race report by peter
the collie-donnybrook is another of those races that always sits high in the calendar of the perth race community. i think the main reason is similar to the menzies-kalgoorlie race – money. when the first prize for a race is counted in the thousands of dollars rather than the hundreds and there is a chance that anyone from a, b, c or d grade can win it, people all think that that have a shot at it. hence the 103 entrants to this event.
as the name suggests, this race heads from collie to donnybrook. however, as the name doesn’t suggest, it then returns the way it came for a total of 104kms. the reason this race is open to anyone to win is that it is a handicap race. a bit different to menzies where it was a graded handicap (i.e. a, b, c & d all set off at different times) this was a more spread field. basically you just entered and the handicapper looked at your previous results and gave you as much a headstart as he thought you needed. this varied from olympic track gold medalist peter dawson starting from scratch (no headstart) through to some of the girls getting a 33 min headstart. all up there were 13 starting groups
we didn’t know what group we would be in until we signed in and it is always a point of contention as to where people are placed. ryan was an unknown last year and was given a 25min handicap. that group went on to win the overall, but a flat tyre cost ryan any chance of victory. after his string of second place results this season there is no way that he would get that advantage again.
so after the menzies experience, i was still a bit dubious of doing a handicap event. but, as most things this season, it has been a learning experience and i thought i would have a crack at it just for the experience. the one thing i did learn at menzies is how easy it was for me to dehydrate and what a dramatic effect that it could have on my race. just like the pinjarra race, i started drinking the day before to make sure i was hydrated. with the race being on a saturday, i didn’t have the usual saturday afternoon to check over the bike to make sure it was all ticking along. i had stripped it down for the pinjarra race two weeks earlier, and was hoping it would still be fine. the race also started at 12:30 which is very unlike most other races i had done. this meant that i didn’t have to get up too early for the 2 ¼ hour trip down south, but meant that i would be late home even if i left straight away. but i am getting ahead of myself again.
ryan and stu had been convinced to enter this event with me, as the rest of the race crew were washing their blouses… again. the weather report said “bloody beautiful mate” as it was going to be a very pleasant 20 degrees but there would be a slight headwind home. i set off fairly early as i wanted to get a good park and set up the trainer to warm-up on. after leaving the servo i noticed that my speedo in the car read 66,666. was this a good omen as it is one of those speedo multiples that you secretly celebrate, or a bad omen as it seems like a multiple of the beast. only time would tell. i made better time than expected and turned up almost 2 hours before race time. that was even with at least two unscheduled stops for a nature break. between this and the pinjarra race, i think i have marked my territory along most of the south west highway.
so, i signed in and had a look at the start list for my handicap. 14 mins. not particularly good for me as i knew these groups would be overhauled by the a graders following behind. ryan was off 12 mins and brendan was going from 10 min. i scanned the field for stu’s name and was slightly confused. there was a stuart in the group with ryan, but not the right surname (similar though, so i thought they had stuffed up). but then i saw it way down in the 24 min handicap. here is a guy that finished exactly the same time as me in the pinjarra race, and he has a 10 min head start on me. he even had a couple of minutes on some of the female riders. no idea how that happened, but he needed to take advantage of the situation and try to get a win.
i had a bit of a wander around some shops in collie as i had already finished one water bottle and also needed some panadol to ease the persistent headache i woke up with. soon, however, it was getting close enough to think about a warm-up so i dug out the trainer and got kitted up. between getting up and starting the race a total of 6 toilet stops meant that i should have been pretty well hydrated. i would now need something else to blame if my race went balls up.
ever on time (not) ryan turned up with just enough time to roll up the street and back as a warm-up. i was already getting ready to line up and this guy was asking if we were in the 14 min group. i was, so he introduced himself (can’t remember now) and said how he wanted to work the group. we only had five riders off 14 min as one hadn’t turned up so i was a bit dubious of wanting to work too hard. ryan and i were looking at this guys bike. cervelo slc-sl with a lightweight rear wheel and zero-g brakes. we were sure it was well and truly under the uci weight limit so i will refer to this guy as weight-weenie. next thing we know we were off.
the pace was not too hard, but we were definitely pushing it. as we hit the rolling hills out of collie there were signs of struggling in the group. at about the 5km mark we lost our first rider. big tall guy with a grey farm frites jersey on who would feature later in my race. we will call him farm-guy. i should really learn some of these guys names as i have seen this guy in many races this year.
after the 10 km mark we had lost our second rider and were now down to three. i was trying to work out weight-weenies strategy as we still had over 90 kms to go and i was sure that i would not be holding this pace. by 15 kms we caught the 16 min group and picked up three riders as we blasted past. it was all “downhill” from here to donnybrook but we had a crosswind as soon as we turned the corner. this made the roll through difficult.
we continued smashing it along the road and any debris from the earlier groups we came across could not jump on board. weight-weenie even said to us that we should smash past them to make it hard for them to get on our wheel. i didn’t understand this as the more we had the faster we could go. as we kept pushing hard we managed to drop couple more from our little group. at one stage we had only four riders and weight-weenie kept pushing on. i didn’t want to seem like i was holding up the group, so i kept working as best i could, but was really starting to feel the effects of the pace. we picked up another group and this time a couple of guys managed to jump on. about 5 kms from donnybrook, there was a small rise that i got gapped on. i didn’t bother chasing and sat up to recover.
