Friday, December 9, 2011

Two Dollar Shots - Bright Photos

Mills took at $2 disposable camera with him on the weekend. Any lens blur is probably a gel from his jersey pocket!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Feeling Bright - Dingus Dave

Stage 1. Tawonga

Neutral Zone. 30km/hr (now this is an appropriate neutral zone speed – are you taking notes Mr. Shipwreck Classic?). I’m sitting just behind and to the left of Gene, mid-pack. He turns around briefly. At the same moment the guy in front of him brakes. Gene turns back to the front. Fuck……. Slams his brakes on, locks up the back wheel, mad skid, touches wheels with the guy in front, holds it, recovers. Crisis averted, and trust me - he really didn’t want to test out that wicked helmet he was rocking.

After the hell of Shipwreck, it was absolute bliss to sit in the middle of the 100-strong peloton and fly along at 45km/hr with barely any effort. 

At 35km, Adrian: “is my back tire flat?” I glance down. The guy behind shouts “your rear is flat!” Adrian slows to the side of the road. I have fleeting thoughts of stopping to help pace him back on – isn’t that what you do for your teammates, and he’s a serious threat for GC, but by the time I consider it it’s too late. I roll on, convincing myself that it’s alright, Adrian is strong, he’ll get back on. I mention this to Gene when I get alongside a few minutes later. “Nah, he’s riding tubs.” Oh, fuck.

We hit the climb at Rosewhite Gap after 50km. 4.5km at 4%. I expect the guys at the front to smack it up here and split things up, but it all feels pretty cruisey. It actually feels good to get the heart rate going a little. I make up a bunch of spots on the descent, which kinda surprises me because I generally descend like a Grandma. I probably get a little too aggressive near the bottom, when I overtake a guy on my left but get squeezed by two guys on my right and rub shoulders at 60+km/hr. For some reason I’m not scared. Must be the adrenaline. TDR’s good buddy James Kent, of Hell Krew fame, comes screaming past as we latch onto the front group of 30 riders. Feels good man.

The final climb up Tawonga to the finish comes at 85km. But the 10km leading up to that are all uphill and my legs start to feel it as the pace picks up slightly. We hit the climb reasonably hard, with Gene, James and me all sitting mid pack.

I try to settle into a rythym but can’t. The three of us fall into a group of about 8 or so, while the top 30-40 riders pull away. I spend the first 10 minutes in the red zone. Man, it shouldn’t be this hard. Gene goes to the front of the group. James is just behind me. I still can’t get a rythym. This gear, that gear. No this gear. Why is my heart rate so high? And why can’t I get my cadence up, it’s too low. Fuck it’s hot. When did it get so hot? Why am I wearing all black? Gene is pulling away, taking the other guys with him. 

Fuck. But go Gene!

Halfway through 7.6km climb. It’s steeper than I remember. I can’t keep this pace up, or I’m gonna die before the top. I watch as the group I was with, including Gene, pull away. James is still not far behind, but I know he’s saving himself for the climb up Hotham. My butt hurts. I get out of the saddle. My heart rate jumps. It hurts. I sit back down and grimace. I’m in trouble here.

2.5km to go. Gene is falling back. I can reel him in. I turn around, James is dropping off slightly.

I pass Gene. I push to the line with 1km to go. Spectators are scattered along the roadside. “Go Malvern Star.” I continue to stare at the road, but give a little thumbs up.

I cross the line. Gene is right behind me. James not much further back.

Later, just as we get back to the house, my wife texts me: 47th. Awesome. Only 6 minutes behind the C Grade winner. 47th. The goal is to finish the tour in the top half. 110 starters, so I’ll take 47th. But wow, we lost 6 minutes on that 7.5km climb.

We stand in the icy cold river and let the water wrap around our muscles. Adrian arrives, and we find out that because he didn’t finish Stage 1 he’s not allowed to start the next two stages. Well that’s shit.

Stage 2. Time Trial.

