QRTS 14 Round 3 Wrap
It was on to Kingaroy for the 3rd round of the QRTS and after a successful few months of racing around the South of Queensland the confidence in Cobra9 Intebuild Racing was justifiably ebullient. Since the previous round almost 2 months ago, we had won almost every Masters A Grade event we had entered including Battle on the Border, the Metro Championships and the State Time Trial Championships. The form of our riders had held up well over the gruelling season despite thoughts to the contrary. Confidence can have a remarkable effect on a team in both their performance and mentality towards racing. Perhaps in this instance, a modicum of complacency had crept into our racing and the result was to taste both bitter reality before earning immense satisfaction in the teams resolve.
Stage 1 Road Race Kumbia 109km
The day dawned clear, bright and warm for the first race of the weekend. A long but enjoyable journey into the farming cornucopia of the South Burnett region for the midday start hadn’t tempered the enthusiasm. All the boys arrived bright eyed and keen to set about their task of moving Cobra9 Intebuild slowly but surely up the team ladder. First time rider Thomas Zaranski was foaming to get a taste of the hardest racing available in Southern Queensland. Otherwise, the routine was business as usual in the team tent. Instructions regarding forward positioning were doled out as a quick reconnaissance of the route had revealed how narrow the roads were and the potential hazards posed by the soft shoulders on the bitumen. One climb per lap would test the legs and ensure a small but select group would form at some stage in the race.
The bunch rolled out at high noon on the shortest day of the year and early on it was clear that it would be a tough day at the office. After 5km our strongest roleur Rupert succumbed to breathing difficulties after pulling a powerful turn on the front. Out the back, race over and his confidence blown. More and more riders from varied teams then appeared off the back of the bunch prior to commencing the longest climb for the lap. Once the KOM finally arrived, the effect on those on the limit was obvious and brutal. Around a third of the field succumbed on the first ascent. Thankfully, we still had five riders in the main bunch. A few of the boys were going with the attacks and getting into the early moves. Tactics that would prove costly later.
After one lap, a small but select group had been reabsorbed by the peloton and the pace slackened a little ready for then next attempt. At the halfway point in the race, we were looking good for picking up some points from the day. Then, from the race radio comes the news no Team Manager wants to hear ‘riders down, medic, team car attend’.
We were first to the scene and attended to the downed riders. I could see the tall figure of Cobra9 Intebuild rider Dugald bending over his bike looking hobbled but determined. Another C9 rider, Thomas was regaining his legs looking confused, bloodied and in shock. Whilst we form a team of diverse riders at Cobra9, we are first and foremost close friends. It’s a difficult job to tell a rider that his day and weekend is over. Adrenaline is the antidote to pain, but common sense trumps them both. Day done for Thomas and a trip to Kingaroy Base Hospital was in order. Our team car withdrew from the race and the boys were on their own.
Dugald returned to the fold and quickly paced up to a group off the back of the bunch. In that group was a tired Matt Ryan who had dropped off the main bunch after pushing too hard early in the break. We were down to 2 riders, Adam the metronome and Tim, the puncheur.
The field whittled down to 40 riders for the last lap with a small but select group of 6 riders off the front. The last climb over the KOM point almost dropped Tim off the bunch but he fought valiantly to stay in the mix despite leg cramps and massive fatigue. Adam was working hard but with his climbing pedigree improving every race, the inclines would not shake him from the group. With the finish line in sight, Tim’s cramps took over and his race was done. Adam fought on and finished in the select main group that picked up valuable points for their teams. Adam was unlucky for the 3rd time this year to finish just outside the cusp of the main point scoring positions. Maybe some firm sprint work is in order for our most reliable and efficient performer. Tim rolled over a few minutes back and spent 5 minutes battling to regain his legs. The race upfront was won in a 2 man sprint by Kristian Juel from Budget Forklifts after whittling down the break away to a pair of solitary riders.
Overall the team had perhaps its toughest day this year in the team series. We rode a little like a team that couldn’t loose, amongst a level of competition up with there with the best in Australia, and we came out empty handed. However, instead of feeling aggrieved or frustrated by the outcome, we resolved to take matters into hands and change our tactics for the 2nd stage on Sunday. We had learned a few lessons and taken a few body blows, but the mood was upbeat and positive at the team dinner that night. A couple of brews, some big juicy steaks and one woeful latte from the local Hotel and we had already moved on to the next day.
