Two of the more popular Country Opens have recently been raced and upcoming superstar Andrew Pickering was pinning on a number at both of these races. He gives us an insight into the peloton at both the Wagga Wagga and Gunnedah racing weekends. After reading the reports, i am sure that you will be keen to head off to some of the country opens as well.
With a quick glance at Weatherzone.com.au for the weekends forecast I finished my packing. Arm warmers check, leg warmers check, clear lens another check!
Arriving Friday night in Wagga Wagga with it raining for the last hour of driving and waking up Saturday morning to drizzle and dark ominous clouds I was lucky too have checked the forecast, With my Weetbix woofed down and a nice warm coffee enjoyed it was time to drive the 35km out too the race start.
Being my first NSW Open Handicap event and first year racing I was put into the ‘Limit’ Class, Joining me was some riders from all over NSW including 5-6 Members of the JML Racing team and not too forgot fellow Manly Club Member Colin Hardman Carrigan.
The first 50k popped a lot of our group and by 70k it was down to 4 JML riders, myself, Colin and a couple others. The Manly boys were constantly barking orders too keep the pace high and things working smoothly as we still had hopes of staying clear till the end. Did I mention it was still raining which happened too spell the end of my Gps. With constant updates from our Motorbike convoy of our gap, 2 minutes 40… 2.30 .. 1.20… And with 15k left the bunch caught us.
With the work done trying too keep us away I was somewhat fatigued but made sure I stayed well positioned in the bunch, even rolling a turn at 65kph in the rain!
Coming into the finish a rider in front dropped the wheel which made me open up my sprint early but I managed too get within an arms length of Marc Williams of Team Budget Forklifts wheel and roll in around 12-14th, happy but not content.
Colin was able to roll in just after the bunch after the final attacks blew everything apart.
It was now time too dry off, warm up, update Strava and head back into town, with my order placed at the local Thai shop the weekend’s biggest decision came. Do I watch the Wallabies? Harry Potter? Or catch up on the Contador/Froome/Talansky fight in the Criterium Du Dauphine?
The next morning, waking up too clear skies and sunshine was quite nice until stepping outside, zero clouds made it freezing cold. That doesn’t matter though because today there were Criterium Races around the town centre of Wagga.
It was an awesome course that awaited us, with some locals braving the cold too cheer us on. Being my first year I was placed in Div 3 and scrolling through my competitors noticed the JML team were in there with 4 riders including Sam Moorby who placed 10th overall in yesterdays race plus two St George Merida/Skoda riders to watch out for. It was a hard race covering attacks and even attacking at certain points until two riders got away, both that I previously mentioned! With there teams not helping in the chase, only me and one either swapped turns and did our best. The race averaged 41kph, when you add there were 6 turns it was tough going. With 1.5 laps too go everything came together and all the fresh legged riders moved up, some verbal abuse from myself was dished out and made sure I stayed positioned then kicked in my finish to roll in 4th. Happy too leave everything on the road and get some prize money for my effort that day, I packed the van and started the 5 hour journey home.
With a the week between races I was able to watch NSW finally win an Origin Series, get my new MWCC Skinsuit, squeeze in the usual training with the Fast Twitch Performance Squad and thanks too some speedy work from the guys at the Fixed Wheel and Magellan my GPS was replaced under warranty! Friday rolled around and for this weekend I was able to hitch a ride in the bus that the Northern Sydney Cycling Club had heading up too the races.
Feeling like a NSW player in a QLD bus was quickly changed after a few Tinder referenced jokes and general banter. Saturday Morning was here and we faced 104Km Handicap Race from Coonabarran to Gunnedah. This weekend we had Colin Hardman Carrigan backing up for Manly again, Club Secretary Alexis Kaless and myself.
Colin and I were placed somewhere in the middle and Alexis starting in the group just before, I managed to get a flat warming up so hopefully the bad luck was all but gone now especially since it was a cold morning but the sun soon made it perfect conditions with zero wind. As with last week once we set off the pace settled in and we rolled along with groups from behind merging while we gradually caught riders in front. Scratch came through around the 55km mark and Boom! The hotpot that is Handicap racing set off. Colin held on with the bunch as best he could and Alexis did fantastic staying with the bunch till the finish, I went straight to the front and join in the chase for the final groups left on the road and with 3k too go Ayden Toovey and 3 others escaped off the front. A Mudgee rider and I bridged to them all the while our now group of 6 swallowed up the remaining riders.
The bunch decided it wasn’t our day and with 1.5k left it was together again, the run in to the finish was littered with 2 round a bouts, a couple of traffic islands and 2 corners. With such a big bunch I misjudged a traffic island and instantly went from 10th wheel to 40th, and as such I rolled in 32nd with Alexis just behind in 55th. With that the day was over and time for lunch and a well earned rest before tomorrows race.
Sunday brought a 107Km scratch road race from Gunnedah to Tamworth, a pancake flat course with some big ring 30kph climbs before the finish. A Grade for me today and was hoping for a better finish than yesterday, the borrowed wheel from yesterday had a Campag cassette which worked terribly on my Sram setup. Colin came to the rescue with a perfectly match spare and once it was aired up the race got underway. The current in form rider Ayden Toovey snuck off the front while we rolled through some fog and took Jay Dutton with him, soon after this we encountered 3 Dirt road sections which constant attacks followed until the final 10km where 6 riders managed too join the tiring breakaway. Declan Baker, Myself and one other attempted to bridge but when Declan attacked our trio it was doomed. The break stayed away and I rolled in the top ten of our remaining bunch. Alexis and Colin were able to ride strongly throughout there races too finish inside the top 10 and keep the strong showing of us Manly Smurfs out in NSW open events!
Tired and battered but not broken we clambered onto the bus and headed home, a huge thanks to the Northern Sydney guys that helped make sure I made it too the race and putting up with a Manly rider coming across the line first out of the bus load!