Since we last spoke I got my full dosing of double stage madness at the Tour of the Greater South Coast. It was wet. I was windy. It was madness. Madness I tell you!
But it was a lot of fun. We worked out arses off and came away with the win.
The South Coast Tour was markedly different from the Tour of Gippsland or the current Tour of the Murray River. Both of those tours are more about accumulating time bonuses continually to build your lead throughout the race. Given the morning crits will have sprints every second lap or thereabouts the oppurtunity lies for a quality sprinter to win 3-4-5-6 or more sprints and go away from each morning stage a good 20 seconds or more in front of their rivals.
But, and yes there is a bit but, you still have to survive the arvo road stage.
At races like Gippo and Murray where it may be easier to control (cross wind pending of course) you can let your lead rider, such as AJ Giacoppo for us, go nuts in the morning, and then sit back a bit more in the arvo.
But at South Coast, with some big and hard arvo road stages, combined with some good bergs and some solid wind, it was a balancing act of sorts. An act that we got right, but only just.
On the 4th stage which to us looked like the true queen road stage we had a solid 100+ kilometres heading in through the southern grampians to finish in Casterton. To those who have raced the Tour of Coleraine in the past, you know how windy, dead and lumpy this area is.
Even with a clear plan to control and mark the right moves we let Darren Lapthorne escape our grasps and he ended up with an awesome solo win. We'd been warned! He was the man to watch, and Drapac were certainly going to throw it all at as.
From my point of view, I had a simple task. I had to try and tag moves, fill gaps etc, if there was a break that did not have the riders we wanted in it, then I had to get my chase on. But you can't chase everything, so it's often much easier to tag on the back and follow moves.
Cue day three. The day of madness.
Forecasts were for gale force winds. Snow in the grampians down to ~700 metres. Sideways rain. Horizontal hail. It. Was. Chaos.
We fronted up at the circuit at Port Fairy. We performed our obligatory get to the start line about 3 hours before the start, just so we could start on the front... and we shivered. It was cold. Miserable. Filthy.
It was a true laugh to be on the start line whingeing my arse off with Jordan Kerby who exclaimed that he was from QLD, he doesn't ride in this shit! (only to go up the road and nearly win the stage!)
Anyhow, we got through that stage OK. We had to work and try to bring back Kerby and the ol' Ox Gordan McCauley but we couldn't do it. But no big losses.
It was the arvo stage that really concerned us. The wind was getting stronger. The rain was setting in.
We had seen the roads we had to race on. There were plenty of potholes (which would come as a mystery surprise under the blankets of water that now covered the road). There would be a ripping cross or tail cross wind. It was going to be an absolute balls to the wall smashfest.
Then came possibly the most memorable moment of my season.
CSV promptly came and informed all the teams that the days racing was cancelled. The police had decided to cancel the stage citing rider safety.
Now here we had and huddle of hardened cyclists, layered up with all sorts of thermal clothing and windstopping devices. Everyong was gripping their caffeine or sugary fix of choice, just mentally preparing for the big afternoon.
Then, like night and day, the grown men were reduced to near tears of happiness. Group hugs. Exclaimations of "Thank f##k for that" and similar were exchanged. Phew! Dodged a bullet there!
The rest of the tour was not quite as dramatic, better weather, more hard racing, and yep, AJ got the win. But it was the solid weather and tumultuous times of the first three days that stick in my mind!
You can have a peak at more NRS highlights over here
Now I am down here in Tassie enjoying a solid training camp. Emphasis on solid.
But more importantly, how good is it to see Joel Pearson on the top step?
This guy is an absolute legend. After I messed myself up in China he really looked after me, especially helping carry me from my wheelchair to the airplane seat on our return flight!
Then about a year later he put me in touch with ACJ, one of the main men behind the Orange Army, and I was lucky enough to get a gig with Genesys. So it's not just good. But great, to see the double warny winner, do stuff like this
|Stage 4, Tour of Murray 2012, 'Killer' Pearson just keeps on, keeping on|
Over, and out. Time for a brew ride.