2013 Tour of Bright

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All the weather forecasting and worrying people were tweeting over the week leading up to the race was for nothing. We had three beautiful sunny days for the Tour of Bright where I was racing Women's B grade.

Stage 1 - Time Trial 14km

The first stage for the Time Trial was warm with a good steady breeze by my start time of 1:12:20pm. I was on the start ramp and ready to roll with nervous energy. I was over the first hill then settled into the rhythm of keeping my cool and not over cooking before the roundabout. I was not far off my 20sec rider in front of me when I reached the roundabout.

TT Time Photo: JXP Photography

My nose was running like a tap even after the warmup, but that was the least of my worries, I came around the left turn a little wide almost kissing the tape and was face first into one of the A-Grade BSS ladies taking the corner wide to hit the home stretch! Over the first flatter section I ramped up the pace up the hill and was passed by a rider (oh dear - not a good sign) the negative thoughts started in, but the power numbers were still looking good, so I pushed to the turn around. I could still see the rider in front as the fast descent came on and it was such a relief. It was great not having to check for traffic before turning onto the last left hand turn home. At this point everything felt like a head wind, but I pushed the pace higher as it got harder, took a moment just before the final hill and give it everything to get over the top and to the line.

My poor lungs were screaming as I cooled down. I don't think I could have gone much faster, but it was about 5 sec faster than the club TT I'd completed earlier in the month. Great power, but nowhere near fast enough for the leaders that came in 1:28 earlier than me. Wow! Great rides and a strong field.

Stage 2 - Rosewhite Gap Loop 92 km

We rolled out as a good group with not too many nervous wheels on the open road. When the neutral flag went into the car, the pace picked up and there was a good group of ladies rolling turns and a the rest were sitting on. About 30 mins into the ride I had some fruit cake and put the rest away, but it slipped between my number and pocket and onto the road! Oh No, there goes my lunch!
There were a few attacks after the right hand turn at Ovens and the pace kept up towards the base of the climb.

It was pretty sedate up the first section and I was feeling pretty good. Slowly the group whittled down as riders started to slip from the front back into the group, each time the road climbed up the pace went up and then backed off on the flatter sections to recover. I was pretty happy sitting about 6th wheel once we hit the long straight drag before the finish. I didn't look behind to see how many riders there were - next minute a rider a problem and signalled that she was pulling over.  I backed off the wheel just in time to avoid a stack and tried to re-kickstart the legs to get back onto the group. No-luck, the group sailed up the road and I was about 1.5kms from the top! I kept going while knowing that they were long gone by the looks of those at the KOM. As I descended down I caught a group of three riders in the valley and we could see the group ahead on the road. The main group of about 12 riders were rolling turns and making great pace.

Climbing in the sun - hot day out Photo: Fi Neuwirth

We picked up a few more riders that had dropped back from the lead group on the Kiewa Valley Highway and were working OK together, but not fast pace chasing. By the time we got to the feed station - I was out of water and electrolyte. Suffering was the name of the game. My Garmin said it was 32 degrees, I ticked up the 7km climb of Tawonga Gap slower than in training, but I gave it everything I had finishing the stage 18th and 11:41 down on the winner.

Von looking at stem - Photo: JXP Photography

Next year I hope they put the neutral water back into the tour. A massive thanks to my competitor Deb Richards who handed me a Coke after the finish line - I think I almost cried! St Kilda Cycling Club for providing the ice cold watermelon, and to Mrs Loki who gave me some fresh water while waiting for her son Tomarsh (who came 3rd in B-Grade).

Stage 3 - Bright to Mt Hotham 55km

I went and iced my legs in the river, had a good dinner and an ok night's sleep. By breakfast I was ready to race again, talking tactics to assist my club mate Simone Peirce who was leading GC as my hopes for a top 5 finish were totally dashed. I'm pretty good at backing up my performance day after day, so I was ready for anything to happen. It was another beautiful day and I got a good warmup in with a few TT efforts and a sprint for good measure.

When we rolled out from the start it was a pretty casual pace. Not many were interested in sitting in the wind or attacking off the front, which meant if anything was to happen - everyone was fresh to chase it down. The first sprint went by and the top three contenders fought it out, with Catriona Newell in an unbeatable lead on points.

Just before the tree lined avenue entry to Harrietville the commissaire drove up beside us yelling out of the car to RACE - we were picking up the pace with the final sprint then the smashfest up the start of the climb was to come. We were shoulder to shoulder hitting the steep left hand corner at Harriteville just as a massive truck full of sheep came down. The next 20m the pace was on, but the lead car pulled over and stopped us before the right turn towards the boom gate. There were screams, swears, begging and pleading for us to continue as it was all breaking apart and all the stragglers had come back while we were stopped.

They let C-Grade women pass us but didn't leave much of a time gap (3.5mins). From a standing start on the side of the hill the pace was white hot. I couldn't keep up and then I couldn't work out who to chase, or who to pick off over the climb with it combined with C-Grade riders.

Grinding up with determination I passed about 6 riders on The Meg, then had some food and ticked over a few more kms and realised the race was well up the road. I found a few other riders before the false flat.

We had a little giggle at the women dressed as bananas at the water stop and swapped a few turns in our group on the front but then they apologised for not being able to swing through - no problems, I sat on the front till it was time to climb. It was a tough last 10km to go and I ran out of drink at about top of CRB and had one last gel for a burst of energy. 1km to go, I picked up the pace and crossed the line in 19th place overall. Simone had kept the rivals at bay and held onto GC to win her first Tour of Bright. A sensational ride all weekend long - keeping her cool in a really super strong field.

A long lonely climb to the finish. Photo: JXP Photography

I got a lift back down the mountain (thank you so much Fi Neuwirth and Nat Howard), had a snack and lay on the floor back at the accommodation for a long time. Mt Hotham is never to be trifled with - we were so lucky to have excellent conditions to race in, but it takes its toll on the body each time.  Many thanks to all my fellow riders and team mates that gave us a cheer as they descended after their race, they knew what we still had to come and were encouraging us all.

It's time for rest and recovery now, long summer rides and some short sharp criteriums to keep things fresh. See you all out on the road!

Top of Hotham and ready to go home!
Fi and I at the TT Presentations

Vid of the action over the weekend and a little snip of me in the Time Trial

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