Mt Baw Baw Classic
Cycling Victoria gives every participant a medal just for finishing this race. That should have been our first clue. There’s nothing much to say for a race that starts in pouring rain and six degrees, flogs the field over a 100km course with 3800 metres of climbing, and finishes in a snow storm. I guess the final climb should barely crack a mention, if it weren’t a nasty behemoth for tired legs at an average of 12% for six kilometres.
We had four ladies representing the team. Victoria had a cold so wasn’t feeling flash at all. Alison had spent an entire week doing field work so hadn’t been on a bike all week. Jessie was recently imported from New Zealand, so while the weather wasn’t as horrendous for her, the course was less than ideal for this track cycling hotshot. Only Margeaux, fresh from her brilliant 5th overall at the Tour of Mansfield, seemed genuinely excited at the grisly prospect of the race ahead. Either that, or Margeaux is just very slightly unhinged.
So, we stood in the rain, envious of the spectators with umbrellas, Ugg boots, and warm vehicles awaiting to drive them effortlessly to the top of the mountain. All the while it just kept sinking in – how very much a bad idea this all suddenly seemed. With some of the country’s best climbers in attendance, we were guaranteed a difficult ride from start to finish. The first round of pressure went on at the 30km mark. A series of power climbs in windy conditions had the field threatening to split before the first critical set of longer climbs at the 50km mark.
Victoria was in major distress. Her breathing was out of control in hills she generally excels at, and her vision started to go blurry. This was accompanied by the disorientation a cyclist feels before food-flatting, but food wasn’t the issue. All Victoria could do was meekly utter to Alison “I don’t think I’m going to finish this race”. Jessie however, was tapping along beautifully. There was no hint the constant climbing was doing anything to dent her legs. As the intervening descents became more technical, Margeaux and Alison were unlucky to get caught behind some timid bike handlers. Victoria and Jessie were still together with the front bunch up to the midway climbs, but when the pace was put down by the climbing elite, Victoria knew that following was not an option. Survival was the name of the game now. The four fastest climbers had made their move, and Victoria set about gutting it out in a chase bunch of five, with Jessie finding a few riders to work with in a third group.
There’s not much to describe about the final climb – no heroic tactics, or cat-and-mouse play for position. You just ride up the last climb as best you can. Turns out that Victoria’s best was pretty awful, climbing sometimes at 5km/hr over gradients reaching 21%. The final three kilometres was a lesson in suffering by the time the snow storm hit. It was so hard to generate body heat, as exhausted legs fought an impossibly relentless climb. Margeaux had recovered enormous ground on the final climb. As Victoria hit the final 500m, Margeaux also crested the Baw Baw beast, the two riders finishing within seconds of each other. Alison had caught and passed Jessie, and was the third team rider over the line, and came as close to suffering hypothermic shock as the team ever wants to see again. Jessie was remarkably good natured about her ordeal, saying that she actually enjoyed herself, meaning we either have a team full or resilient riders, or several absolute nut jobs!
World Track Championships
Report by Kieran Murphy
While cyclists are quite accustomed to early starts, the flight to LA pushed the ‘friendship barrier’. An 0230 alarm and a 4am check in, guaranteed some bleary eyes on the flight to Sydney. The 14 hour flight to LA just helped to make everyone feel truly deflated by the time we arrived.
We had 6 days until our first race and as the UCI World Cup was still running we didn’t have track access for the first few days. Jet-lag combined with ergo sessions didn’t exactly contribute to our sense of joy, but the excitement was beginning to set in, and we had the space we needed to begin the recovery from our journey. Once we were able to get on the track, it all started to sink in, as this being my first competition representing Australia was becoming a reality.
The 4km pursuit was the first race up for us, and it was made a little bit more special by our race being the first Australians to ride at the championships. Considering this was our first time riding for Australia I thought that was pretty cool.
On a slow LA track, our qualifying ride was a solid 4:23sec and we qualified for the gold medal ride off against Spain – the silver medallists from the 2016 World Championship won by team member Kieran Modra. With a hard fought final ride the Spanish were too strong for us, and we rode away with the silver medal. Not bad for our first ever ride.
The 1km Time Trial is a 4 lap dash around the track where the quickest bike wins gold. Bikes are started one at a time and it can be a nervous wait to find out the final placing. We were 3rd to ride and posted a time of 1min 4.512sec. Knowing there were quicker bikes to come we didn’t have any expectations of medalling. We were pretty sure both Great Britain teams would post the quickest times which left only the bronze medal up for grabs. At the 500 mark both the Russians and Malaysians were quicker than us.
Spain were just behind but finishing strong. As each team started to fade our nerves grew and so did the possibility of us snatching a medal. In the end we took the bronze, with the second quickest final lap in the field and a very exciting end to our first Worlds campaign.
My pilot Lachlan and I now head to Italy and Belgium in a month for some Road World Cups. You can keep up to date with all our updates by following our Facebook page Formula Tandem.
