My bike frosted over during the night, while left on the car
Three MWCC riders; Colin ‘ Patron of the Peloton’ Carrigan, Alexis ‘Will’ Kaless and newcomer Edward Shilland made their way up north for two days of racing at the Keegan Downes Memorial Sundowner Handicap and the Gunnedah to Tamworth scratch race. Once there they were joined by our elite racers; Andy Crawley and Caleb Jones of (GPM Wilson Racing), Jake Kauffman (Drapac / NKC Lexus) and Trudy van Der Straaten (Specialized) who were already racing in the NRS road series which took in these two stages.
The Saturday start in Coonabarabran was cold! The drive into town had temperatures of below zero registering on the thermometer. Thankfully racing didn’t start until 10am and so there was going to be some time for the sun to start shining through. However during warm up I had on my thermal base layer, jersey, long sleeve fleece jersey and wind vest along with my cap, gloves and leg warmers. The Saturday race is a handicap, where the group works together to try and hold off the faster groups starting behind because once they come past you are most likely out the back door. I must admit I don’t know how the state handicapper does it but he obviously doesn’t get the handicaps that are sent in by the club. Ed Shilland was handed a 14 minute head start over the scratchies, Col Carrigan had 10 minutes and my good self was handed 7 minutes. Col didn’t want to swap places even though he had done one of these races before and comprehensively rolls me whenever we ride. The race is over 111km and while essentially a downhill run, there are some nice short pinches that sap your legs and take some punch out of your legs.
My group of about 20 riders rolled out and I must admit that all I knew was be ready to go from the start. Sure enough within about a kilometre of the start I was sucking in the big ones as the pace was hovering around 40km/hr as we had the rolling paceline going and I knew that with the orders being barked around the group – there were plenty of riders who weren’t planning on slowing down anytime soon – because we knew the two groups behind us would soon be hunting us down. My group continued to roll round and keep the pace high, after the first hour of racing we had covered just over 41 kilometres and hadn’t even sighted Cols group in front. At a bit after 50km I saw Ed Shilland up ahead rolling along on his lonesome, I yelled out as we came past to pick it up and grab on. As we hit 65km into the race, a steam train of riders came flying past on a short climb – it was the scratch group and they certainly weren’t hanging about – the whole group was quickly single file as we hit a long exposed section with a bit of a cross wind. I saw the speed edging up and I just keep staring at the wheel in front hoping that the pace would ease just enough to sneak up a few places – it didn’t. At 77km and at an average of 42.3km/hr a rider three in front of me flatted and that opened up a small gap that was enough to blow me and the remaining riders behind me out the back.
After that it was an easy spin into town, I was absolutely shattered my legs had nothing left to give and I knew I had the joy of doing it all again tomorrow. Meanwhile upfront Col Carrigan and his group of merry pirates continued to stay ahead of the chasing pack. While my group had been caught at 65km by the scratchies, Col who started 3 and a half minutes further ahead, still hadn’t been caught as the kilometres ticked over the 100 kilometre mark. They were racing into town , with still another group in front of them, they saw the sign to Gunnedah and started thinking that victory was in sight, only at 105 kilometres for the call to go out ‘we have company’. The scratchies had pulled them in, however there was still a further group up the road that would manage to stay out, MWCC wannabe member Chris Blomfield-Brown was in the group of burglars and he managed to snag a fifth over the line. Col hung in till the end to finish in the main bunch. Col covered the 111km in just over 2:36 minutes, my time was 2:45 and Ed managed a 2:55.
We pulled our zombie like bodies together with some post race KFC and headed back to our accommodation for the night in Tamworth. Somehow our bodies would be able to do it all again tomorrow.
Ed Shilland at the starting line of the handicap – shame about the arm warmers
Sunday morning was the Gunnedah to Tamworth 107km, graded races. I left the bie on top of the car on Saturday night, only to wake up and see it covered in frost. It was a little chilly. I had been handed a B grade which had me pack the mobile phone in the back pocket in case I got lost as I made my way to the finish on my pat malone. Col had been given a generous C Grade start and Eds youthfulness ensured he also got to start in C grade – a tough call given his D Grade club grading (that may need a look at). This is a flat race however without a chasing group, it wasn’t going to be as hectic because this time I wasn’t planning on doing a turn at the front and I know a number of riders were having similar thoughts. The race started off at a pretty comfortable pace but after after 15km in, the attacks started as riders tried to get a breakaway going. It wasn’t until a few of the NSCC boys worked as both attackers and defenders that a small group of 5 including two NSCC riders got away at the 33km mark. They had a lead that hovered at around 30 seconds for an extended period of time and no matter how hard the group worked to bring them back in, we weren’t making a dent on their lead. All of a sudden we were organising ourselves into a rolling paceline to bring back the escapees, but all that did was drain our legs and destroy our confidence because these guys weren’t coming back.
We kept them in sight the whole time and at about 65km one of the riders from the breakaway came back to the group, we then picked up the pace gain and looked to have them in our sights at around 80km when we came within 200 metres of them but they simply put it in another gear and rode off again. At that point I was pretty stuffed and found myself just watching proceedings from the back trying to get my legs feeling happy again. I didn’t want to have to ride into town by myself, so I was relegated to spectator in the bunch as we continued into town. We were rapidly running out of time but the escapees weren’t coming back – their smooth pace was better than our disjointed surge, slow, surge, look around, slow, surge.
At 102k into the 107 race, the group realised we weren’t bringing them back and the pace slowed dramatically as it became a procession into town. In the end the 4 riders battled it out and the rest of us rolled in as a bunch.
In the C grade race, Col Carrigan was a bulldog to any potential break as he chased down any rider who looked like they were interested in getting away. The end result was that Col himself became a marked man, so as soon as he moved the group moved with him. The good thing was that Ed Shilland got the best seat in the house to watch the race from because he never left the middle of the bunch and just held on for the ride. In the end no luck for Col in his quest.
After a few jokes, a few cold Cokes, we packed up the bikes and made the trip back to Sydney on the Sunday night. Everyone was pretty quiet on the trip back, we had just been smashed for two solid straight days and knew that Club Champs still had to be raced.