Saturday Sunshine and Success
Due to a virus which nailed me to the mattress for over a week I was out of the team for the B2B 2011. This has been my favourite race for the last few years as the general course and race conditions suit me so I was more than shattered not to be in the squad.
I decided to head out to Bathurst anyway along with my 7 year old daughter Ruby and Sheepolini (Alan Kelly) to support my team mates Alex Gardner and Ryan Oneill and MWCC riders in the races and we were not disappointed with what was to come.
We headed out on Saturday morning and arrived in Bathurst to find that MWCC Rider Alex Gardner had placed 2nd in the NSW State Hill Climb Championships. Absolutely awesome effort to back up Pete Cummins 2nd place last year and keep the Baby Blue on the podium. For a bunch of flat landers we can surely go uphill.
After settling in and getting The Fixed Wheel van set up for race support the crits had started. We were represented across a few grades with Paul Mandle and soon to be Manly recruit Andy Bateman in Div 3. Paul Mandle had a strong ride showing some good racing experience and tactics but unfortunately no podium.
Andy Crawley and Caleb Jones were riding the Div 1 Crit with the FRF team. They both rode a very impressive race showing that they were among the strongest riders in the field being in all the breaks, leading the chases and finally helping their team mate Phil Grenfell take the victory in one of the most exciting, enjoyable crits I have ever watched.
The main race I had come to see was the Div 2 race. With 3 Manly riders lining up in the 20 Lap Div 2 race we had to be in with a chance. Alex Gardner was the teams protected rider for the first hit-out of the year and he had Ryan Oneill and one of Manlys young up and coming riders Ryan Terry in there for support. I was acting DS for the weekend (self-promoted of course) so took up my position on the side of the track to give the boys some encouragement, advice and splits.
With the race underway and it was full gas from the start. The course is a difficult circuit with some tight corners, little pinches and a few long drags into the wind. Attacks started on lap 2 and they were well covered by Ryan and Alex. Unfortunately Ryan Terry had positioned himself toward the back which was not a good place and he was shelled after a few laps. MUST STAY FORWARD.
Mid race there was a big split with about 10 riders off the front by 20+ seconds as they came up the climb. NO MANLY RIDERS?????????DANGEROUS. Alex looked a little anxious but I assured him to stay in the pack. Ryan on the other hand was told to LAY EVERYTHING DOWN and pull the break back. It is times like this that you need to sacrifice someone for the greater cause and he did just that. After riding to the front he opened it to full throttle until he was totally spent and rolled off to the side. The break had been pulled back and his job was done. It was now up to Alex but he was on his own.
Alex held his position in the peloton and followed wheels. When it was close to the end a small break went and Alex showed good strength to bridge across on his own. At one stage I was yelling to him and the other riders in the break to work hard. They had opened up a 15sec gap and I knew if they could stay away Alex would take the sprint. Unfortunately they were caught with a few laps to go and I told Alex to sit and save his legs for the sprint (not that he didn’t already know that but it made me feel important).
Around they came for the bell lap and there was a Penrith rider who had attacked and opened up a sizable lead. The group was not in any hurry to chase as everyone was pretty wasted by then. On the last climb he still had a 10sec gap and he didn’t look to be getting tired.
As the leader came around the final corner and down the finishing straight it was clear he was going to win but chomping at his heels was the pack. Alex was on the front of the group and with a smart move swung around the last corner to get anyone off his wheel before he drilled it and easily took the sprint for 2nd. What a great race and result for the teams first hit out.
Sunday Wet, Windy and Wreckages
We loaded up The Fixed Wheel van with the teams bikes and headed to Blaney nice and early to prepare for the start. The guys jumped on the bus and met us there along with Sheepolini on his Ducati. On the way a large rainbow appeared in what looked to be the direction the race would head. Just like last year, as we arrived in Blaney the heavens opened and down it came. Cold, wet and windy. Perfect conditions to be in the van.
Bikes prepped and checked for the race just in time for the buses to arrive. A few concerned looks as the guys gathered to get ready but the rain stopped and after a coffee, some team strategy talks and warm ups it was time to get to the start line. What was the strategy? Stay together and toward the front to keep out of any crashes. Help pull back any breaks that looked dangerous and keep Alex out of the wind.
As there is no neutral spares cars or emergency vehicles at this race it was up to Ruby and I to follow in the van and look after the boys with wheels etc while Sheepolini took care of the feed station and photography on the Ducati.
