When I sit and think about stage 4 two days on (because I’ve been too tired to write anything before now), my thoughts are nearly all positive. I just watched this little vid again to reminisce on the course and the day – it’s worth a quick one minute watch if you have time. The feat of organising such a day is pretty bloody phenomenal because when I first looked at the route for this stage, I wondered how the organisers could have a course which apparently went through of golf course, a few public parks, a large amount of Newcastle suburbery and across a beach… then still call it the crazy single-track stage.
Well kudo to them because they did it in style. Here’s the course; Blacksmiths to Merewether Beach; two hours, six minutes with an average speed of 18.5kph.
It was a really fun and enjoyable stage of racing and all-the-more pleasing to finish since it was the fourth stage in a four stage race. I can’t say all of my feelings have been positive though. From the early stages of the race, most noticibly in the single-track where quick gear changes were required with consequent high wattage applications on the drive-train, I noticed immediate problems with my shifting. It was then that I was reminded that I needed to tweek the shifting after the previous days racing, having had a couple of little issues then.
This was a lesson for me in stage racing preparation because I simply forgot about it and didn’t address a fairly significant mechanical issue. My shifting became worse and worse and resulted in a number of chain drops in the first half, with the chain stuck between spokes and gears and cut and bleeding fingers. What a serious duffer. Substantial positive thinking was required in the stress of it all.
As I emerged from the first long section of single-track to the beach, following a rider who was holding me up slightly on a technical downhill section, I realised it was the one man I’d been looking for and not seen for four days. It was Tim O’Leary, the number 2 in category, always just a few minutes ahead of me. Prior to this I had completely abandoned any chance of catching him or the number 1; they were just too far ahead of me. But it appeared that was on the big climbs not the single… so I got a little excited.
Then we hit the beach. As it happens, riding on soft sand (and it was REALLY soft) is not too flash when you and your bike weigh in excess of 110kg. The next 500 metres of riding was something I’d prefer not to think about… I actually think racing across that beach was someone’s idea of a really bad joke. It was seriously horrible. Yes I know… everyone has to deal with the same thing – it’s hard for everyone – it’s part of the race – suck it up and enjoy… but no. I don’t want to. It was absolutely fucking horrible and I never want to do it again. 😉
Here’s Rohin Adams (and others) on the beach showing us how it should be done. These photos by the Flow boys.
Tim disappeared in front of me on the beach on foot and I never saw him again. As it turns out, he and Pete O’Sullivan who came first, beat me by four minutes on this stage and without my mechanical issues (which effected my shifting technique for the whole ride) I reckon I could have given them both a decent nudge in the stage placings. However, mechanicals and beaches are a part of racing and you need to be able to deal with it all in a positive mental and physical fashion in order to win. It was really good practice for me.
The next section of single-track through the Glenrock Park was really beautiful. If you watch that video, it’s the stuff with the gorgeous ocean views on the side of the cliffs. The run down into Merewether to the finish was so SOOOOOOOOooooo relieving. There ended four days of really hard and mostly good fun racing.
I was pleased to come in third for the fourth day in a row in a strong field of 96. That confirmed my third place in the general classification and awarded me with this position on a big-race podium.
This result is close to, if not my best race result ever considering the prestige of the race and the standard of the field. I went in hoping for a position in the top ten and couldn’t be happier achieving what I did.
I learnt many lessons with regard to how hard I can push myself, how much I need to prepare, how to recover and how important it is to concentrate on every detail of body and bike.
I’m really looking forward to continued improvement throughout the rest of this year with the help of my coach Adam Kelsall (#herodirtcoaching) and the boys at Cycle Works Box Hill (#cycleworks), both of whom have been such important links in the chain so far. That bloody chain!
Thanks Adz and Vlad.
Now onwards to more prep, some serious starvation (so I can look like these blokes!), and the journey to the Crocodile Trophy.