Monday, 8 December 2014

Tour of Bright 2014 - Masters A

While there are more races on the calendar these days, to most of us Bright will always be as Wade Wallace describes it, "Australia’s amateur Tour de France." The CyclingTips post "Tour of Bright: A Legend Two Decades in the Making" is a fantastic read if you want to know about the history of the race. You'll see many familiar names in the history books from Cadel to Keeno who've pinned a number on in Bright at some point in time.

This year was my 7th ToB start since 2007. The MMAS123 GC win in 2012 has taken the pressure off in the lead up in the last two years. Last year I was team work-horse for Stephen Lane (Kosdown) who managed a top 5 in stiff competition. This year we were both TTing and climbing well and managed a good block of training after our Masters Nationals and Tour of Fiji. There was no two-man team tactics, we were just there to race as hard as we could and see where we ended up.

Stage 1 - Time Trial

Having spent a lot of time on the course, we were getting to know it very well. The only thing we didn't train in was the rain, which came thundering in right on queue making for a damp TT and some very careful cornering.

Photo (c) Peloton Cafe

Using the same 17min30sec ergo/prep session as last year worked again for 2014. The warm conditions and low wind also made it a faster course than last year. I rolled in 1st with a 17:31, one second off my ergo session! SLane had a great TT knocking 20 seconds off his time from last year and taking 2nd with an 18:05.

Stage 2 - Gaps Loop

Sitting 1-2 on GC in a teams race put us in an interesting position. Somehow SLane managed to slip into a good sized break within the first few kms that would have likely stayed away if they all committed to driving the pace. The chase was only organised once the break wasn't pulling away and riders were attempting to bridge across solo from the bunch.

A few kms later a group of 6-7 riders rolled off the front containing a few sprinters looking for points. Nothing too dangerous, so we thought. And with a number of teams with a lot of fire-power not represented, they'd have to ride to pull their GC guys back into contention.

There appeared to be some confusion in the bunch when a team of 5 sent two guys up the road to collect the sprint points..... points that were already snapped up by the riders in the break. A lot of head shaking in the bunch ensued. Without any representation in the break, and lots of legs in the bunch, they should have been straight on the front and driving the pace.... but it wasn't the case.

With the break out of sight and hovering around four minutes, the chase was still less than organised. I had a shot at lifting the pace up Rosewhite that was marked by Michael Gallagher (The Hurt Box) with the rest of the field on his wheel.

SLane and Adam Versteege (Charter Mason) had a few attempts at lifting the pace of the bunch after the descent with little luck. So we rolled along and watched more than one team ride their GC contenders out of the race by not committing to the chase.

Luckily the group up the road had broken up and our chase up Tawonga was swift. With 3km to go the climbing group was down to 12 riders with only two riders up the road. The best result would be a 3rd on the stage. I channelled my inner Cadel (complete with matching bum-chin) and rode the front to limit the GC time gap.

The rain soon started belting down and I couldn't see a thing. 300m to go, five riders kicked to the line for 3rd on the stage.  One rider on my wheel was yelling at me to close the gap. I was cooked! Words were spoken.

Local rider Aaron Knight (Fitzroy Revolution) took the win solo. Thankfully the effort to limit my GC losses up the climb was worth it and I was still leading GC, by 2 seconds. With most of the GC contenders still within 90 seconds, Mount Hotham was going to be a showdown!

Stage 3 - Mount Hotham

The rain that started falling on Tawonga didn't stop overnight. 70mm had fell on the area and conditions at the top of Mount Hotham were not suitable to send 600+ riders up. The call was made to cut the stage short. Taking out the steep climbs suited me perfectly. I'd managed a 3rd on the short Hotham stage back in 2011 so if I could make the selection in the climbing group over the Meg I'd be confident of my chances of holding on to a good GC position.

The twist this year was they added my old nemesis to the shorter Hotham stage, the Toll Booth climb. 1.5km ~8%.

The race to Harrietville was brisk. The teams/riders going for the sprint points were doing something, we weren't sure what... although it was keeping the pace high and the group intact so that was a good thing.

The climb started at the standard pace, flat out. Knight who needed to make up only 2 seconds on me hadn't made the front group, having paid the price for his monster effort up Tawonga during Stage 2. I didn't do a lot of homework on the other riders, the only plan was not to let Gallagher too far out of sight.

Gallagher knows his craft well and put in a number of surges towards the toll booth that put the pressure on the 6-7 of us at the head of the race. The roads were saturated as we hit the false flat section, the ruts in the road were hard to see and almost caught us out a few times. There was a lot of one-eye-closed head-tilted riding going on just so we could see.

Photo (c) Jo Upton Photography

1.5km to go we hit the final climb. Gallagher went hard with a few others trying to match his pace. I knew it'd be a tough ask for him to pull back 60 seconds on the final climb although he gave it everything trying!

Thankfully the Garmin was so wet I couldn't see the numbers. This was a good thing. The first minute of the climb was 482W. The next four minutes were an eternity.

The water was streaming down in rivers on the climb as we pushed toward the Dargo turn off. 500m to go and Gallagher and a few others had a 10 second gap. This was fine with me, I was only thinking of GC position.

An evil twist from the event organisers was to add a final kick to the race just past the Dargo road.

200m to go I could see the finish and I got out of the saddle for the final push. I saw Davey and Gallagher take 1-2 and I rolled over the line at +11sec for 3rd on the stage.

Photo (c) Peloton Cafe

Masters A - Stage 3 Results

I found the nearest ditch and collapsed off the bike for a lie down. As I posted on Twitter, I've never had to dig so deep in any race before. I'd started with a 2 second lead and managed to defend the lead and everything that Gallagher threw down. I didn't believe it for a few minutes. I'd won my second Masters Tour of Bright Yellow Jersey. The first one meant a lot. The second one will go on the wall right next to it.

Masters A-Grade GC Top 10
1. Shane MILLER       4:29:33.71
2. Michael GALLAGHER  4:30:27.08 +53.3
3. Matthew RIZZUTO    4:30:27.67 +53.9
4. Stephen LANE       4:30:37.40 +1:03.6
5. Alexander DAVEY    4:30:38.24 +1:04.5
6. Michael TOLHURST   4:30:48.64 +1:14.9
7. Mark CRAWFORD      4:31:17.93 +1:44.2
8. Cameron CLAMP      4:31:34.40 +2:00.6
9. Aaron KNIGHT       4:32:09.00 +2:35.2
10.Brett KINGSTON     4:32:21.49 +2:47.7

Masters A - Overall GC

As fans of the sport we daydream of winning bike races on beautiful roads, with the sun beaming, everyone cheering. Here I was yesterday, laying in a muddy ditch, soaking wet head to toe, totally numb, completely exhausted, and loving every second of it.

Experiences like this money can't buy.

1 comment:

backpaqer said...

Well done Shane! Stellar effort!