Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tour of Tassie- The final day

Day 4.
Stage 6. Ulverstone Criterium.
This was likely to be my last day of racing due to a wedding of the National marathon champion, Murray Spink. So I wanted to go out with a good day of racing. The criterium was fast and flowing with a head wind on the back straight and a tail on the home straight. I was feeling quite good. I spent a lot of time really close to front, probably the best positioning in a criterium for me to date. A break went clear early so the pace in the main field was steady and comfortable. However, with about five laps to go there was a crash and about half the field took a lap out. I looked around and sure enough I was the last rider to NOT take a lap out. IDIOT! So when the riders merged back into the peleton I was very near the back with only a handful of laps to go. I tried to make a few easy positions up but in the end decided to just conserve energy for the afternoon’s stage. The last few laps were furious but apart from that it was a relatively easy criterium.

Stage 7. Ulverstone to Penguin.
Team mate Steve Robb had been talking this stage up all week as the real decider of the tour. Why? A big burg of course. At an avg. of around 9% it was certainly steep enough but it was less than 4km long. There was still some hope! I figured even if I managed to stay with the leaders to the bottom of the climb there was still no way I could get over the hill still in contact. My solution: get in a breakaway. Risky, but it was my last day and I wanted to give it a crack.
For the first part of the race I was too far from the front to get among the action. There were some riders not too far up the road and a breakaway was looking like a possibility. I gave myself a stern talking to for lingering so far back and moved up when I saw the chance. Sitting right up the front for less than a minute I looked to my left and saw ex-mtb rider and fellow Albury resident Rhys Pollock boxed in and looking ready to pounce like a van der Ploeg at the dinner table. I dropped back slightly and presented a gap for him, surely enough he attacked. I followed.
We got into the break and it established itself. What luck. We worked solidly together and I was a little concerned I was overexerting myself but tried to find the right balance between helping the break and saving my legs. The gap got out to around 3 minutes but in the approach to the climb we slowed up and the leaders turned it up. We hit the bottom of the decisive climb with only a minute’s lead. This was ominous.
I felt pretty good up the climb and got into a good rhythm. About ¾ from the top the leaders caught us. Myself and the other break away riders increased our pace to try and hang on over the top. I thought I’d done it but after a short descent only about 200m long there was a straight piece of road towering above us. It was upsettingly steep. Peter MacDonald decided this was a good time to start sprinting and a few of the big hitters followed. I tried to limit my losses and stay near some other riders for the final 20km of gradual descending.
Steve was right; this climb had completely blown the race apart. But after we got over the top, riders started forming groups. The last 20km can be described pretty well using two words, hard and fast. It was undoubtedly the fastest 20km I have ever ridden in my life that was not down a mountain. There were some very strong humans in our group. Former Australian champion Matt Wilson was the strongest. He was the last person I wanted to pull a turn after I had finished my own. I almost was dropped countless times but in between was able to pull what I thought were good strong turns.
Our group got to around 15 riders in size and we almost succeeded in bringing back the minute gap to the leaders. Didn’t do well in the sprint for the line at all but was very satisfied with how the stage panned out. It was a big effort and a great way to finish the tour. After that stage search2retain moved up into 6th position in team GC with Ben Dyball finishing in my group and Steve in the next bunch not far back.

A tough tour, a shame not to complete it but there are plenty more bike races to come, stay tuned!


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