2013 Tour of the Goldfields

7:54 pm Unknown 0 Comments

Finally my target race of the season - Tour of the Goldfields. This one was on the "dream" list at the start of the year. The hope that I could build on last season where I raced my home town tour in B-Grade and aspire to work hard enough to race A-Grade with the big guns!

It's been a bumpy journey, but I made to the start line - just! I'd raced the last 3 weekend straight, had a shiny new bike to play with and on the Monday started with a tickle in the back of the throat. By Thursday I was on antibiotics to try make me better quick-smart! I didn't want to let down my St Kilda Cycling Club team mates:  Liz Doueal, Prue Rothwell and Simone Pierce.

St Kilda Cycling Club - Tour of the Goldfields NRS Team

Stage 1 Criterium 20 laps approx 1hr

Friday was the Criterium in Victoria Park. The day started off grey and drizzly and it was difficult to stay warm. With 72 riders over 17 teams, and overall NRS lead within striking distance of 2 riders, it was going to be a tough tour.

The drizzle started again on the start line, we waited for 15mins in the chilly Ballarat weather until 3pm ticked over and we were off! The pace was full gas from the start, into the first corner on the damp surface brakes squealed, bikes flew into the gravel side of the road, tyres did 2 wheel slides but everyone stayed upright. Around and around we went, I got dropped into the second group of 6 riders then stuck with the third group of about 10 ladies.

Stage 1 crit racing in the pouring rain. Photo: Kate Healy

About 30mins in the rain started in earnest and when I went around the first corner again, I hit the road hard. Brakes? front tyre? handling? I have no idea what happened. First time I've ever crashed on a corner. First time I've ever got road rash! I got up, checked the bike, got ready to jump back on and keep riding. First time I've ever had to take a lap out in a crit - they held me back till my group came around so I could jump back in the same spot. All good once I got back on the bike we raced around and around again for 15 mins till we were pulled out. Tough day out there, but I was revved up to start the Team Time Trial the next day.

Stage 2 Team Time Trial 20km

It was again a grey day outside and the wind blowing a bit stronger, but I'd take that option as it was dry. I was a lot more confident and in my element lining up with my St Kilda Cycling Club team mates in this event. While we had not ridden together before, (or even met some of them before the weekend) we were definitely united in wanting to do well. SKCC team coach Stuart McKenzie was on hand to provide pre-race tips and we loaded up Simone with loaner TT bars and helmet. Prue was to be our sacrificial lamb and to help us out as much as possible,  after a ton of work she left it to the three of us to finish it off about 5km from home.

On our way out - I'm at the back

I came home totally toasted after my efforts at trying like hell to hang onto 2 better riders and do a few turns. We came in 11th overall out of the 17 teams!

On our way home

Very happy considering our lack of practice and different levels of abilities. After this, I was feeling a bit stuffed. My cough had started up and we still had a road stage in a few hours.

Stage 3 - Windmill circuit 58km

I was a bit more prepared for this stage than last year where I was dropped in neutral zone when the ladies motor paced off the lead car, but not feeling too good. The first 8kms are deceptively uphill. I was with the main bunch for 7kms when the sprinters kick came for the first sprint of the day. That feeling of falling... of grasping at straws... seeing it all slip through your fingers when something is just out of reach...
BAM! I was out the back and chasing with the sidewind buffeting me, it was like the downhill didn't exist without the bunch protection. A small group of 3 riders came by and I lost touch with them almost as soon as I joined them. So I kept on with my pace, thinking that was the end of the day so soon! In reality there were a few riders that saw the same fate as me last year, and then there were another group of about 20 riders that were caught out when there was a split in the bunch and swept me up before the Queen of the Mountain.

Team mate Simone stringing the bunch out

As we crested and dropped into the headwind descent, a few kilometres up the road we could see the convoy ahead. I could see two riders off the back of the main bunch and didn't think much of it until I realised it was the two NRS series leaders Katrin and Ruth dropping back to our bunch. I saw team mates cycle up beside each of them to chat and try pace the group back up to the leading bunch until they both shook their heads and dropped to the back of our group.
At this point I realised they didn't seem to want to interfere with our racing, (or the lead bunch for that matter) so kept on with rolling my turns. The only interaction was where I moved back out of the rolling turns to eat and was stuck right in the gutter on Kat's wheel without any love - but I guess you'd get that in any other race.

Team mate Liz adding to the hurt

We were nearly home and almost at the back of the convoy to the lead group. A VIS rider was trying to rev up the group to get back faster or join back in with the lead bunch, but we were getting tired. I did one turn too many and then we hit the last hill home and I couldn't keep up with the group anymore. The last few kilometres were a hard solo slog that wiped out all of my energy reserves.
I was dead on my feet packing up the car, driving home, showering and at that point didn't have any intention to race the next day. After dinner, things started to look a little more rosy and possible.