A few hours after finishing Stage 1, I roll up onto the start for the time trial, 15.7km out and back course. The clock ticks down. The starter counts out, 5, 4, 3…. I’m staring at the numbers, silently mouthing each one as it appears.

I roll off the start.

It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.

How far have I gone? 500 metres!?!?! Oh man.

13 minutes of hurt later, and I’ve made the turn to come home. I pass a guy. And another guy. Feels good man. Then I hear behind me what sounds like a helicopter going in slow motion; whoosh whoosh whoosh, and a dude on a time trial bike, tear drop helmet and rear disc comes roaring past me like I’m standing still. “Oh fuck!” I cry out. A minute later he’s out of site.

The course back to the finish is slightly downhill, and I’m feeling surprisingly comfy in the TT bars and smashing it at 50km/hr. This time trial business isn’t so bad. I cross the line and roll back to the house. Call my wife and get the results.

Stage 3 – Mount Hotham. 

One stage left. 4 seconds between me and James, with Gene only 30 seconds back. It’s on!

At the start we’re told it’s -2 degrees at the finish line with an icy gale wind blowing across the top of the mountain. For our own safety, the stage will be cut short. It’s a little disappointing we won’t be facing the full challenge, but at the same time my legs are kinda pleased.

Even so, after the first 25km of heading up the valley to Harrietville, we’re still faced with a 10km climb at something like 7%, before a 10km false flat section to the finish.

We roll off, and I happily find a wheel mid-pack and sit in. Twenty minutes later I notice James and Gene have moved up through the pack. I turn around, and there are only two guys behind me. How the hell did that happen? There’s an intermediate sprint, and as the peloton strings out I take the opportunity to move up and re-join Gene and James.

Harrietville comes along, and then we start climbing. Straight into 11%. My legs spin nice and fast, and I start passing big guys gasping for breath.

The front 30 guys are gone. We started too far back to even have a chance. But I’m feeling a million times better than the climb yesterday. So is Gene by the looks of it, as he moves up ahead of me, head bobbing in his usual style. James is not far behind.

The field has split up completely. It’s all two’s and three’s on the road; Gene about 30m ahead, James 15m behind. Racing bikes. Feels good man.

Gene pulls further ahead. He must have 20 seconds on me now. As I pass each turn I glance back, and see James ever so slightly further back. Shit, Gene might get this.

I try to forget about the overall and concentrate on my cadence. Gene has disappeared now anyway. After 4km we hit The Meg. It’s meant to be 300m at 12%. I glance behind. A group of 3, including James, are on my tail. My garmin reads 14%. The guy next to me gets out of the saddle. I stay seated, and slowly pull away. I’m smashing it. I look at the Garmin, I’m doing 11km/hr. 

As the gradient settles back down to 7%, I get out of the saddle and punch a few strokes out. I look back. I can’t see James. 

Why didn’t I feel this good yesterday?

I see Gene up ahead, riding with one other guy. I’m gonna catch ‘em.

I pull alongside: “James has popped.”

Gene: “YES!”

Four or so other guys appear. Did we catch them? Did they catch us? I’m not even sure. I’m just trying to concentrate. There mustn’t be much climbing left before the false flat. I click up a gear and ride off the front of the group.

Another guy bridges across. Good. I’ll need someone to work with on the false flat. The gradient dies down to 2% and all of a sudden we’re doing 35km/hr.

We round a corner. The trees have thinned a little, and we’re smashed by a headwind. But we catch another guy, then another. They latch onto our wheels but are too tired to do any work, and it’s just two of us pulling turns into the wind.

How far are we riding today? I’m not sure.
My buddy fills me in; “I think there’s 6-7km to go”.

A minute later we see a sign; 2km to go. Well, that’s a pleasant surprise.

I glance back, I can’t see Gene or James.

Head down. Smash to the line. I can’t get out of the seat to sprint. 

