power numbers and never push too far into the red? Bugger it! Fight! Attack after attack was thinning the climbing group. Down to 8, 6, 4, then it was only Gallagher and I for a short while. I told him I'd pull through for a turn and keep us clear but I wasn't able to contribute much as the road pitched up harder. I did a few token turns but the pace wasn't high enough. Two riders rejoined us and Gallagher soon put the nail in our coffins with a few kms to go. Experience and ability like that is hard to beat!

~30 second gap to Gallagher at this point.
Race status - Gallagher up the road by 30 seconds. Brett Kingson (Hampton Cycles) still on my wheel. Danny Kah (Charter Mason) still within striking distance of a podium spot. After some encouragement, swerving, and a handful of brakes, Kingson came through for a turn. We knew Gallagher had the win in the bag. We needed to keep clear of Kah to get on the podium. The pace was off near the top and I mistakenly backed myself against Kingson in the kick to the line, he stuck to my attack and launched off me for a deserved 2nd. I rolled over a few seconds later for 3rd, 48 seconds down on Gallagher.

From the gutter action out of Mansfield to the slaughterhouse on Mt Buller at only 2 degrees, the race had character. We were all outclassed by world-class Gallagher and I was pretty happy to be standing up on the podium next to him.

Top 10 - Masters A

1. 170  Michael Gallagher 1h41:23          Carnegie Caulfield CC
2. 148  Brett Kingston    1h42:07    +44   Carnegie Caulfield CC
3. 178  Shane Miller      1h42:11    +48   Coburg Cycling Club INC
4. 156  Danny Kah         1h42:49    +1:26 Carnegie Caulfield CC
5. 150  Ciaran Jones      1h43:35    +2:12 Carnegie Caulfield CC
6. 171  Paul Mason        1h43:54    +2:31 Carnegie Caulfield CC
7. 185  Aaron Knight      1h44:01    +2:38 Team Mount Beauty
8. 151  Craig Johnson     1h45:15    +3:52 St Kilda Cycling Club INC
9. 152  Damien Jones      1h45:15    +3:52 Carnegie Caulfield CC
10.184  Tully Lyster      1h47:07    +5:44 Wangaratta Cycling Club INC

Masters A - Full Results
All Grades - Full Results

Tony Reeckman Photography
Jo Upton Photography

My take on the grading system/ear chewing.... 

With progress there are grumbles.... Let me address those, as best I can, after my ear was chewed off a few times over the weekend - "The handicapping isn't fair. Masters needs to be age based, not ability based. Scrap Masters altogether. What the f&#k are you in grade X for?"

- Cycling has changed in the last few years. A lot. More people. More events. More private sponsorships. More money involved. Racing is popular! Charter Mason and Kelly Coaching, both had cars and team vans there to support their troops. Only the VIS and Drapac had this luxury a few years ago.

- The quality of racing has changed. A LOT. A Elite Grade is super fast. Masters is faster than ever.

- The grading system is in early stages of development. There is only one rider you need to worry about, yourself. CV have provided all the info you need here, along with a feedback form.

- Grading exists to offer more riders a chance to be competitive. I think this is fair. We're not all ProTour contract seeking Elite A Graders. Most of us just want to be competitive in a bike race.

- Ego aside, you need to evaluate which grade you'll be competitive in, and race that. If you can honestly tell me there isn't a grade you'll be competitive in, I'll be surprised.

- The grading system is not set in stone. You have the ability to question/change/state your grade assignment. Have supporting information, previous results, etc to make things easy for them.

- Aged based Masters racing forces a 44yo D Grade club level master to race 32yo A Grade club level riders. I don't think this is fair.

- The grading system will have the ability to identify and relegate those who are continually 'over graded'.  Hypothetically speaking, if you're always finishing in the bottom 20%, I'd be pretty nervous about expecting a start in the same grade in the next race.

- Re: Tour of Bright qualification points from the VRS. Anyone collecting points in the VRS who has already gained a top 20 last year are allowing more spots to be opened up for people who don't collect any points all year. Something to consider before complaining about how you won't get a start at Bright. Support your ToB Top 20! :)

Other Random Stuff....

Coach! - With the level of competition at the ToB last year and the introduction of ability based Masters grading in the Victorian Road Series, I knew if I kept doing the same training then I wouldn't be as competitive in 2013. So back to basics. Working on the engine under the guidance of Mark 'Fenz' Fenner ( After years of doing my own thing and ticking off a few goals, working with Fenz will leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting 100% out of what I have. Only a few weeks into the program and things are looking good. Racing Mt Buller was a good indication we're on track already.