after doing so much work, i was so buggered that i was sure that my race was over. i dreaded the plus 50 km ride home by myself and was kicking myself for the decision to even racing another handicap. i just hated the pace from the s
tart. it was over 100 km of racing and why the hell did weight-weenie think that we would not get caught.
i cruised along the road and looked back to see when i would get caught. there was no-one there for a while so i tried to take advantage of it and get some fluids and food down. next thing i know i see quite a big group coming around the corner. it looked to be at least 15 or so riders and i could see ryan’s spr jersey flash to the front occasionally. as they approached i got up and sprinted to make sure i didn’t get left behind. it was clear the ryan’s 12 min group had been caught my brendan’s 10 min group and they had picked up almost all the rider debris that litter the road in between.
i jumped into the group and realised that it had already split into the have’s and have not’s. there were a group of riders that were still rolling through and working and a group that was just sitting on. i moved to the back to become another passenger. we past stu and his group coming back from donnybrook and it looked like they had quite a strong group working hard together. their gap was quite good too, so i thought that there was a chance that they would not get caught.
as we came into donnybrook i was chatting to young ben who was in our small group of five that had to chase to get back on to the group at the last race in pinjarra. he was picked up when we caught the group at the 15 km mark, but had not held on but was picked up by this chase group. he mentioned that he had run out of water as his parents were meant to hand him another one along the way. i got him to open his bottle and i squirted some water of mine into his bottle. whether i would regret this later i would have to find out.
we turned at donnybrook and i was content to sit in for the rest of this race. as we came up the rise out of town, the scratch bunch was coming the other way. it was clear that pretty much the rest of the groups, from the 8 min down to scratch, were all together and pushing hard.
as we raced along the flats i noticed that farm-guy was in this group. he was talking it up a lot and barking orders to people, but not really doing anything. he would come up alongside the group and let us all know how far behind the scratch group was. like it mattered as he was not really doing anything to stop it from happening. i noticed that coffee-boy was also in this group as he started with brendan today. however, he was back with me and looked to be suffering a bit.
pretty soon the scratch group was upon us and they started to move past to get to the front. as the group was already quite big, the scratch men were moving up on the wrong side of the road. as the wind was coming across our left shoulders, it was continuing to push us to that side anyway. there were a few moments of mad scramble when the call of “car” rang out and the group had to merge back into the correct lane. the commasaire had insisted that people would be disqualified if they were caught crossing the centre line, but i didn’t expect anything to happen.
the pace increased and a few little surges made it difficult for me at the back as i couldn’t get good protection from the wind. i looked up the road and it seemed that weight-weenie was still out in front. good on him, but i didn’t think i wanted to be in his position once that hills came again. a couple of the other guys that were picked up initially by our 14 min group also came back through the pack as they were swept up.
the dreaded corner finally came and i knew what was going to happen next. the road started to point upwards and my legs did not want to play. a combination of minor cramping and just damn tired from the initial effort meant that i now watched the group disappear up the road. i wasn’t the only one though and the pack basically spread itself wide and far along the climb.
it was now just a matter for survival and i had 20 kms to get through before i got home. i was not racing it anymore and i knew that i could get home ok as long as i paced myself. farm-guy fell back through the group and he managed to jump on my wheel for a bit. the next climb saw him off as another guy and i climbed on ahead. he eventually dropped me too, but the whole “pick up a rider and drop another” continued pretty much the rest of the way home. i managed to pass a couple of plan b and atomic brooks guys as well as they had spent themselves in the scratch group. there was a lot of rider debris left on the road.
towards the end of the race, i was pretty much on my own. as i came down the last few hills, i looked back and saw another rider chasing me down. as they flew past i noticed it was farm-guy again. he was chasing hard on the downhill’s and managed to pass me at speed. as the road rolled up again, he slowed down and i came around him so he settled in on my wheel. as we came into collie, another guy had managed to get on and came around for a turn. farm-guy jumped on his wheel and just sat there like he was saving himself for the sprint. we took the final turn towards the line and i was sure that farm-guy was going to sprint to 80th place (or whatever we were). sure enough, up out of the saddle and across the line he went. congratulations. i just rolled across the line and went to find ryan and stu.
it turns out that stu’s group did not get caught and he managed to take out 4th for the day. claimed himself more money than ryan’s second place at pinjarra just to rub it in. ryan and brendan stayed with the scratchmen all the way to the end and managed to sprint it out for whatever place they came. hopefully all three of the guys can write up a few lines on their perspective of the race, as it was very different to mine.
so my second handicap event comes to a close, but at least i finished this one. i still don’t like the format and would rather be doing a normal scratch race. not many races left in the year, but the next one should be interesting. it is a grand fondo cyclo-sportif event. basically this is run more like a road race than a normal cyclo-sportif event, so teams do not have to stick together. i think it is a good opportunity for any of the south perth guys out there that want to give racing a go to jump on board. if you are interested and want some more info on when, where and how much, drop me an e-mail.