I finish, clip my feet out and fall over the bike. My chest is heaving. I turn my head back towards the line, and see James come across with a group of around ten. Gene follows thirty seconds later.

What an awesome race.

I don’t find out the results until I talk to my wife back at the house. But I’m pretty darn stoked when she tells me.

A cracking weekend all round. An impressive effort by Matt to finish 6th, backing up from his top ten finish last year. Disappointment for Adrian to get a DNF, but he took it all astonishingly well. As for me, James and Gene; it was hella fun to race together and be so close in each stage, and I think we’re all pretty happy to finish in the top half. But mostly, it was just awesome hanging out, racing bikes.

Feeling Bright - Gene Mills

“Racing bikes, racing bikes, racing bikes, around the world” to quote James Kent of Hell Krew fame that was pretty much how the Tour of Bright went.

So the weekend’s done and we’re all packed in to the cars and on our way home,
Of the 8 of us that signed up together 4 months ago, only 5 were able to make it out to bright to race. And then only 4 finished.

Friday, I got up at 5 and smashed 8 hours of work out the way, Matt Gray rolled into my drive way around 4.30, James and myself added our bags and bikes to the now overflowing station wagon and hit the road before 5, making it out in time to beat the traffic. Well the early start mustn’t of done my head much good, by the time we’d got to bright I’d already left my shoe’s (casual shoe’s not road shoes) at a pub which we’d stopped for a toilet break, it didn’t bode well for the weekend.

Saturday, after getting settled in to the house we had for the weekend the night before, along with organising a mass pasta and getting our bikes ready (matt’s was ban spanking new, he hadn’t even ridden it yet).
We woke early-ish and got kitted up, it was at this time about an hour till the race started that I realized I’d forgotten something else, my helmet…

The bike shop was closed.

Matt’s mate in Mt. Beauty had already left, so him bringing his spare was out of the question. After making some phone calls around to some locals in town, I finally secured a helmet, “Flash” was definitely not a word  I would use to describe it, but it had the necessary AUS standards sticker, so off came the visor and on went the helmet.

Stage 1. Bright – Rose White – Tawonga Gap.

Neutral @ 20kmph for about 5 km, with over 100 starters it was a bit messy, and once the car pulled over not a lot changed, except for the pace that is. Until the first climb at Rose White the bunch sat quite happily around 42kmph avg.

The 5 of us sat quite happily in the bunch, Matt moved up to the front 15 with Adrian not far behind while myself, James and Dave spent most of our time sitting in the middle/back half of the pack. Rose White hit, and while its not the steepest of climbs the fact that there were KOM points up for grab made the last km hurt that little bit more as I tried not to get dropped from the main bunch in the sprint.

It was just before Rose White that Adrian punctured, its was really hard to watch, knowing that he was a real contender to be up around the top 10 for GC, but that was it, race over.

After nearly loosing the bunch on the last climb I made an effort to move up the bunch a bit more knowing I would need a good start at Tawonga, so far I felt I was climbing the worst out of the four of us (and really our personal competition within the group is the only one I cared about), before Tawonga came around nothing of any real consequence happened, the second and last sprint of the stage came and went, and with Steve “sprint dog” Duggan having to pull out from bright on Thursday due to illness we had no one to work for here, so they went by all weekend with out much fuss.

Tawonga was upon us, I don’t personally like to look at maps with gradients and distances on them before a race, an over all distance with a rough idea of what’s to come is enough for me. So all I knew when the climb started was that I had a bit of a gap on Dave and James, and was pretty much dead centre of the pack with 8km to go.

It was a bit of a mess to say the least as Tawonga started, people were all over the road forming in to small pack’s of 3’s and 4’s, but once you worked through the first km getting passed by those faster than you and passing those that we’re slower on the climb, I got set into a steady rhythm.

A small group of about 6 riders had formed and we’re all riding together with a steady pace, Dave and James were both with me now, and we as a 3 lost the bigger bunch with about 3km to go.
1km to go Dave was clear of me by about 40m with James only just behind me.

