I like to think I’m a fairly positive person. I’m not often negative and certainly not on this blog.
Today, I will allow myself a little indulgence. Just a little… otherwise this storie’s a pearler. I’m positively pinging after my Melbourne to Warnambool race today! Performance-wise, I think it was my best ever.
I’ve completed this race three times before, most recently achieving my goal of staying with the main (fast) group into Warny without getting dropped into low-grade oblivion.
I had arrogantly said to my team-mates before this race that I didn’t want to die wondering. That as unlikely as it seemed possible, I would be going for it from the start, covering the attacks and trying to get into an early break.
With this in mind I expended lots of energy early. Attacks started straight away and the pace was high going out of Werriebee. I have a feeling a number of riders were shelled immediately. At one point out near the Youies I saw a break of about ten starting to gap the main bunch and thought it might be a goer. Snowy was in it and at least one Genysis rider. I had to cross a gap of about 200 metres but went with gritted teeth, brought on by my goals for this year. Silly man!! After a vain attempt I was soon back in the bunch which I’m sure was mostly having a giggle at me.
I had a few more attempts whilst this pressure was on but soon realised I was shooting outside my league. That’s pretty obvious I know… but at least now I won’t die wondering.
A group of five or so riders eventually got away and the race settled down through the back of Geelong and onto the first feed station at Inverleigh. My feeds went off without a hitch thanks to the excellent help from Mick and the 6am-er support crew. The 6am-er jersey held high on a broom was a God-send and an absolute must for future years. I was able to spot it from miles out.
At Lismore – within and just after the feed station – the casual pace we had held increased quickly and by the time I grabbed my bag from Mick, I was comfortable but working hard.
We turned left and the hammer went down!
It was a few k before I could get my food and drink sorted simply because I was forced to concentrate on riding and chasing. This was a significant point in the race and the start of the main selection. Many were immediately shelled and I question the compliance with etiquette when the main teams attack at a point where many are still sorting out their feed.
In any case, this is where it all went down. The initial attack did not trouble me and I settled into a very fast roll for the next 10k or so driven hard by Genysis, Budget and other main players. There’s nothing like the adrenalin rush of such a point in the race. I was pingin’ and having a ball… only because I was still there of course!
After 20 minutes or so of this high pace, the big-boys were still not satisfied. The road turned to provide absolute cross-wind and the stars tightened the screws. It was a matter of attrition from this point.
When I took the time to stop chewing on my bar tape to look up at what was happening, I was happy to see that I was still riding next to Danny Kah but very unhappy to realise a largish gap had been allowed to form just ahead of us. I chased as hard as I could to stay on the front bunch but eventually it was beyond my ability. The second echelon was formed (which included Danny and other major players) and I settled into this for quite some time. Eventually my legs could not stay with it and I dropped off the back – later to pick up pace with the third echelon which I was pleased to see contained the Duke (6am-er).
I appeared to have been the last dropped from this second group – so if you’re allowed to be pleased to be dropped… I was pleased to be last!
This third group of about 25 riders then settled in, most of us aware that this would be us to the end. Our vain attempts to work and chase only lasted a few minutes before we accepted the fact (based on pretty solid theory!) that we wouldn’t catch those ahead.
Here’s the negative bit…
Very few riders were willing to work. This groups of 25 contained mostly ‘B’ and some ‘A’ grade riders – Really? None of them appeared to want to contribute to the work on the front in the significant wind. Were they really so concerned about saving their legs for the sprint for 30th or 40th place? Were they that concerned about the coming hills that they couldn’t do a turn?
Clearly they were, because some simply refused to do a thing. At one point I drifted back through the bunch actively and verbally trying to get everyone on board to contribute as a group (I realise I could be seen as a real smart-arse for doing this but how many times do you get frustrated by a group like this not getting it’s shit together – this was my vain attempt). I got a few smiles and nods and ‘ok – let’s go‘ so I headed back to the front where I had a turn and then waited for them all to come through.
Me and one other bloke then took turns for the next few ks without another volunteer in sight. Seriously frustrating. This negative style of riding is my most hated aspect of road-racing and I couldn’t be bothered dealing with it for another 80k with no further real development in the race from my perspective. For this and a number of other reasons (such as getting home in time for friends to dinner!) I dealt out my food and water to those who wanted it and rolled to the side of the road at Camperdown to ring Mick and head home.
At the forming of the third echelon and my presence there, I knew the race was done-and-dusted from my point-of-view. I was extremely happy with how I’d went. I had given it a shot at searching out the early break and now know it’s outside my capability ; ) – I had survived to the point where I was still with solid riders towards the end of the selection period and know that I can contribute as a strong rider when the solid chasing is required.
I also know that when I’ve raced a hard and active 190 kilometres, my ageing body does not need to ride another 75 kilometres of unnecessary negative racing when there is no point. I think I need a hip replacement as it is!
A few beers and a grouse dinner with the Chappies topped off a wonderful day of racing and my personal best Warny.