To start with, what a great weekend of racing that was. As usual a big thanks to the Canberra Cycling Club, Jason Parkes and all the volunteers for putting on another great tour. Even though this was the lowly D2 race, the grading was just right which made for good competitive racing.
Stage 1 – was a nice 79km stage (which ended up being 89km) starting from Stromlo through Uriarra crossing and out to the first hill going to Condor Creek and because the organisers were so nice they said we could do two laps of the course, so that meant doing the three sisters climb twice, nice! In total that was 1500m of climbing.
The bunch started off all eager, too eager in fact with a number of guys crossing the double white lines. This happened a few too many times so the race director pulled us over and had chat with us to curb our enthusiasm. He also lightened a few wallets by $50 for their indiscretions. In reality there was no need to jump the white lines; the race was not going to won in the first 10km.
Another good move this year was not to have the KOM climb coming out of Uriarra crossing, this meant there were no stupid moves going down the three sisters into crossing, which is a really dangerous piece of road.
The first notable event came 30km into the race as we climbed the three sisters for the first time. I still don’t know what happened but in an instant 2 riders went down in front of me, a Vikings rider and CCC rider. I guess it was a touch of wheels and while crashes are never a good thing I figure I would rather crash going up a hill than down one. Anyway there was a moment of confusion, I wasn’t sure if I should stop to help or keep riding. Somehow it feels really callous to keep riding but I guess that’s racing. Anyway their misfortune was my good fortune as it allowed me to pick up my first points in the KOM comp.
So the pedalling continued for another lap with not much action until we returned to the three sisters again. Then the first of my glory moments, as I started to climb the three sisters in my big chain ring, I still don’t know what happened but I suddenly found myself off the front going uphill, inconceivable, at 88kg I’m no hill climber, but there I was stomping to the top of the first rise. By the time I made it to the top of the second rise I knew I had this one in the bag, Wow, my first contested hill climb which I have won and I was pretty stoked. I will say having the home ground advantage does pay off, I’ve been riding that hill every week for the last eight weeks in preparation, so that training thing really does work. At the top of the climb I had moment of clarity, I’m not Jens Voigt and I’m not going to be able to hold these guys for the last 10km so I sat up and rejoined the bunch.
The final 2km was the stuff we all wish for. Coming back into Stromlo I was in 5th or 6th position then as we went past the roundabout a gap opened up and I just felt that this was it. I poured it on, I felt my back wheel skip but I was off. Coming back onto the crit circuit is a nasty negative camber corner, I knew someone was on my wheel so this was no time to slow down, in another first for me I abandoned all fear and just went for it. Going down the back straight I knew was in bad position but I was committed and had to go for it. Coming into the final 400m I had Mark Toyer on my wheel but I knew there was no time to play as the bunch was only about 30-40m behind us. At this stage I figured I would rather go hard for second than be swallowed up by the bunch on the line. At 200m Mark made his move and went wide for the sprint. The next 200m seemed liked a lifetime. I remember looking over and thinking “not this time”; I also remember “shit! My hands aren’t in the drops; you can’t sprint with your hands on the hoods”. Crossing the line was awesome; there I was with half wheel on Mark, I did it, I actually won a sprint, another first for me and this one actually meant something, usually I’m sprinting for a minor placing. I now know why people are addicted to sprint finishes, the rush is awesome.
And there it was, I was the leader of D2 race, what a buzz, but it was to be short lived.
Stage 2 – The 3.5k time trial up Mt Stromlo. I always knew this was not going to be my thing and my start didn’t help. Seconds before the start, I back pedaled to get my feet into position and I dropped my chain. “Stop the race” I thought, “back pedal, back pedal”, trying to get the chain back on, that’s not working. Off the bike, fix the chain, “which chain ring should it be on?” don’t care just get it working. Back on the bike, lots of colourful language helps sooth me. I managed to get going but I was definitely rattled. I figure I had lost at least 10 seconds.