500m to go I flicked it down a gear, gave an effort and tried and shake James, he followed me.

200m to go, he broke not committing to the chase and wanting to save some for the rest of the tour, I’d shaken James, but Dave was still off the front and I had another rider coming up behind me.

In the last 80m the new chaser went for it, I countered, he attacked again and I followed suit, in the last 20m he threw another gear down and stupidly I followed suit, we’re both out of the saddle pushing but the last gear was to big for me, he rolled over the line about 5m in front of me.

Dave had just finished and I got about 10 seconds on James, I was happy with my result, but wrecked, I’d dug deep to try and hold off James all day and sprinting for the finish with someone I didn’t know definitely didn’t help with my ITT prep.

Stage 1 Results:

Matt Gray -7th
Dave Hogan -47th
Gene Mills -49th
James Kent -50th
Adrian Del’fonso -Dnf (mechanical)
Steve Duggan –Dns (illness)
William Watson –Dns (work commitments)
Jeremy Soawyer -Dns (work commitments)

I’d done it, I’d finished the first race and I wasn’t dead (or dead last!), It felt great! Well except for the fact I couldn’t stand with out leaning on my bike and every moment I felt like I was seconds away from vomiting.
We gathered into a group congratulated each other, especially Matt when we found out he was in the top ten, collect our wits, refilled the bidons and held off the vomit.

It was time to roll down back to Bright and rest up for stage 2.

When we got back to the house we got changed and headed straight down to the river, it was freezing cold, but having a dip and refreshing the legs as well as doing a few stretches felt amazing. Off to the bakery and we smashed roll down, that plus a protein shake, a coke some chocolate and a muesli bar felt like it would be enough, last thing I wanted to do right now was over eat.

Back at the house we sorted out the clip on TT bars, and made the final bike check (or in my case didn’t). Not wanting to be late for our start time we rolled out in 1’s and 2’s giving our selves a good 20 min to roll around and warm up near the start.

Stage 2. Individual Time Trial

I was on the starting block and the counter was counting down and damn I felt tired. Not a good start. Stupidly while I new I was having minor issues with my rear derailleur towards the end of stage 1 and hadn’t check it out and thought I would leave it till later that night, unfortunately that was not my first mistake of the weekend as you know, but it was probably the biggest for this race.

15.7km story short, going too deep in the 1st stage and not tightening a loose rear derailleur means a horrible time trial and the loss of a 40 seconds, giving James a 25second lead on me. I’d like to say I was emotionally shattered by this fact but I think I was just way to tired to care.

Off home I rolled in such a daze that twice I thought I was lost (I wasn’t). Down to the river again as group, food, a whole lot of inane chatter and bed, day 1 was done, it was just and easy breezy 58km tomorrow…

Stage 2 Results

Matt Gray 7th - 23.30.51
James Kent 41st - 24.53.33
Dave Hogan 43rd - 25.05.82
Gene Mills 59th – 25.33. 30

Sunday, another early-ish start, breakfast, shower, put on kit. There was a quite excitement in the house, not the easygoing chat that was about the day before.I felt surprisingly fresh, I checked my bidons made sure I had enough food, packed the $2 dollar disposable camera we’d picked up the day before in to my jersey pocket and it was time. Hotham was waiting…

Stage 3. Hotham

Much like the house earlier in the morning the bunch had nervous energy to it, with a much shorter neutral section the race was on its way and while the pace felt the same as the day before you could tell people were a bit more tired today, there was more quite focus and people seemed a little more jumpy within the bunch.

I’d set myself a list of objectives to complete before we hit Hotham and the main one was to make sure I got up towards the front of the bunch, I knew if I wanted to get time back on Dave and James, as well as even have a hope of finishing Hotham in a respectable place I needed a good start, and getting stuck behind a bunch of dead weight when the climb started like yesterday was not what I wanted.