Mont24 - Von and I have been invited to be a part of THULE's mixed team up in Canberra next weekend. 24hrs. Mountain bikes. Camping out. Something well outside our comfort zone. Scott and the team at THULE have been a sponsor of mine for a few years and really do live the lifestyle their company is all about. We can't wait to be a part of it.

Easter Vets - One week after the Mont24 Von and I will be doing all five races at the South Pacific Vets Championships in Maryborough. Vets is still an eerie parallel universe of racing that I enjoy. High quality racing too. Worlds away from any grading system/pro contract chasing niggles!

2012 Masters of the Year! - My last post mentioned my nomination. The awesome news is I won! This will take pride of place on the shelf at home!

Random Pics

Mansfield accommodation... The 'tin shed' was exactly that. A tiny shed.

This driver also failed grade 3 colouring.
Country town gingerbread men supporting the CFA! Awesome! Nom!
Llamas. Real llamas from Argentina, thanks José! 


tjsr said...

CV's grading already has some damn suspicious things going on. They bumped me up to a grade I haven't raced in four years, despite not having any podiums to speak of in recent times. I've certainly not, at any club, been looking at going up a grade, so why CV thought that would be their call to make is beyond me.

I've asked about it, but it's evidently made its way to the email shredder. Clearly they don't seem to give a shit if they get it wrong.

Shane Miller said...

If you haven't raced in four years, what is the issue? Are you worried that if you happen to enter a race in the next four years you'll be forced to race A Grade? I think that is unreasonable. No doubt they will too.

Action points:

- Use their online form.
- When you next enter an event use the comments section provided to state your case.
- In the 'list three similar riders' section, list three similar riders.

Saying they don't give a shit because you sent one email is a fair throw of the stone.

Callum Dwyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Callum Dwyer said...

I agree aged based Masters racing is not fair. But having say that, why have master racing at all. Why not just have men's A to F?

I'm not having a go at anyone. Just wondering what's the reason/history for separation.

troglodyte said...

It seems Men's Elite C is actually Junior Elite. You can tell by the way they smash it up the rollers but then roll down them really slowly. Also, horrible bunch discipline. I'm switching to Master's C.

As for CV, they still can't piss straight. Changing the start order without notification? Bah.

Shane Miller said...

I see Masters racing providing a few benefits.

- As I've mentioned, all grading offers the chance for more people to be competitive. Be them male/female/age group/Open. If you want to open a can of worms, ask in the same breath why we have women's racing. You won't be popular for long! :)

- Racing B Grade Open and taking away opportunities of success in the sport from U19 riders, who may one day make a living from it isn't ideal. Just my opinion. The sport is cruel. It isn't 50/50 win/lose like most team sports.

- Masters or more commonly, Vets, racing has been around for years. It may have been born from retired pros wanting to still get their race on. I'll have to look into the history. Cycling isn't unique in regard to age group classification. A lot of sports have it, all for similar reasons.

The Kosdown team boss put up an article on it today over on our site. Might provide a better insight/perspective than me.

Not everyone has to agree with age group classifications, there is always the option of racing with an Elite license until you drop.

Shane Miller said...

There we go, a benefit of having Masters C, more choice for troglodyte!

As for CV not pissing straight, maybe someone needs to hold their dick? Do you have a free hand? :)

jbear said...

Given that a quick look at the masters results from recent races reveals a few in each age group who are head and shoulders above the rest, and with times that don't really start to deteriorate until the over 50s, it seems only sensible to stream the masters into grades. At least then those of us who only moderately talented have a chance at a race where tactics rather than just raw talent comes into play. In some senses, the top level is easy- it is how you engage the passionate riders who are a level or two below and keep them interested in racing in the long term. To date, Vets have had this all to themselves, and do a reasonable job in their idiosyncratic way.

Great report, BTW. I always enjoy reading your stuff- it is great to read considered reporting of the local racing scene.

Shane Miller said...

Thanks for the comments jbear. I'm always pleased to hear people like my little ramblings, reports, and opinions (some right, some wrong) :)

rgmerk said...

It was a pretty well organized event all up.

Frankly, ability based grading is the go. I'm ambivalent as to whether Masters is necessary or not, but if it is graded masters makes the racing more fun and competitive for the vast majority of riders.

For championship races, different story - I reckon the strongest older riders deserve a chance to show how strong they are against their age-similar peers. But for most races, putting people together who are competitive against each other regardless of whether they're 32 or 62 makes the most sense to me.

Shane Miller said...

Thumbs up from me there rgmerk. Thanks for your comments.

Grant Boydell said...

I was the Chief Comm & take full responsibility for the change to start order. Start time is always subject to late change, but in any case, you only need look at finish times to see why Masters A needed to start in front of Men's B, etc. It's no fun & not safe if a bunch catches another on a narrow open-to-oncoming-traffic road.