Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 Shipwreck Coast Classic - Race Report

30/10/2011 - Warnambool - Our first open road race

Words by Dingus Dave

The author after the race. Shattered. 

I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. Hell, I’d only ridden a handful of club road races over the past 6 months, and here I was lining up at an Open event; 116km along Victoria’s South West coast with vicious cross winds. Not only that, it was a mass start with all grades, so I was lined up next to the lads from Genesis Wealth Advisors and Team Budget Fork Lifts.

We had a neutral zone for the first few kilometres through the streets of Warrnambool. Neutral is a relative term though – we were smashing it at 40km an hour. I knew I was in trouble when my heart rate nearly maxed out before the race proper had even started. I was amongst the guys strung out at the back, Gene was next to me, and Steve and Adrian just up ahead, when a shout came from behind me; “Fuck off Genesis Pros, we’ve paid our sixty bucks too!”

The pace eased a little, and I looked around. Nathan Hass was next to me. Shit, I’ve gotta get in front of him so I can say that I was leading him at some point. No luck, he weaved around a couple of riders and got ahead of me. I needn’t have worried though. We reached the base of a hill, 6% for 1km, and the flag dropped. Fuck. The A Graders at the front smashed it, I made it over feeling ok, but as we crested the hill the cross winds hit, and the field split up dramatically. Haas had already called it quits by this stage – caught at the back of the pack in these cross winds was not the place to be. All of a sudden it was a battle to find a wheel, any wheel. We got some shelter from the support cars, but before I knew it I was at the back working with Mills just to hang on. I could see Duggan about 50m ahead riding with two or three others, battling like us in the brutal winds.

We picked up a couple of other guys and worked to stay in some kind of touch. After 10km or so, we caught the group with Duggan and D’Alfonso, and formed a solid bunch of 13 or so. For the next hour-and-a-half we worked together in the cross winds, and I got a crash course in echelon riding. It took a huge mental and physical effort just to hold a wheel. I put my head down, legs burning, gasping for breath, I glanced at my speedo – we were doing 28km/hr. Hard yakka.

After 40km I was hurting, my back was in pain and I was mentally starting to fade. I lost touch with the group. But the thought of riding the best part of 80km in these winds on my own scared the hell out of me, and I put in an effort to get back on. Phew.

We reached the Great Ocean Road proper, and followed the rollers past the rugged rocky outcrops. But the views were tempered by the wind screaming off the water. I counted heads – Mills was gone, dropped just a few km earlier. As we reached Peterborough, about 60km into the race, we rounded a bend and the pace kicked up. I couldn’t go. My head dropped and my legs stopped. I gave up. I look back in hindsight and say I could have held on, I should have worked harder, Don’t we always. But at the time I was cooked.

The group disappeared up the road. I felt embarrassed coming out of Peterborough, as the Police escort had stopped the traffic at a major intersection for the race; cars were backed up waiting as I rolled through on my own at 25km/hr. I didn’t see another cyclist for the rest of the race, pushing the last 55km on my own. I forgot about my speed and just tried to turn my legs over and stretch my back. The intense racing of the first hour-and-a-half had given way to a gentle solo training ride around the back roads of South West Victoria.

I kept an eye out for Mills behind me, but never saw him. With 12km to go I was joined by a motorcycle escort, who motorpaced me for a few kms before dropping behind and protecting me from passing traffic. I was happy to have some company.

I crossed the line on my own in 64th place, almost an hour behind the A Grade winner. Mills followed about 5 minutes later. I was stoked to hear that Duggan and D’Alfonso had stayed with the bunch, with the two of them leading the sprint over the line.

Hogan (C) - 15th +44:33
Mills (C) - 16th +48:42
Duggan (C) - 6th +17:46
D'Alfonso (C) - 7th +17:46

Post-race Burgers.

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