We made the trip down south from Perth this weekend to take part in the 90th running of the Collie to Donnybrook Cycling Classic. The 104km handicap is Western Australia's oldest handicap race, starting back in 1925. Lots of history, prestige, and a large cash incentives for all 200+ riders to make a real race of it.
My day involved a few ups, downs, and wtfs. All up it was a well organised event from start to finish. One I'd do again myself and recommend it to anyone who's able to come over here to take part.
|The lengthy registration line.|
Here in WA they do things a little different to what we're used to back in Victoria. The race registration process didn't provide the ability to request a handicap or provide suggestions to assist the handicapper. The handicaps weren't published prior to the event either.
Given my last few ATTA results and recent West Coast Masters race over here, I was hoping for scratch. Even if that meant being out of my depth after only 1/2 the race, it'd have been a privilege to roll turns with a few of the local pros and contribute what I could.
To my surprise I'd been slotted into the 5 minute group. Not block, not the 3rd group, but the 4th. That wasn't a welcome decision for some I overheard discussing my mark, and to the guy who yelled out "THAT GUY, THERE, THAT'S HIM" when I rolled to the start line. I went over to say hello, and was given fresh air....
On to the race - The conditions were perfect for a fast race. It as around 24°C, with no wind, and the sun beaming down. There was a $1400 bonus up for grabs if the course record was broken on the day. The conditions and calibre of the scratch bunch meant this was a big possibility.
My day was split into a few distinct parts.
Rolling out and to the top of the climbs at 10km was done at tempo pace, not what I was expecting. 300W 36.5km/h. It was going to be a long day.... or a short day trying to stay away from the chasing bunches.
Down the hill and towards Donnybrook we were still at tempo pace as we waited to be swept up by the chasing groups. 221W for almost 1/2 an hour meant the catch was very quick. The first group to catch us boosted our speed by 3km/h. 10 minutes later the scratch bunch rolled through like a steam train. 43 riders now in the group with 55km still to go.
The philosophy seemed to be "If you're caught, you don't need to work". My philosophy was "Fuck that! I want to race". I wanted to test myself against these scratch markers. If the course recored was going to be set, I wanted to be a part of it. Was I kidding myself wanting to be off scratch? I made my way to the front and went to work. If the legs held up, I'd keep pushing through to the 80km mark when the road hit the hills to the finish.
The next 30k was what I'd come for. Riding hard and rolling turns with other riders committed to the chase. The majority of the group didn't appear to be interested in reeling in the front markers with only about 5-6 riders rolling turns at the front.
Travis Meyer (Drapac) was seen rolling a turn or two about as often as his team mate Graeme Brown would attack the group with Meyer on his wheel, only to get reeled in soon after. This took place about three or four times on the way out of Donnybrook. There's no doubt these boys were aiming for fastest time and were going to light it up on the climb at 80k, but the attacks were beyond my understanding. A highlight of the day had to be Brownie having a crack at me for not rolling over him, after blasting past us again, and after near on 30km of busting my arse on the front. Sure, I was racing with a saddle bag, a pump, and I was only some random from the 5 minute group, but fuck me, I was on the front helping them pocket some serious cash. I could only laugh.... as I rolled to the front with a few others.... and they again sat in for the ride.
Race had become more like a scratch race than a handicap. Riders pulling turns were were rolling off the front and a few others started attacking as most of the bunch tried their best to keep out of the wind and as fresh as possible for the inevitable slaughterfest up the climbs at 80-90km.
10km from the climbs the pace was up and down, riders rolling off the front, with very few rolling though. I'd had enough of the games. I cracked the shits, and sat in. I thought maybe I'd make it over the climbs if I backed if off for a while. hah! I soon found out that wasn't going to happen.
Like clockwork the fresh legs in the group hit the climb at full gas and smoked away. We hadn't swept up the all the out-markers so they'd need to keep on the gas all the way to town if they were going for a clean sweep of all the prize money on offer.
I spent the last 20km ticking away with whatever I had left in the legs, dodging follow cars, and rolling with other riders who'd been shelled in the final run to the line. Doing the math on the race time I could tell the lead group would have set the new course record.
The last kilometre was the most memorable. I was shelled out the back of the scratch group, there was nobody around, and I was rolling in on smooth quiet roads. I was totally spent, my legs had nothing left, and I loved every second of it. Had I raced smart? No. Had I raced the hardest I could? For the most part, yep. And that was what I'd pinned a number on for.
Turning into the main straight the crowd was still kind enough to acknowledge riders finishing behind the winners. The claps and cheers may have been simple politeness, I like to think it was for the work done out the road, well out of sight, and a world away from the 92nd place I rolled in for.
David Wessels (16 minutes) won the event with Brown (Drapac) taking fastest time and setting the new course record by over 7 minutes.
Official results, photos, and race report links still to come.....