Monday, 7 October 2013

WCMCC Neerabup Road Race - A Grade :: 6th October, 2013

Welcome back to Neerabup ... and its mad wind! Personally, there was a bit of a monkey on my back in regard to Neerabup with the past two event there seeing me register a DNF. The first one was due to a timing mistake with energy intake (see race report from June 1st, 2013 here) while the second one was just a howler of a windy day where I simply didn't have what was needed on the day. It wasn't even worth the write up. But I was determined to shake the monkey today and make sure I was still on the bike at the end of the last lap - hopefully with enough left to be a little competitive.

As for the team, we were expecting to be a couple down with Chris Roberts still on tour in Europe after a tough couple of rides in the UCI World Cycling Tour Final in Trento, Italy. Chris Singleton was also likely to miss today's race but it seems he couldn't help himself and arrived for a timely registration. But we would still be riding with 7 in the team thanks to an honorary Unicorn for the day, Marty Daley. EHBS were certainly depleted today with just Sam Smith arriving for the race in A grade while a strong contingent of KHT riders were ready to mix it up.

There was the usual noticeable wind coming from the west this morning that was just nagging enough when riding into it during our warm up. The weather report suggested that the wind speed would pick up during the morning so it was going to make the runs up Pederick Rd pretty hard and possibly an ideal place to launch attacks. Craig was determined to hit hard irrespective of the wind and having only recently arrived back from a stellar performance in Trento, was keen to show of some of his new found strength and ability.

The start/finish line had been moved for the first time to help prevent some of the traffic congestion in the previous location just after the slight rise about 2/3 the way along Pederick Rd. This morning, the line had been set some 200m short of the turn into Mather Drive which would certainly suit a fast sprint finish by taking the small rise out of the equation but would still be hard into the wind. The start of the race, however would be right on the Pederick-Mather corner allowing riders to congregate in the dead-end section of Mather Drive where traffic would be much less of an issue.

As we gathered for the usual roll call, Singo pointed out that I had only one bidon on the bike. At was at that point I found out that the race would incorporate 12 laps to take the overall distance to 92kms. Not what I was expecting so I quickly raced to the car to collect my second bidon and a bit of extra pre-race energy intake. Only 25 starters greeted the race referee this morning.

The first lap set a significant pace for an opening lap and would be among one of the quickest for the day at over 39km/h, but there didn't seem to be any real intent within the group with no real attacks coming until the second lap. Craig made a bit of an attempt to get away at the back of the course as we ascended the climb along Flynn Drive and once he had opened a bit of a gap, I looked to go with another rider in an attempt to bridge the gap and put two Unicorn riders in a breakaway but this move, and as it seemed any move that might put two Unicorns in a break, was shut down pretty quickly with Sam being prominent in the closures.

At the same time, we were not keen to let anything get away unless at least Paul and Pat were amongst it as we were racing to keep their places in the overall points standing for the road race season. This resulted in a few attacks and counter-attacks throughout the opening laps of the race and each time we put our noses into the wind, we noticed it had picked up a little more than the last lap which was beginning to take its toll on the overall pace. Sam made one strong move (of few from anyone) during this phase of the race and I was impressed to see Marty react to shut it down so quickly. The wind was making it hard for everyone, irrespective of position in the bunch.

The group pretty much stayed as one for the duration of the first half of a so far run-of-the-mill race and it wasn't until we were well into lap 6 when things started to heat up and the pace picked up with a strong intent to close down a couple of riders that had managed to put a bit of gap on the field. The climbs early along Flynn Drive were beginning to sort out a few riders with the group thinning out into a long ribbon but wasn't until we turned into Old Yanchep Rd that gaps were really beginning to form. The pace remained reasonably high right through to the first climb on Pederick Rd where I worked the front of the group to close a bit of a gap and bring the group back together again as we crested the hill. Up to this point, Unicorn riders had been dominating the front, including the wind-swept stretch along Pederick in a tireless effort to control the race. A work load that can simply be attributed to some solid training with Hall Cycle Training over the past few months.

The unity of the group was not to last, however, as an attack came from Pat which was immediately followed by Ian Lyne which sparked Sam and Fox to go also and they managed to put a reasonable gap on the field before we crossed the line for the start of the 7th lap. This triggered another move that included AP, Doug Stewart and another two riders who were also successful in getting away as Singo, Craig and myself were not going to help anyone attempt close the attack which would put three of our team up the road. Craig and Chris immediately took control of the chase group and set a pace that would allow us to prevent any attempts to bridge the gap and eventually allow the break to succeed.

Some events that unfolded in the second group of four, which was never to catch the first group of four, have been provided by AP:

"When Pat and Ian went up the road, I watched Sam, and with Paul on his wheel was pretty happy to let that move go as I wasn't sure it would stay away. As it turned out, this move and the subsequent chase by Doug and a couple others broke the field and set up the decisive move of the day.

"Doug and the others put in a good effort to try bring back the 4 off the front but after a lap or so it was clear the break wasn't coming back and they settled down to rolling solid turns but nothing frantic.

"This gave me a pretty good chance to set up to roll them all in the final run for minor placings."

According to Pat, Fox and Sam arrived in the group independently of each other meaning they must both have bridged the gap on their own. Efforts that must have shown pure fitness and strength given the end results for the race.

