Most people that know me, including my family, friends, work colleagues and general randoms, know that I’ve been looking forward to the TOMR for a long time. That’s because every time I was asked what I was up to my answer usually involved training for it. Finally, after many months of dark, cold and wet winter mornings, the Tour of Margaret River had arrived.
I had impressed the racing committee enough to be selected for SPR team 2 and survived the cut during the reshuffle. Unfortunately, Mike Bonner, our nominated leader who we would work for to get the over 50s jersey, couldn’t start. At very late notice, Jim Flynn stepped in to join Matt Wardynec, Paul Bakker, Dale Groves, the unstoppable John Gilbertson and I. We were a good mix of youth vs wisdom, pace vs stamina and fuzz vs shaved.
The weekend started with the Team Time Trial; 2 laps of a 12.5km circuit out from Cowaramup that went through Howard Park Winery. The results of the TTT would determine our start category for the rest of the weekend. Despite a few half hearted attempts, our team never got sorted to practice before hand other than the one Saturday morning that Gilbo blew us all up so I was a little worried about how we would do. My worries got worse when I had my first mechanical issue of the weekend…
Every cyclist should have a mate like Tim. A few years ago, Tim was right into bikes and triathlons. Unfortunately, life has caught up him. His two young sons and crazy busy job has squeezed the cycling time down to nothing. It seems such a waste not to use his fricking awesome race wheels when the opportunity arrises! With his wife’s approval, I’d grabbed his DT carbon tubs for the road racing and his Zipp 808s for the TTT. Unfortunately, when I went for my warm up something was very wrong. It took a minute of me looking confused before some young punk from Giant Satalyst yelled “Your freewheel’s stuffed!”. Sure enough, the soothing “tick tick tick” was gone and my bike was turned into a fixie!
A quick pit stop later, I was up and at ‘em again, this time with my PowerTap training wheel. Yes, that’s right… I bought three pair of wheels down!
The TTT was a blur. I remember getting really worried when Gilbo got to the front as I knew it was going to hurt. We worked really well, pulling though turns and pulling off into the wind to protect everyone else. I was on the front when we finished and it felt great to power up to the line with the whole team behind.
To the organiser’s credit, there was live timing available on the web. After we had finished, but with most teams still to ride, we were sitting 5th! Our plan was to be placed in the 11-20 grouping. Every time one of the faster teams finished and knocked us down a spot I sighed a big sigh of relief. We finished 12th, two minutes behind the rampaging SPR 1 and a mere 21 seconds in front of SPR 3.
Saturday turned out to be a lot tougher than I was expecting. Once again, it didn’t start well. When I put on my one month old Bont shoes for the warm up, I found out that the ratchet clip from one was missing! SHIT! Even though I’d bought three wheelsets, I didn’t have a spare pair of shoes. I got more than a little panicked. Amazingly, Andrew Ballam had found it the day before and kept it safe. He even let me use the bolt from his spare Sidi’s and helped attach it back on! Champion!
There was two short and sharp races on the flat with time bonuses for both intermediate sprints and the finish. The first race followed a similar course to the TTT. The first half was nerve racking. I felt on edge as everyone swarmed, surging forward to catch little breaks and compacting up when no one wanted to work all while trying to stay left of the double white lines. In the lead up to the first sprint I saw Sam Luccitti bump bars with someone, break free then touch me on the other side. I touched bars again when going full pace 50 metres from the intermediate sprint finish with a HCT rider. Thankfully we both stayed upright but it’s not something I’m in a rush to repeat.
The pace settled a little on the second lap until the usual mayhem leading up to the sprint. With a kilometre to go, I moved up the outside and found Matty W who was tucked in ready for the final fling. I got him onto my wheel and went like stink from the 500m, hoping to put him just behind the leaders at the 200. It kind of worked but Matty could only manage 4th on the line and I kept going to finish 7th, just out of the time bonuses.
The second race of the day was a Kermese format that involved 8 laps of the Delirium 24 hour course. I decided beforehand to sit in and try and save energy for the longer and tougher Sunday road race. Plenty of people had tried unsuccessfully to get away in breaks on the first race. I figured that the same would happen in this one.
I didn’t go for the intermediate sprint but moved to the front just after when the sprinters were recovering. Very shortly after, a small break had formed with Sam representing SPR. We turned the corner and Pete Mah decided to bridge. I threw caution and energy conservation to the wind and went with him. Pete couldn’t quite make the gap but I got across just when Sam got flicked though for his turn. He smashed it but couldn’t hitch back on when he rolled off. Some of the big boys from the other teams made the gap and the group of 7 was formed.
