Back to Tassie cycle racing and the temperature difference between Queensland and the midlands of Tasmania could not have been more stark. 4 degrees and a southerly gale leaving a trail of snow further south. I had been hoping that the miles in Queensland would pay off in this 100km classic. Unfortunately, they didn’t help enough. For the second time in a few weeks I found myself smashing myself at over 185bpm and falling off the bunch. That sensation would have been depressing if it were not hidden behind a wall of anaerobic pain.
The above tale does not do justice to this annual race. Historically the course has finished at the majestic Coles Bay over a 25km stretch of dead road. Apparently, the event was not well supported by the local Coles Bay community and when nearby Bicheno offered sponsorship, services and more enthusiastic support, the move was a logical one. The finish into Bicheno allowed for a punchier finale with a small hill just prior to the finish line to separate the final placings. It also enabled the addition of the Sunday Criteriums which encouraged entrants to stay the night, enjoy the local hospitality, then roll out for more suffering around a tight 1km circuit. Just the medicine for tired cramping legs.
The Saturday road race was already promising a torrid ride with the king of the mountain climb very early in the piece. The plan was to hang on over this surprisingly long and steep climb then recover on the long downhill towards the east coast. The final 35kms could take care of themselves. Optimistic musings rather than rational thought. Especially when Will Clarke’s (Team Leopard Trek) folks, who are local farmers in the region, put up quality money in each grade for KOM. Once again the 180bpm heart rate for km’s on end reared it’s ugly head. Towards the end of the climb I started failing and falling back through the group. Thankfully many had popped before me and small groups formed over the climb and started working together.
Soon enough Div 2 stormed into view and the battle to hang on became brutal. A series of short climbs kept the legs pumping and lactic building. On the penultimate rise the struggle to hang in became tenuous. Trying to hold the wheel was all I had in my world at that moment. It proved successful on that occasion although in doing so I could taste the bilious combination of Powerade and Energy Gels in my mouth. Surely another effort like that would prove destructive and aesthetically unpleasant for all. As it happened, the final rise was attacked with such vigour that I didn’t have the energy to start the chase, let alone hang in. Once again I could return to riding solo and enjoying the scenery.
From that point forward I was doing my best to avoid cramping and trying to ride out the race as enthusiastically as possible. I spent quite a few km’s riding (behind) Div 1 youngster Campbell Flakemore as he did his best to reel in the leaders of the race. The kid can ride (as he proved in the criterium the next day taking a spectacular win after working off the front for the final few laps). However, trying to hold his wheel on the long straight run into Bicheno was a tad futile. It was a nice thought and I appreciated the tow while it lasted. The remainder of Div 1 streamed past on the run up Cherry Tree Hill and these guys were moving. It’s always an awesome sight to see quality riders digging deep.
At the end it was a pair of plucky Div 5 riders (Rob Weeks 1st, Janine Pearson 2nd) who held off the fast finishing peloton led by the freakish Div 1 dominator Ben Mather. They deserved the win as they spent the majority of the race as a tandem and must have worked well together to stay away. I am unaware of the final time gaps due to my location somewhere towards the tail of the field but I would assume that it must have been close.
The racing returns north next week with the West Tamar Open then the gruelling Grindlewald Challenge. Both of these races are quality events run over hilly courses. This is the training ground of the Sulzberger family and having raced with Grace recently, the location breeds them tough! If you love hard racing, have a CA license and are planning on being in or around Launceston over the next few weekends, get along and have a crack. Defiantly well worth it.
I’ll be there, enjoying the pain again. It’s starting to feel familiar….