Words by D'alfonso...
The call came out from Kent to TDR, ‘New Tour! looks cool’. Warrnambool cycling club was hosting The anchor point tour of the South West and with no Combine races scheduled the team consensus was best encapsulated by Duggans response ‘Down like a clown!’.
The C grade tour consisted of three stages, 85 km (five 17km laps) Road race, 12.7 km time trial and a 40 minute criterium on the Sunday. Being hosted in Warrnambool there were two things that were guaranteed; firstly it would be a moderately flat tour and secondly there would be wind, a lot of wind coupled with a high probability of rain.
The preceding two weeks had seen TDR race in the CSV Baw Baw classic and the NC Hell of the West and the form had been promising. Duggan having won the latter (C grade) and Sowyer finishing top 10 in the former (C grade). Both amazing efforts!! Not everything was all peaches and cream though, Kent and myself were both mentally scarred by the experience of Baw Baw.
As the weekend of the tour approached, forecasts were for rain and wind, lots of wind, the fair weather rider in me was considering pulling the pin, Warrnambool is a long way to go if you are not enjoying racing, only a phone call from Mills on the Friday morning tipped me over the edge. With that sorted we hopped in the car and drove....
True to the weather forecast, the sky was patchy with clouds but no rain was evident, even the wind wasn't too bad. As I rolled out with the rest of TDR (Mills, Duggan, Kent and Sowyer) I thought this might not be so bad. After signing on and getting a briefing from the race commissaire C grade lined up. TDR has a new sponsor, Saint Cloud on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy (check them out), so with three members of TDR team kitted out in the hippest of cycling clothes from Saint Cloud, TDR certainly looked Pro on the start line.
Right on cue, the wind picked up and with that the road race was on.
The first lap was relatively uneventful, most of the bunch was a little nervous with the cracking 50 kph cross winds. The second lap started much the same as the first, everyone content to roll through, but on the final 8 km of the lap BOOM! The race exploded.
The big units took the front formed an echelon and smacked the bunch. Duggan sensing the danger managed to barge his way into the echelon and cranked it up another notch. With the exception of the riders in the front echelon the bunch was strung out along the gutter, everyone was fighting to hold wheels. I was mid line with Kent holding Soweyers wheel who himself was holding Nick Edwards wheel a few riders back. As the start finish line appeared, I popped audibly, and a gap opened up, Edwards saw this and moved across taking Sowyer with him.
As I crossed the start finish line I pulled out of the remaining pace line and sat up watching the lead bunch pull away thinking to myself, ‘at least I'm near the car’. For some reason I kept pedalling, and the bunch slowed down, I put my head down and chased. Kent a few meters back did the same. The next few km’s I was riding solo into the cross winds chasing a pack that had sat up, as they turned into St Mary’s road, with a tail wind, I knew this was my last chance. I needed to get back on the bunch before they crossed Alansford-Wangoom road and smacked it.
Luck would have it, I did. Kent was only meters off my wheel but couldn’t close the gap. I sat in, dreading the crosswind section on the remaining 3 laps. Duggan looked calm, this was his playground, Sowyer and I were definitely out of our element but still hanging in. As we turned into the cross winds again, Sowyer and I moved to the front echelon and worked, we survived. Kent was still chasing on. 2 laps to go.
The next lap was relatively uneventful, with the bunch rolling turns, and the race getting neutralised in the crosswind section to allow A grade to pass. This was the calm before the storm, as soon as the neutral car pulled out, 500 m from the start finish line, it was on! The (smaller) pack exploded again. I was sitting last wheel, Sowyer had popped and Duggan was leading the charge as we turned into Alansford-Wangoom road for the last time.
As the last KOM point approached Tom Quirk took off. The bunch let him go, thinking that he would be back shortly. He wasn't. He kept going. It was a massively gutsy move. As the bunch rolled turns into the final crosswind section Tom was still away and looking strong. I knew I had no hope in contesting a sprint, and more to the point ran the risk of getting dropped in the final dash to the line decided to chance my luck.
At the 5 Km mark I attacked the bunch and chased Tom. A slow 3 km later, I was about 20 meters off Toms wheel when Nick Edwards stormed past me. I couldn’t grab his wheel and a few hundred meters later the bunch swallowed me up. Tom kicked again, dropping Nick as the bunch came storming through and held on for a hard fought win by 2 seconds. Out of the bunch came a storming Duggan taking a strong second place. I sat on the bunch finishing third last wheel, but clocked the same time as the main bunch.