While this sounds like an easy enough goal, the fact that the race had been shortened due to heavy winds at the top of the climb meant people were a lot more willing to fight for position and push harder early on as they didn’t have to save reserves for the CBR and Razor Back climbs.

I eventually worked my way to up to the front half of the bunch about 30 riders deep. With the final sprint having kicked and the bigger lads rolling off to the back of the bunch the climb started, and much like the day before the effect of the incline was instantaneous.

Groups of 3’s and 4’s breaking off all over the place, I immediately got stuck behind a few riders who were sitting on a slower pace than I’d liked and spent much of the first km trying to find room to set my own pace.
For much of the first part of the climb there was a small group in front of me I was trying to catch, urging other riders around to work with me, knowing I had to be with a solid group of riders when we hit the false flat other wise all the work I’d done to get time on the boys would be lost in the heavy winds.

Pushing up towards the Meg I saw a “1km to go” sign for the KOM points, and this is where my dislike of looking at maps in detail failed me, not realising that the false flat was still I good 2.5km past the KOM point I pushed hard and settled in to a higher pace trying to catch the group in front of me, by what I thought would be the top of the climb.

I hit the Meg with about 20 seconds on James but I could see Dave coming around the bends not to long after me slowly closing, I slowed my pace and tried to get another gel into me (most of it ended up on my Cannondale), let Dave come along side and then we rode together along with 3 others who were just behind him.

With just under a km to the actual false flat, Dave broke off with 1 other. The false flat came and I instantly started rolling turns with the 2 gents I was riding with, using my track experience, I just set my head down and hit the gears, but the winds were high and with only the 3 of us it wasn’t long till another larger group of about 10 came up behind us.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t shattered this time when I saw James was sitting in with them, I’d gone to early and I was very nearly burnt out. We joined in the larger train, and I stuffed my face with some lollies and water, I knew my only hope now was to out sprint James.

Or a break! 2 lads went off the front with about a km to go, I chased to go with them, but it was too much to early.

150m to go and the pace line collected me again.

80m, the final sprint from the remaining 10 went, I was solidly deposited out the back of the group and watched James roll over the line in front of me.

Now it sounds like I’m disappointed but trust me I was not, I was euphoric. I’d just finished to Tour of Bright, I’d managed to ride the whole race competing with 2 close friends and riders I would normally consider better than me and I’d had a bloody great time doing it.

Stage 3 Results

Matt Gray – 8th
Dave Hogan – 31st
James Kent – 37th
Gene Mills – 46th

We rolled down back down Hotham with Adrian who had ascended before the race to watch A grade and us finish (only to get another flat on the way down!). We talked crap and laughed as well rolled along, I pulled out the camera and took some shots of the view and the boys descending (I put it away just before the false flat finished for the real descent), but I must have been having far too much fun because I wasn’t focusing.

As I came down the Meg I hit the brakes far to late and hard, the back wheel came all the way out to the side and I only just managed to straighten it back out, sliding the bike into the dirt shoulder I some how managed to unclip, park the bike up against the metal safety railing and then, without the bike I fell over the side of Hotham…

I stood up I had leaves down one side of my jersey, gave my self a brush off and got back over the barrier, just in time for Adrian to roll around the corner and think I’d stoped to give him my pump for his slow leaking tyre. Amazingly I was fine, my bike was fine and no one even saw it! Lets just say the rest of the descent was taken very slowly indeed.

Back at the house we cleaned up and packed our bags, headed down to the pub and had a counter meal, said our good bye’s and jumped back in the car, it was only around 2pm and none of us were in the money, and yes while it might not be proper, we’re all damn tired so we decided to skip the presentations and hit the road early.

Bright was done; I spent the weekend riding around mountains with a rad bunch of friends, and made an awesome time of it. Cant really ask much more of a weekend on the bike than that.

GC Results

Matt Gray – 6th
Dave Hogan – 38th
James Kent – 42nd
Gene Mills – 45th