I will forever remember the brilliant standard of racing I’ve been witness to this weekend. Some may not be surprised to hear me say that, knowing I’ve been working on the Tour of Bright… until I mention I was the lead-car driver for the Women’s ‘C’ Grade.
“Women’s ‘C’ Grade”, you say!.. “that must have been much like this”…
I do admit I have never been a real fan of watching women’s road racing. The Herald Sun Tour of about 2010 introduced the women’s peleton to a stage starting in Angelsea; there wasn’t much need for my timing moto (no gaps… EVER) and I distinctly remember nearly falling off my bike from slow speed and boredom.
I don’t say such things because I don’t support women’s road racing – far from it; it’s just that they are boring more often than men… and I prefer exciting. The men can be frustratingly tedious as well; when they have no intention of attacking or riding aggressively in a 200km race until the last climb, for example. In those cases, the first 180 kilometers of the race can also cause me to ride much like this…
– until the last climb.
So you can imagine my delight when, last Saturday, the women of the ‘C’ Grade bunch in the little ol’ Tour of Bright were taking it to each other like Contodor to Evans on the Col de Tourmalet… and that was on the flat of the Happy Valley only 25 kay into the race.
The QOM (Queen of the Mountain competition) at Rosewhite Gap had them in a ding-dong battle for the points (ultimately won by Adele Gunston) and then, on the descent, two girls got away and were held up by the ‘A’ grade men on the flats of Kancoona. Really… HELD UP BY THE ‘A’ GRADE MEN… having a wee… sorry – a “nature break” as Phil would put it. One wonders what the ‘A’ grade men might have thought had they known they were frustrating a couple of nuggety and determined ‘C’ grade women who were trying to escape from their 38 slower competitors.
(For more information on weeing whilst cycling, see this post – A twinkle not a sprinkle: A story behind the scenes of the Herald Sun Tour)
By Coral Bank the bunch had diminished to 15 and by the start of the Tawonga climb there were 8. It was a true and gritty race of attrition, the fight continuing to the bitter end. It really was a joy to watch as I saw these girls working harder and harder to sort themselves out, so as to just avoid a sprint finish with gaps of 50-100 metres or so between 1st-4th.
The Mt. Hotham stage was just as aggressive; despite Monica Delidowicz attacking from the bottom and staying away strongly all day (she had a flat on Saturday). The remaining girls fought it out for the podium all the way… in appalling conditions.
It was a privilege driving for this group of girls. I wasn’t confident of an enthralling race and it was easily that; very impressive from a number of girls who really really wanted to win.
Adele represented the 6am-ers in the way most of us expected… apart from her. She’s had many advisers over the past six months or so, and most of that advice has been put to good use. As you can see from most of the photos I’ve posted, she’s a very happy girl… no doubt receiving a large injection of confidence for her future racing prospects. Top job Adele!
(DNS TT, 2nd in Stage 2 – Gaps Loop, 4th in Stage 3 – Mt. Hotham. Overall – 2nd in the QOM with equal points but second on a count back, 5th on GC without the TT start!).
As for the other 6am-ers; Dizzy, 2Laps, FoggDogg, Solo and the Ice Man – all rode admirably well in their respective grades. As we’ve all discussed, Masters racing is not what it used to be. None of us recognise the names on the podium any more and the standard of 20th five years ago might have you in 50th position this year. Yet another example of the popularity of cycling.
Oh, that’s right… and we’re all getting older – and racing against 35 year olds. What can we possibly expect?!
Once again it was an absolutely brilliant effort to put this all together by Aaron Smith and the crew from the Alpine Cycling Club. I won’t name other names because I’ll miss a number of people who worked so hard yet are so humble… you wouldn’t even know of their contribution.
That is the key to this race without doubt. A team effort from an absolutely wonderful Bright country community. I say again… one I am extremely proud to be a part of.
Top effort everyone… especially the C Grade Women – you bloody warriors.