Back in the chase group, Singo and Craig were doing their best on the front and Jason Cawthorne had settled in behind them allowing me to latch onto his wheel, staying out of the wind to conserve my energy for the bunch kick. I checked back to see who was remaining and there was no sign of Marty at this stage so I expected that the previous lap's antics had taken its toll on him. The chase group settled into a manageable pace and while the two Unicorns were doing a mountain of work on the front, I was still working enough to have to maintain a steady pace that they were putting on to help wear down the field.

For a good couple of laps, the chase group remained mostly as a single file ribbon of about 16 riders with our three Unicorn team members and Jason Cawthorne remaining on the front right through until the final lap. Singo and Craig were still working hard well into the last lap where I decided it was time to move into third wheel at the first opportunity. This came as we descended down the last section of Flynn Drive and into Old Yanchep Rd where I put the descending skills to work and made my way to the front of the group without expelling too much energy (something else I've been working on).

I surrendered my position to Craig as we climbed the short climb on Old Yanchep Rd and eventually settled in to third wheel as Chris came around and settled in behind Craig. With the lead out train positions set we turned into Pederick Rd for the last time and into the the now quite strong wind. I quickly checked behind me to see who had my wheel and noted Jason was attached as expected. At this stage I needed to assess who would be the biggest threat in the bunch sprint for the finish and I could see Simon behind Jason and then the green Rota-M kit of Phil Diesel one or two places behind Simon. He would be the one I would need to be mindful of as I had dealt with his powerful sprint before.

Before we had even started our final approach, the race had already been decided up front with Sam taking line honours just ahead of Fox. Pat took 3rd and a valiant Ian Lyne took 4th. The second group of four had a bit of an interesting approach to the finish as was described by AP:

"Having plenty of time to plan the last lap, with the strong headwind, I didn't want to attack the others too early as I wasn't confident in holding them all off so decided to hit them on the small climb on Old Yanchep Rd.

"Apparently I didn't have as much left as I hoped and while the other two disappeared out the back, Doug managed to get back to me. Obviously he wasn't going to come around and was quite happy to sit on and roll me on the line.

"I tried a couple of times to get away again, but this was fairly futile, and when he wound up his sprint, I was not able to hang on.

"I was a bit disappointed that Doug got me seeing as I had a couple of laps to sit on and maybe I should have hit him in the earlier climbs, but given the amount of work I'd done earlier and that Doug hadn't been smashing it trying to catch the 4 up the road, coupled with the strong winds, I suspect the outcome would have been the same. Its not like I was catching him by surprise or anything."

Meanwhile, back in the bunch, Craig was doing an incredible job on the front of the single-file line and was busy draining his energy reserves right the way through to the final little rise when a flurry of attacking riders came by headed up by Jason Cawthorne and Simon Verona. This jump caught Singo in a large gear and it seemed to take him off guard a little but he kept his head well and moved around Craig as he wound up that big gear and set off after Jason and Simon. I knew I would have to stick right on Singo's wheel all the way through to the point where he could give no more which I was hoping would be as close to 300m to go as possible. I also expected Phil to be on my wheel so I would need to be mindful of him and not allow him to get a jump as it would be difficult to pull back into the wind. At the same time, it would be equally as difficult to belt out the final sprint for the line into the wind when it came time to open the throttle so I would need everything I had left.

Chris got himself out of the saddle and put in a monster of a turn to chase down Simon and Jason. Simon suddenly backed off the pace as a result of a cramp which left Jason just ahead and Singo was able to get the better of him as he fatigued quite badly. Chris was now at the lead of the bunch with me right on his wheel and as we made the 250-300m to go, Singo had given everything he had and had put me into an ideal position to be able to come around him and really wind up for the sprint into the wind.

A quick look under the arm confirmed that someone (I assumed Phil) was right on my wheel and I would need to keep building the power and maintain it right through to the finish. I could almost hear Singo's voice in my head urging me on telling me not to screw it up and make the most of the position that he and Craig had put me into. I put my head down, ignored everything behind me and gave everything I had left in a final push to the line over the last 100m or so. Thankfully, my strength had been conserved well enough sitting at around 4th wheel for the last 4 or 5 laps to allow me to prevent Phil from getting around me and I was able to cross the line about half a bike length ahead of him and the rest of a charging field.

While it wasn't for the premium result, it did allow me to practise sprinting from behind a lead out that would come in very handy when it comes to the looming Criterium season. I'm certainly not suggesting that it will be easy to out sprint the likes of Doug Stewart, Sam Smith or some of the other hitters, but continuing with the current training program and gaining more experience like this, it might just be possible to get some good results through the coming summer racing season.

With all grades back at the shack and as we collected around for the presentations for place getters, I asked AP where Marty wound up and whether or not he had finished the race. He believed that he was still out on course and this was confirmed some moments later as a lone figure clad in a Unicorn jersey came riding up the road to cross the line. Marty had ridden the last 4 laps or so on his own which was a tremendous effort into the wind. It was certainly a baptism by fire for him to come into a strong A grade field for his first racing experience. Well done Marty.

Many thanks to AP for his contributions to this report and Pat for some clarity on what when on up the road.

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