The break was 20 minutes of seesawing emotion. I was at my absolute limit. I remember looking down at my heart rate and thinking that is was way too high. I also remember thinking that I should pull off, go back to the group and don’t waste energy for Sunday. I’m glad I didn’t. It felt incredible screaming up the home straight, helicopter hovering TdF style and hearing the SPR crowd yell your name for encouragement. That was one of my best ever cycling moments.
But I got duped into a beginner’s mistake. On the last lap, one of the others told me to do more turns. Fair enough… given I probably had done less than most of the others. I went to the front but no one came through. Everyone else knew that the break would stay away and were recuperating behind my wheel for the sprint. I lost their wheels when they attacked on a rise 1.5km to go but still managed to outsprint a guy named Deisel to come in 6th, 17seconds ahead of the pack.
Sunday’s only event was the road race, 75km down Caves Rd finishing up a hill in Augusta. Luckily the howling breeze was mainly coming from behind. After a little confusion before the start, we rolled off and settled into a good pace. Gilbo again did more than his fair share on the front hoping to keep the pace high to give Jim Flynn a shot at the over 50 GC Jersey. Unfortunately, very few (including myself) were interested in expending energy before the hill finish.
The first half was spent watching for attacks. I was convinced someone would attack on the short but steep hill after crossing the Margaret River. At times a break threatened, once again with Sam up there in the action, but I think everyone agreed that the proper race would start at the bottom of the hill. It was special flying down Caves Rd in the peloton. It has been on my list for a long time but my wife, quite rightly, banned me due to the cars.
Poor Sam got into trouble again. On the outskirts of Augusta, he was on the front into a corner with plenty of gravel. His line took him right though the worst part and he slid out. No damage done and thankfully he made it back to the group.
I had previously ridden the hill while holidaying in Augusta early in the year. It’s about 2.5km long, averaging a steady 6.6% gradient. I knew exactly where it started and I was told the finish was just at the top. At the start I was third wheel, sitting just behind Andrew Ballam. A Gyros rider started aggressively and I jumped around Andrew to grab his wheel. He was too hot for me so I settled into my pace rather than red zone it and hoped he would pop further up. Unfortunately, he never did.
I was expecting a flurry of riders attacking past me but no one came. I just kept on going at tempo. Finally, a train of all the best riders came past. I jumped on but again it was too fast. Most surprisingly, it was also too hot for the top Avanti Plus rider who unhitched a bit further up from me. I slowly wound him in, timing my run to finish with a burst as we exited the trees where I thought the finish line was.
Except… the finish line was another 1km away, initially downhill but then up a progressively increasing incline. I tried to keep the hammer down to stay away from Avanti Plus but he and another rider got onto my wheel. Learning from the Kermese, I flicked them through for a turn before we could see the finish. They took the bait and I was in perfect position coming into the sprint finish. I waited and waited and waited. Finally we all stood and squeezed every last bit on power from the legs and oxygen from the lungs. I got around Avanti Plus but couldn’t pass the third bloke.
Another 7th place, 39 seconds off the stage winners. Jim (13th) and Paul Bakker (18th) both climbed the hill really well. I finished 5th in Category 1 and 59th overall on GC, mainly because of the head start the team gave me from the TTT. Unfortunately, Jim was still 3 minutes off the Over 50s winner. Dave Hind, riding for Dome, must have smashed it up the hill to finish 12th on GC. Anna Massey finished 2nd on Sunday’s stage and 5th overall to be the highest placed “Green Machine” SPR rider. For the blokes, Tom Barratt came 20th overall.
Big thanks go out to all my team members, especially Matty W who kept telling me that I was fast enough to keep up with Avanti Plus, even if I didn’t believe him. Other thanks go to Tim for the wheels, Andrew for finding my shoe clasp, Pete and the other race committee members for all the organisational work, my friends for coming down to support and my wife for putting up with it all. I highly recommend everyone try to enter this event next year. It’s a great weekend away with something for everyone!
I crashed riding to the start of Thursday’s SPR ride. I slipped on some water coming into the tunnel that goes under the freeway just north of the Narrows. Yes… the bike was fine and I only had some bark off. I rode awfully around the river. I couldn’t hold a wheel to save myself and was too nervous to hit the corners as quickly as you need to on a fast ride. Even El Prez Pete chastised me, quite rightly, for surging too much! It bought my bike ego back to earth after the weekend’s successes. Turns out, after xrays and an MRI, that I broke my wrist as well. Hope you all enjoy the next few weeks of riding while I re-acquaint myself with the wind trainer.