Audax Alpine Classic
Report by Simon Wong in collaboration with Steve Hampton
I was lucky enough to have Steve Hampton as pilot for the 2017 Audax Alpine Classic challenge/charity ride which was held on 28th January. This was the first Alpine Classic for both Steve and I, and we completed the 200km ride on Steve and Rebecca’s Duratek tandem. It was an amazing ride, and an impressively well-run event on beautifully smooth Victorian Alpine roads with sweeping bends, fresh air and peaceful surroundings. Steve and I worked diligently all day especially climbing the four major peaks. We stuck to our plan of not letting our heart rate go too far above 150bpm for extended periods of time, and it was a delight to discover we still had the legs to roll back to Bright like a steam-train over the last 20 km.
The ride started at 6:20am from Bright, Victoria. The first 13km was mainly flat with some slight downhill sections. The first peak was a 19km climb up Mt. Buffalo followed by a short downhill run, before a final 2km steep climb up to Dingo Dell. Mt Buffalo looked incredibly intimidating in the car when we drove up it on the previous day. Riding up this impressive mountain on a bike proved surprisingly manageable. There was a sense of relief and achievement when we got to the first check point. After refreshments, we enjoyed a long fast thrilling descent back to Bright.
The second peak was a climb to the top of the Bright side of Tawonga Gap. It was a 7km climb but steeper than Mount Buffalo. Both Steve and I had to work our heart rate above 160bpm for most of the climb in order to keep on top of the gearing. There was a picturesque lookout on top of Tawonga Gap, where, along with many other riders, we stopped briefly to take a photo and have our photo taken. The downhill run to the second check point at Mt. Beauty was fast and furious. Descending such a steep hill on a tandem gave us a tremendous sense of speed and power as no single cyclist could hope to get onto our wheel.
After a break for lunch at Mt. Beauty, the 31km climb up Falls Creek started as soon as we got back on the bike. This part of the ride was perhaps the most testing. The slow, long, grueling climb in the hot afternoon sun seemed to go on forever. The field had spread so much that we came across very few other cyclists heading in the same direction. We stopped half way up at a water station to fill up our drink bottles and we had to take another little break to take in some gel and food before reaching the top. The temperature was at least a dozen degrees cooler up there, and we were convinced given the amount of climbing we did, we had to have reached the top of the World.
During the break, one of the Audax volunteers took photos of us with the bike and was really interested in our story. In fact, along the way, many riders shouted cheerful hellos and words of encouragement at us, particularly from the high number of women participating in the event. Steve was adamant it was the fact we both had dashing haircuts prior to the ride that attracted people’s attention. I thought it was the immaculate and classy looking tandem that was the real chick-magnet.
After the break, we enjoyed a long fast descent back to Mt. Beauty, during which Steve’s bike-computer recorded our top speed as over 90kph. The final climb back up Tawonga Gap from Mount Beauty was pretty tough, and by this time we had ridden 160km and had very tired legs. We had to dig deep to push to the top before rolling back down to Bright. Steve’s bike computer suggested we did a total of nearly 39,000 pedal revolutions on the day; our actual riding time was about eight and a half hours, but overall, we competed the ride in just less than eleven hours.
According to the event organisers and volunteers that we met along the way, I might have been the first blind/vision impaired tandem cyclist to have completed an Audax Alpine Classic ride. No one could recall having come across another vision impaired stoker having participated in the event before. We believe there were about 1500 cyclists that took part in the 2017 Audax Alpine Challenge over various distances. I was one of a group of nineteen participants who also took up the challenge of fundraising for the Audax Alpine Classic charity partner – The Kids Cancer Project. With great support from Steve, as well as wonderful support from family, friends and work colleagues at Guide Dogs SA/NT, I was the third most successful fundraiser; managing to raise over $2,000 for kid’s cancer research.
World Paracycling Track Championships
Meg Lemon flew over to Los Angelis in March for her debut on the Australian Paracycling Track Team. We are enormously proud of this very gusty athlete, who battled through nerves and fatigue to register the following results.
- Third Place C4 500m Time Trial – missed silver by 0.2sec and gold by 1 second.
- Third Place C4 3km Individual Pursuit – missed the gold medal ride off by 0.3sec.
- Fourth C1-5 (mixed classes) Women’s Scratch Race 10km.
- Second overall UCI Track Rankings for C4 women 2nd
- There are many exciting things to come for this athlete as Meg heads to the National Road championships in April.
Australian Elite National Road Championships
2017 marked the Nationals retirement for Narelle and Victoria. Both athletes had trained together in the lead up – a staggering degree of difficult and painful training sessions. Narelle could tell that her legs just didn’t feel right in the few days before the event. She had hoped that they would pull themselves together on the day, but for Narelle recovery just didn’t occur in time. Narelle was challenged early by the climbing pace, when she would otherwise have been quite comfortable. In typical ‘never say die’ Narelle fashion, she dug in and worked relentlessly to regain contact with the bunch across the challenging Buninyong course. Lap seven signalled the surrender however – an achievement in itself with the class of the field having taken significant steps forward in the last three years. Victoria was feeling good – or at least better than she had for the year before. She was still in contact with the bunch on the last lap, on only dropped off the main bunch heading across the top for the last time. Victoria finished shattered, and ultimately relieved to never have to front up to Nationals again!