Stage 2 Road Race Kingaroy 120km
Thomas Zaranski was patched up from his fall on the previous day but would take no part in the racing on Sunday. A cracked helmet, and mild concussion had seen to that. Otherwise, the full compliment of five riders were ready to attack the day with a revised approach to the tactics. Gone was the idea of chasing breaks and sending riders up the road, The goal over the 4 laps was to keep all the riders in the main bunch and commit to taking as many points as possible in the bunch kick that would follow. The course was more favourable to our riders with only one real climb on the agenda every lap with an otherwise fast and flat course. If we could keep Matt Ryan in the bunch, then look out come the finish line.
The racing was hard and fast again from the start with tired legs knocking out many of the riders on the first lap. Rupert rode on the defensive after his horror day in stage 1 and Matt Ryan rode intelligently in the main bunch never dropping back too far on the climbs and positioning himself perfectly before the ascent. Dugald looked strong and determined and Adam rode the hills like he was out for a recovery loop on a Friday morning. Tim was stiff suffering the effects of Saturday and fought doggedly to stay in the bunch on the second lap after being dropped on the climb. He managed to get back on after a herculean effort on the gravel section but his efforts had wearied him.
On the third lap, the race started in earnest. The tired legs and steep climb became very selective. Tim was dropped for the final time and despite again chewing the stem on the descent through the gravel couldn’t make it back to the bunch. A small group separated themselves over the climb with the wily Matt Ryan positioning himself perfectly to make the selection. Adam, Dugald and Rupert were placed in a small group 10-15 seconds off the bunch. The day looked over for the trio who had fallen victim to positioning themselves a little too far back on the climb and getting stuck behind defeated riders. The mood in the team car was muted until the tall figure of Dugald moved to the front and started hammering out the pace. The duo of Rupert and Dugald rode themselves and Adam back onto the main peloton over a 4km stretch of gravel that had ended the days of so many. Once back in contention, they regrouped with Matt to leave us with four C9 Intebuild riders in a very small and select main group. It was on!
The last lap was going to be interesting. It started with an attack from a few riders in the feed zone that caused a split in the bunch. Thankfully there were enough legs and determination in the boys to drive back onto the main bunch after a few hectic moments. From that point on, all that remained was the final test up the climb. Only 10 riders remained up the road so there was plenty of desire amongst the remaining bunch to make the most of the opportunity.
The pace up the climb was steady as a slight headwind crept into the mix. They remaining C9 riders positioned themselves at the front and made the ascent with minimal fuss although the legs were close to exhaustion by now. On the long descent, the mood in the team car was one of quiet positivity punctuated by occasional exclamations of support that drifted no further then the open window of the support vehicle despite their volume and fervour.
With the last few corners to negotiate, Matt Ryan clicked into spinter’s mode and positioned himself about 4th wheel. Up front, the race was won by the hirsute Dan Bonello from GPM Next Byte in a performance full of panache and timing. The main bunch was lead around the final bend by Atom racing and TLD. Shit was about to get serious. This was the plan. After riding to the perfection, Matt was going to tear some legs off!!
To prove that cycling is a fickle sport, Matt managed to tear his rear derailier off instead when he put the power down and had to coast to the line, bunny hopping the bike in an attempt to keep his momentum moving forward. Rupert managed to rip through and pick up 6th in the bunch and 18th overall. Matt rolled over in 22nd (amazing considering he didn’t pedal for the last 100 metres) and Adam in 32nd. Dugald rolled over at the rear after putting the pace down to bring Matt to the front.
Despite the cruel luck for Matt and the Team, it was by far our most polished performance. We picked many valuable points and moved up to 10th from 13th in the overall team standings. More importantly, we showed our pedigree, proved we are competitive and learned some valuable lessons as a team. The core ethic that runs through C9 Intebuild has grown enormously throughout the year and was further strengthened by our experiences in Kingaroy.
Overall we had a blast at Kingaroy. The locals were wonderful and come out in support of the cyclists. In return, the teams filled the cafes and hotels of the capital of the South Burnett. These events are the jewels in the crown of the QRTS and more should be done to take the racing to these rural hamlets in future years. Travelling with the team provides a great base for improving the level of professionalism amongst the squads and heightens the organisational skills of those involved.
The 4th round of the QRTS is only a few weeks away. The team is hungry for more tough racing. Cobra9 Intebuild has arrived and we going be here for some time yet!
Thanks as always to our generous sponsors
Bigger thanks to Peter Spencer from GCBikeFit (and his wonderful wife) for performing team management duties with aplomb. His importance to our fledgling team is epic. He made the pledge during Sunday’s stage to return to the racing fold for 2015 with Team Cobra9 Intebuild starting now. Watch out!!!