As the lead group came around the corner heading out of town the speed was already on. We jumped in the van and started to follow what was a massive group. Within 5 min a few riders started to drop off with the speeds well over 50km/h. Ruby being quite new to spectating bike races asked if they were just coming to the back to rest. I advised her that they had picked the wrong group and were ‘off the back and gone’. She found this quite amusing and as we passed the shelled riders she took photos of them while politely telling them out the window that they were ‘off the back and gone’. How crushing would that be? This became a very common occurrence with well over 50 riders gone in the first 15min including the youngster Ryan Terry. YOU MUST STAY FORWARD!!!!
At the 30km mark the race had averaged approx 53km/h. No wonder it had thinned out. The Manly squad was still well positioned even though we only had two riders left.
CRASH!!!!DID I SAY CRASH? I MEANT DESTRUCTION! On a fairly straight piece of road 35km into the race a massive hole appeared in the middle of the peloton and over 30 riders came down. Some spearing off into the roadside trenches which ended up 3-4 deep, others just piling up on top of each other. Stopping the van I was out and thankfully could not see any Manly Blue kits in the carnage. Pulling riders out of the ditch and trying to get bikes quickly straightened out and riders back on the bikes. Some riders were not going to be able to go on due to bikes or body’s being broken beyond repair. Back in the van with an extra occupant in need of some medical attention we were chasing the group which seemed to take forever due to the carnage that was continued along the road with numerous riders withdrawing after they had tried to chase back from the crash but came to realise that themselves or their bikes were more damaged than first thought.
We finally came to the back of the group and spotted Ryan on the front of the group. Why? When you have numerous National Road Series Teams in the peloton you don’t need to do anything especially when you are down to two guys. Anyway they were still there and looked to be in good shape. More punctures and mechanicals came at a rapid rate. It was a carnage out there. I was swapping and changing wheels everywhere. By the time we got to the base of Rockley Mountain which is at the 70km mark the group had withered down to approx 60 riders. How was the team going to go over the mountain when the pressure was applied?
The climb started and it was not long before I noticed Ryan had dropped off. He didn’t panic and just got into a solid tempo. We sat behind him and gave him some encouragement and before long he was passing some guys who had gone to hard to early (experience over the last few years in this race had paid off for him). This is a difficult climb and is a lot harder than what it appears on paper. A few km’s from the top Alex appeared. He had blown on the hill and lost the lead group. Ryan picked him up and they crested the peak together with a few of the FRF Riders. Time to put in a good chase. We followed them in the van down the decent and I could see the lead group approx. 1 minute ahead. With approx 8 vehicles in convoy I thought it would help to place the cars between the two groups as they were riding straight into a block headwind so I went around the chase group and drove up to the back of the main bunch. FRF were on the front putting in a big chase to pull back a few guys who has broken away over the top of the climb.
With some solid chasing from the Manly Team aswell as the other 6 riders it was not to long before they started working their way through the cars. We cleared the last few cars out of the way as we entered the last town before Bathurst. The chase group were still a few hundred meters off the leaders. CRASH!!!! ANOTHER ONE… As the chase group came around a slippery corner heading out of town 5 riders came down and slid across the road. Out of the van AGAIN changing wheels and helping riders back onto the bikes. Once again luckily no Manly riders.
The last few riders chased and latched onto the leaders. Once again Ryan had done his job and Alex was back with the leaders so he sat up and decided to call it a day. Alex on the other hand was feeling the effects of the chase and did not look to comfortable on the back of the group.
Heading into Mt Panorama Alex cramped up a sharp little pinch and fell off the back of the group with less than 2km to go. A shame as he had ridden such a good race only to be left behind in the final moments.
We headed to the finish line to watch the riders come in. Around the corner they came and it was Stuart Shaw from Drapac Cycling leading out Adam Phelan for the sprint but Andy Crawley (who had been in two big breaks during the race and also pulled back a massive gap in the last 20km) jumped and lead Phil Grenfell into pit straight for the win. Alex not far behind as he rolled in looking spent from giving it everything. Well done to the Bike Bug team and Phil Grenfell on a great weekend winning both races.
What a race! What a weekend! How could I have even thought of staying home.
Until Next Year when I am hopefully fit, strong and in the mix.
Click here for more B2B photos, all Bike Bug rider photos in this post are Courtesy of Tony Mulhall