Tour of Mansfield
Stage One: 13.8km Time Trial
Solid performance from the ladies in the Stage One Time Trial saw the team sitting in first place overall. It was a mightily chilly stage at 9 degrees, but the course was always going to warm up the ladies quickly. A 13.8km and very undulating course was on the menu for the day, with plenty of tricky pace changes. Victoria and Brittany were the quickest fillies of the team with good times clocked all round.
Stage Two: 69km Road Race
The Elite Women lined up for a 69km course over a testing and very lumpy course. Victoria commiserated with another local SA rider, Alana Haansbergen on the way out – whoever drew up the course profile clearly needed to be shot! The course profile was drawn with a scale that made the stage look practically flat.
The first 3km was neutral and perfectly civilised. In fact, the pace for the first half of the race up to the turnaround was reasonably conservative and only punctuated by a short burst of speed for the QOM, and minor chase downs of two breakaway attempts. Victoria was 4th over the line for the first QOM.
On the way back, Haansbergen from CBR and a Specialized rider went for a breakaway from the turnaround. VV and Alison brought that one back with very able assistance from Justine Barrow of the Rush team and active attempts from CBR to block.
The QOM on the return was the major splinter with five riders including VV making a break. VV couldn’t hold the climbing speed with legs having been unable to race since Santos Women’s Tour. Frustratingly she had to let them go, and waited for a group of four riders coming up behind her. The chase bunch which came through and regrouped with VV had originally had Alison, but Alison was to suffer the same frustration but to an even narrower margin, only being just off the pace in the last moments of the climb. Alison, having lost touch a hairs-breath from the summit also waited for a working group of three riders to swap off turns with for the next 5km.
Natascha started cramping at the 40km mark. She was with Bree heading to the top of the climb, the two riders working hard to catch the group in front, but history repeated and they could quite make the gap. Natascha and one other rider eventually did ride away from their group, but her companion was knackered and could only offer small assistance on the downhill. Bree had succumbed to the pace and eventually found herself working alone, until the 3km-to-go mark when she was then caught by a group which included Brittany. Bree finished with the sprint from her group, with Brittany safely in the pack.
Back at the front of the race, Victoria’s group had a big task at hand. They had the four leaders working hard out in front, and VV’s group of five only had four effective workers. At one point the gap to the leaders was enticingly close. VV sat at the front and the other riders were unable to help, so VV just sat there and kept pulling, trying to get the two groups to close. With a 30metre gap still to close, unbelievably another rider attacked Victoria! It didn’t work mind you, and Victoria still closed the final gap anyway. One rider had crashed out so that left 8 riders heading into a sprint finish, Victoria taking 6th with no time loss. Next best rider was a very gutsy and determined ride from Alison, with Natascha’s ride being the third time to be taken towards the team’s classification. The team continued to sit in first place after stage two.
Stage Three: Mt Buller Road Race
Maybe we should call this stage Mt Bully!
The team headed into this stage with a 1m45s lead, which is easily lost on a single climb such as the looming Mt Buller. The team was forced into a defensive position early into the race, with two riders from second-placed team CBR making the smart move to get two riders up the road into a breakaway. MBAB rider Britanny Steele saw the move, and followed, allowing her to share in the nearly three minute lead the group had at the bottom of the climb.
MBAB riders moved to the front of the chase bunch and kept the pace from falling to the point that the breakaway would have a devastating lead on the climb. All four riders swaped turns, and then when the climb presented intself, moved into rest mode and waited for the climbers who would launch the search party for GC to take up the work. We didn’t have to wait long. The expected mountain goats embarked on a mixture of short attacks and savage underlying rises in general climbing tempo. The amount of work Natascha had put into the chase bunch had been absolutely crucial but cost her early, and she had to settel back into her own tempo for the remainder of the climb. Bree was feeling somewhat better, and was able to find an effective group of climbers to work with. That left Brittany fighting hard out off the front to preserve as much time as possible, while the team’s strongest climbers, Alison and Victoria set to work on bringing whatever time back they could.
Alison stayed with the initial attacks, but eventually had to concede that the tempo was unsustainable. With extraordinary determination however, she relentlessly sustained her own threshold and eventually brought back all but one of the riders from the original breakaway, and several riders who had also fallen off the chase bunch. Victoria also stayed with the mountain pursuit group for a time, but her form was too fragile to stay with them – surviving to stage three in her first race since the Santos Tour being surprise enough. Unfortunately, half way up the climb, the lights did go out, and Victoria pushed against a crushing fatigue to get to the top. Brittany had climbed like a champion, and while she was caught and passed by Alison and Victoria, it was Brittany and Bree riding in together that secured the team first place for the team’s classification. Well done ladies!