Stage 4 - Finale 83km

There was a nice 25km circuit of flat-ish roads with a few little pinches, then about 8kms to the finish up Mt Warrenheip. This is a personal favourite mini climb of mine that I held the Strava QOM for some time. It would be annihilated on this day by the top women of Australia.

I woke up with a few aches and a bit of fatigue, but this one thing I love about stage racing... it is also how you recover and how much fight you bring the next day.

It seemed on the start line that more than a few riders had packed up and gone home early, but out on the road we were still a big bunch. We waited a few tense minutes for the start time to tick over, and waited some more to find out the Police were running late for the start to close the roads for us. It was one of the nice novelties to be able to race proper without having to worry about traffic, correct side of the road, what the lines on the road are before passing in the bunch and with such a big bunch on some small country back tracks! We just had to watch out for everything else :)

A few weeks prior I did a course recon with Shane and the wind was howling, the pinchy hills more nasty,  and the weather generally colder. We had light breeze,  and finally some sunshine! I was being super attentive, but kept with the bunch over the first main climb. There was a solo rider off the front that the bunch was happy to leave dangling out for most of the day. On a fast descent there was some commotion in the bunch and I saw the group come tumbling down from the middle. Later I heard only a couple of riders were the worst off but no broken bones!

I moved up to the front for the big dipper and made it over the top with the leaders and didn't get dropped in the sprint around the next corner. I couldn't believe my luck! Either I was having a good day, or they had given up chasing and madly attacking like the last few stages. The second lap I moved up towards the front, waiting for the next few surges to be able to hang on for the next climbs and I went with the bunch, up the main drag of the climb and top 10 rider over the big dipper. One more lap to go, it seemed they were waiting for the last climb to light things up.

Me in the SKCC kit on the left keeping an eye on the leaders

There were a few more attacks in the last lap that I was able to respond to, but like an angry bunch of bees they were still content to swarm before attacking, at one point I was actually on the front of the whole group chatting to another of the VIS riders about my one moment of GLORY! LOL! Then flowed back into the 2nd tier riders before another team attacked.

The right hand turn off the main circuit squeezed the group onto a narrow back road. My error was to move to a good spot to get around the corner, meant being pushed to mid pack or back third of the group as we threaded our way back towards the final climb up Mt Warrenheip, behind Kryal Kastle. I was doing OK until the final kicker hill before the main road affectionately referred to as "the wall" by the riders and was promptly dropped like a sprinter up Mt Ventoux! I scrambled over and flew down the descent "yahoo'ing" to see the main bunch already off in the distance - how did they get away so fast!

By the time I hit the Subaru banner to do the short climb up the mountain, it had already been run and won. I was 3:21 behind the leaders and they were being interviewed by the media at the top!

Overall it was a fantastic experience that I am so happy to have been a part of - thanks to my club SKCC for organising entry for me. My team mates were great riders who I wished that I could help out more during the races. My coach who said that anything is possible to my crazy dream of daring to hope that I could compete on that National level playing field.

Putting our feet up after the tour

In the General Classification I ended up coming 51 out of 72 registered riders and our team 10th. We would have done better if I had not have crashed, been sick and had the lungs to climb, or just been a better rider! It was also an interesting insight of racing mentality and cut throat attitude that you don't really get much of a glimpse of from the racing at my level.

Me and Mt Warrenheip post tour, driving the back roads to pickup my discarded bidon

My 2 cents:
I take it seriously, but with a light hearted attitude. I sit here having had physio for crashing out and landing on my head, patched up and ready to spend another hour "recovery on the bike" today wondering when Cycling as a sport will take on a "duty of care" attitude to it's riders. The officials saw me crash on the corner, but it was Donna Ray-Szalinski that picked me up and put me back in the race. I was not approached afterwards by race organisers to check if I had concussion or could make a sound judgement to get back on the bike for the next day. These days of soccer players crying for medics and AFL getting physio and doctors on field before they get stretchered off - I hope it will only be a matter of time before we have moto ambo/first aid that can keep an eye on riders in the bunch, checks riders out before they get back on the bike and potentially motopace them back into the competition.

I'm in two minds about the "no race" reaction from Kat and Ruth in Stage 3. As a participant in the race and a fan of the sport I wanted to see and be a part of them fighting to the end of each stage. If the top 2 riders of the men's National Road Series from teams like Drapac and Genesis were in the same position, we could predict the outcome of a tooth and nail battle royale each day. 
However I pose a different proposition to those saying that because they used tactics to control the outcome rather than outright power and aggression they should not get media coverage and the same platform as the men.

There are a lot of similarities to men's cycling and therefore why there should be a lot of equality, but at the same time we should be celebrating the differences and nuances that makes women's cycling unique and worth it - maybe even moreso than the predictable outcome of a slugfest death match and while the full story might not have been portrayed in the media, there are lessons and strong female role models in the series that should still be celebrated as well.

My new Specialized Amira from Bike n Bean - climbs hills like a dream!

You Might Also Like