Getting near the top I caught the rider in front of me but my chest felt like it was going to explode, I was struggling to draw to breath and pedal. I was definitely in my own little world of hurt. I knew I only had about 300 metres to go but pedaling 300m has never been so hard. Crossing the line was a great sense of relief but I knew my race lead was in trouble and sure enough moments later I see James Fowler come over the line and I’m thinking “oh that’s not good”. As it turns out James had posted the best time for the time trial.
At the end of the day Mark Toyer lead the race with James behind by 7 seconds and I was I further 2 seconds off James. So the dropped chain had cost me the race lead, unfortunate, but that’s way racing goes and I still had a stage win so I had to happy with that.
Stage 3 – Stromlo to Tidbinbilla and return, another 87km with 1300m of climbing. Another great day for racing but as we headed into Uriarra crossing the fog was still pretty thick which made it interesting, more so for the rider who had broken away and was in the fog by himself. He was only about 200m in front of us but was nowhere to be seen.
The day’s racing really started at the first KOM of the day with climb at Pierce’s Creek. It’s just over 1km with a steady gradient approaching 10%. Mark Toyer won that one with James and me out of the points. With the 3 second time bonus I now figured it was going to be pretty hard to catch Mark so I was going to play it safe and see what I could at the end, hoping for another good finish.
The race then slowed down at this stage, I think it all became a game of cat and mouse. I was on Mark’s wheel and James was protecting his 2 seconds by never being more than 6 inches from my back wheel. Then just before the turnaround the slow pace gave one of the CCC riders the chance to breakaway, to his credit Mark Moerman did a great job and was gone. I really had my doubts if we would see him again.
The second KOM of the day was Mt McDonald. Its good climb and the finish suited me as it starts to level out and at the line it’s only about 2% gradient. With a little help from Ian Mongan from Team Quon and fellow ADCC member he gave a nice lead out for the sprint to the line. Mark had seen this move coming and there was a bit argy bargy to be on Ian’s wheel. But in the end I think Mark knew he had the KOM competition in the bag and left it to me. James made a big effort to stop me but I still managed to claim 2 seconds on the line, Mark Moerman was still off the front at this stage.
Coming to final climb of the day at the 3 sisters, there wasn’t going to be any glory from the previous day; the legs were definitely starting to suffer. The time bonuses went to a few riders who hadn’t previously been in the running so nothing was lost and Mark Moerman was still off the front.
Then in a nicely scripted finish we caught Mark Moerman with about 5km to go, so it was all together for a big finish, just like the Pros. Coming over the last crest before Stromlo there was a surge, as we went for it for I noticed James was suffering and didn’t respond, I wasn’t feeling great myself, cramp was starting to set in, but I thought “here are my 2 seconds”
Coming onto the track I was nicely placed but I was suffering and I knew it was going to hard to do a repeat of the day before. At 200m I was still in about 6th but then Ben Huff from who was leading blew up and went wide to get out of the way, the trouble was I was already committed to going around him for the sprint so it pushed me even wider and lost momentum. That was it, with the cramp, I had nothing left and scrambled as best as I could get over the line in 10th, same time as Mark Toyer and 6 seconds in front for James Fowler. Second place was mine or was it? Either way my legs were finished.
In the end the final results showed Mark Toyer winning the race and well deserved win it was, Mark displayed great sportsmanship over the two days making him a deserving winner. James came in second, 5 seconds back after finishing back 6 seconds on the stage and I finished 3rd back another 15 seconds. I know this doesn’t make sense, we all questioned it but in the end that’s the way the results were published. Win some, lose some, it was still a great weekend of racing.
So I ended up with one stage win, 2nd in the KOM and 3rd in the GC, you’ve got to be happy with that. One thing that makes me smile is fact that James was 16 years younger and 22 Kilos lighter so with 3000m of climbing over the two days and to only finish 15 seconds behind wasn’t bad. Also in twist it turns out I finished the race with a slow puncture, in way I was lucky to finish the race so I really should be thankful I still got third. Karma I think it is called.
03/07/2010 Update: As it turns out, the officials reviewed the results some time later and it turns out I did finish in second place, 10 seconds behind Mark Toyer.