Tour of Bright 2014

2:29 pm Unknown 0 Comments

It's the last tour of the year. It's mega mountain stage finishes. It's a massive classy race that was one of my first goals on the bike - Finish Tour of Bright. This year's goal - finish Tour of Bright in A Grade.

At the end of last years tour I was pretty sure that I was not going to enter again. But after 6 months when entries opened up, race amnesia had set in and all I could remember was sun, hills and needing a drink on Tawonga.

The grading system was back in full swing and my entry was moved from B to A. In addition I was invited back to join the Building Champions Women's Squad to flesh out the team.

It was great to see Minda, Tayla, Georgia and Nik again. We also had a new teamie from NZ, Lydia Rippon who is a great little climber.

Stage 1

The first stage is my cup of tea - A 13.6km Time Trial. I knocked 0:01:34sec off my time from last year. I had better power, pacing, new Specialised Shiv TT bike, new skin suit, helmet but it was not quite enough to crack into the top 20 in A-Grade. I rolled in 23rd, 0:01:47 off the winner - elite National TT Champion Flick Wardlaw. (Results)

I can already see the things I can improve on for next year: position, end of race pacing, helmet and making sure I'm at the start line on time ;)

Stage 2

The next stage was the 93km Rosewhite loop. I felt really comfortable in the group however it was pretty rude awakening to have 60+ riders on 1/2 the road when we had the luxury in the National Road Series to have rolling road closures. Interestingly the entry fee is about the same!

Looking over my files from this year and last year the race in B-Grade played out almost exactly to the minute to the A-Grade race... well from my power/speed metrics.

The pace was steady heading out from Bright with a few attacks pinging off the front, but they were all chased down and nobody was interested in going solo for so long. The new sprint point was interesting as it was on a fast bit of road and we could all see where it was before it came up.

I expected the competition to be white hot on Rosewhite, but it was very steady and I hung on at threshold with the group all the way to the last 200m where they kicked and I dropped off to chase back on the descent.

It was so flowing and fast to the Kiewa Valley Hwy, that I went to the front and rolled turns with my team mates over the rolling punches. That was the nicest moment in the whole tour. When we turned onto the Highway back towards Tawonga the peloton kept on the pace but it was really hard to move up as the group was kind of static.

The pace picked up for the sprint and I still had trouble moving up after that with the small climbs coming out of Tawonga. The stage took us 02:35 to get to the base of the Tawonga climb. Almost exactly the same time as B-Grade last year but at least this year it was overcast and I had drink in my bottles still. I think it was the first time I have climbed that side and not been fried by the sun!

As the tail end of the group turned the corner I could see the leaders already up the road and turning the first hairpin! I climbed the hill at the same pace as last year and was relieved to get to the end as it was threatening rain.

Sure enough it started to pour down and my team mates urged me to descend in the rain. It stopped by the time we got to the bottom and met Nik and Emma who paced us back to town. It was great to see them and to have a friendly wheel.

Stage 3

It rained all night and all morning. I was secretly hoping the stage would be called off, but they shortened it to finish just past the toll booth at the road to Dargo.

There was enough of a break in the rain for us to have a dry start on wet roads. The good thing was it was warm so we rolled out without warm warmers, dodging puddles. The peloton pace was ON from the gun and we were scrambling in neutral to get onto the group. Out the road it was very hard to move up to contribute. The times when I could, I had to go up the windy side and then attack to close down breaks or jump on them as they started.

As it came close to the sprint, the pace dropped so I moved up and jumped on the front to lift it up as everyone was looking side ways as to who would move first. We reached the base of the climb 12mins faster than last year and it was gogogo from there. I was at the back when we started and climbed through the tail of the group to the boom gate. By then I could see the leaders disappear around a few corners but they were long gone, ascending like angels.

I really don't know how they do it?! I enjoy climbing hills but when they take off, it must be the power to weight - they just FLY!

In previous training I'd had a 11-25 cassette on going up The Meg climb and the 200m seemed like a special kind of hell. This time I had on the 11-28 and while I was maxing out going up there, I was able to pass a few ladies and spin over the top. Make no mistakes though - this is the back of the pack and it was cat and mouse with the remainder of riders as I solo'd to the top.

Halfway through the false flat it started to rain. It got very cold and I started to have a very bad day. The ladies dressed as bananas at the drink station looked nice and warm and I asked them for a hug to warm up when I passed by.

Cold, wet and muttering like a mad woman (C) Peloton Cafe

There was no let-up in the drizzle or the gradient, but I was going to finish my first A-grade race on a very hilly course. It really started to rain in earnest and I just got over the finish line, ate a sandwich and got some less-wet windproof clothes on. As Shane was also racing there was no car to pick me up. The tour doesn't offer any way off the mountain either, so I put my wet gloves back on and took off my glasses to try and get down safely.

Minda and I regrouped and found the van with Emma, Nik and the rest of the team mates there. We were shivering in the sun as we wrung out our socks. I giggle now, but it really did suck.

I think I told Emma that I loved her about 50 times on the drive back to Bright with the heater on 35 degrees and we were still freezing. I managed to warm up my hands enough to hi-5 Georgia for a ripper climb. She came in 8th on the stage and made it up to 11th overall on the tour. I'm so impressed and wish I had the youth and low body weight to do that!

Overall I came in 50th in A-Grade which is the bottom quarter. I'll never be competitive in a hilly race against the mountain goats, however there are other ways I can contribute in a team in a race like this with amazing riders of high calibre. I'm really happy to be able to be part of the team and watch our climbers battle it out up the road. There will be more hills ahead in 2015 and more to come. I'll just have to work out a way to get up those hills faster ;)

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