The road race finished at 12:00, and the time trial was scheduled for 2:30. We spent the next 2 hours sitting around Jeremy's sweet car, lazing in the sun, discussing the days efforts so far. So far it had been pretty fun and as an added bonus our main GC contender was sitting pretty in 2nd place.
As the TT was scheduled to start, BOOM, the heavens opened and the rain came down/sideways. Huddling under cover, chatting to Duggan, I pulled the pin, I wasnt going to ride in the rain. But then riding to the car, the rain eased up, I changed my mind, and I went to the start line.
There isnt really much you can say about TT’s. They suck, you dont really know how you are doing, sometimes you catch the guy in front, but most of the time your hoping that you dont get passed. This one was no different as I rolled through the finish line, I hear the the announcer call that I have put in a nice ride, displacing Sowyer from the leaders position by a few seconds. At the conclusion of the TT I was sitting 5th overall in GC, down by 36 seconds. Duggan had given up a minute on GC.
That night we sat around, chatting and eating. Realistically, I was 20 seconds off the podium, and the smart money was that the Criterium would end in a bunch sprint.
There was speculation that the crit course would be similar to the teardrop that HCC runs its criterium on. As TDR rolled to the crietium course, it was patently obvious that this was not the case. The course had a small hill that was both steeper and longer that the teardrop, and the actual circuit was longer.
As soon as the start gun went off, the race was on. Duggan started near the front, Soweyer, Kent, Mills and myself near the back. Clearly a bad mistake. The race started at a cracking pace, 55 kmh will destroy any field, let alone one that was tired from the wind and rain yesterday. Mills and Kent held on but it was too much and they pulled out.
|Beautiful location for a criterium. Pity about the hill...|
|Mills stuck on some bad wheels early in the race...|
Soawyer and I used every trick in the book to work our way to the front of the pack, at least this way we could avoid the concertina effect.
|Duggan following wheels early in a frantic start...|
Duggan had added sprint points to his goals, he was now going contest intermediate sprints. As the first sprint lap approached (15min) the sprint contenders moved to the front, stringing out the field. Duggan, moved to second wheel after covering a split, I sat in on 5th wheel as they sprinted to the line. On the hill a rider saw the split and moved clear, I jumped on his wheel and a third rider on mine.
Sensing this was a chance to cause a break away, I called for us to work. The break instigator and myself swapped a few turns, with the third rider sitting on. It was at this point (17:30 min in) I lost my cool. I yelled at him to pull a turn (expletives deleted). He was muttering that he wasnt going for GC and it was my responsibility. We exchanged a few insults on the next hill climb. The hill climb after that I found myself 10 meters clear 19mins into the 40min+3 race.
The smart thing to do would be to go back to the bunch and sit in a bit longer, 21 mins + 3 laps is a long way to solo. I wasn’t smart, I went clear and for the next lap I vaguely thought someone would come accross.
They didn’t. I was dangling off the front. I had the choice, roll the dice and go for it, or return sheepishly to the bunch. After my outburst two laps previously, that wasnt an option. I went for it.
Mills and Mitchell Allen were placed on the top of the hill, yelling encouragement, although later Mills did admit ‘I thought you went way too early’. Initially, each time I crossed the start finish line the announcer would say, ‘Dee-alfonso has gone early, I dont know if he can hold it’.
|Working hard to stay clear...|
I was burying it, and slowly the time gap went up, at one point I heard that I was 20 seconds up on the bunch, I needed 36 for GC.
|Racing for second...|
I had Duggan and Sowyer in the bunch ticket collecting and at about the 30 minute mark the announcer was getting a little bit more animated, telling the crowd the time splits and what I needed for GC. People started giving the odd clap and Mills was telling me the time splits.
|Soawyer looking 'buggered' and 'chasing hard' on the front...|
|So was Duggan...|
My legs were burning but I kept going. At one point I was 40 seconds up and in the virtual leaders jersey. But 20 mins is a long way to go off the front solo. I started to fade, even at one point calling for the bell a lap early.
|On the way to a great win...|
On the second last lap my legs started cramping and on the last hill climb, as I got out of the saddle, my legs gave up cramps took over so with one last effort I pedalled to the line, crossing it 24 seconds ahead of the GC leader, and 12 seconds down in GC.
Duggan having completed his ticket collecting duties took third place in a good sprint. At the conclusion of the race the commissaire reprimanded me for my earlier outburst, which was fair enough and some riders (and even spectators!) congratulated me on the ride.
I was stuffed, I had rolled the dice and given it my all, I was happy with my efforts even if they were not enough.