Saturday, 13 October 2012


Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic:
I want to keep this one brief, but given how I write, it might turn into an epic wall of text. Apologies if that's the case.

Without doubt, this is the most prepared I've been for a race. Ever. So when less than 10kms in, while going around the bunch on the gravel shoulder, I slid out on the grass trying to avoid a crash and thus ended up off the back of the bunch.... Well..... I was a little annoyed to say the least. To put months of time in the saddle, sacrificing time with friends and family for this sport, only to see the race go away less than 3% of the way in.... well that's frustrating.

I'd done no damage to myself, my shifter was at near right angles, my bars were 5-10 degrees off centre and there was a lot of grass attached to the buckle of my shoe, but none of this was going to stop me rolling through. A group formed and after an initial balls out chase, I pretty much resigned myself to riding along with the same blokes for the full 262. The race was gone and there was no way we'd see it again.


Leading in to feed #1 we got a time update, there was around 4 minutes to the main bunch, it obviously seemed like an achievable gap as guys started rolling turns harder, into the feed I heard calls from the sideline of "one minute", and then not far up the road we could see them. A day that had seemed over, was suddenly wide open again. Despair had turned to hope. We looked at each other in disbelief and grinned. It was game on again!

So back in the fold, I had to get myself into the groove of riding for position and avoiding the numerous crashes. I still worried about the cross winds I knew would come after feed #2 at Lismore, enough to start pumping caffeine through my system. It kind of didn't eventuate though. Enough of the teams were represented in the break to temper the pace. There was a lot or riding in the gutter action, but for me it wasn't life or death. I was able to cover the gaps left by blown riders and move up (occasionally).

This meant that I rolled into Camperdown, the place I'd set as my goal to arrive at with the bunch, feeling better than... well... better than expected. I've got to admit, at this point, I was pretty stoked. If you've had the misfortune of being near me when the topic of the Warny comes up (or I bring it up), I've likely used the phrase "I just want to be there, on those hills, to watch the fireworks go off", so actually being there left me with this hollow place where my goals once resided. Meanwhile, while I was off re-assessing my place in life, the race went on. The front of the bunch hitting the first, longer, climb with some decent pace, enough to string blokes out and break a few legs. Some of those dropping wheels were in front of me, and more importantly, in front of DK. My day, the thing I was around for, was to help DK. I pulled through and put myself half a dozen beats over threshold, which merely stemmed the flow of time. In less floral language, I could match the bunch's pace, but not close down the gap and help my mate get where he needed to be. Even rolling terror turns on the descent didn't get us back on, and as we crested the 2nd hill and found our way back out the Princess Hwy, I was once again faced with the depressing thought that the day was over.

So to recap where things stand at this point. We had a bunch, and by we I mean DK, Ray, Jake and a bunch of other guys I know from NRR etc, but most specifically DK, Ray and Jake. I had a grading of C-grade, which was the lowest of anyone, so the best shot at a category win. DK and Jake worked turns on the front so I didn't have to (though I came through a few times to ensure I stayed towards the front), leaving me time to shovel food and scientifically formulated food like substances into my face hole. Then, as we rolled into Warrnambool proper, the most humbling experience I've had to date (on a bike) occurred. DK, Jake, Ray and Luigi lined themselves out on the front of the bunch, for me. 4 blokes, whom I respect immensely set me up to launch at the line, and despite a massive twinge in my adductor there was no way in hell I wanted to let these blokes down. I'm serious, I clearly remember the thought "Ok Neil, if you have to sprint through a full cramp, then you will fucking sprint through a cramp!".

In the end I probably went a few metres too soon, and had one guy push a wheel in front of mine on the line, I'd say it doesn't matter because he was in A-grade, but it does. I don't like to lose sprints. Still, that aside, I was elated. 260km of racing and I'd ripped out a sprint. Despite some disorganisation in the bunch after Camperdown we'd rolled in only 17 minutes down on the leaders. To top it off I had achieved the win in C-grade, and if I'd been in B where I possibly should have been, it would have been enough for 6th.

Photo completely and utterly stolen from Leigh Schilling's Instagram.

So beyond the sash (which I wore to the bars on Chapel St), I am stoked. I'm stoked because I finished the Warny after racing at a level I've aimed for. The last two times I've cramped out in the last 40kms and missed significant selections before the midway point. That didn't happen this time... well I (the guys I was with deserve all the credit) managed to rectify the issues post the early crash.

Strava link.

D: 258.7km
A: 1,546m

PMPW: 91kg


Publius Naso said...

Fucking massive congratulations man.

neil said...

Thanks John. It's nice to prove (again) that training makes you faster.