The first selection came on the climb just after the wooden bridge (which unfortunately took a victim whose wheel got caught in between the boards), where the race really started to heat up and a number of riders started disappearing of the back. By this point, I had already received my first cramp and consumed as much food and drink as I could before the first feed station at 60k's. This being my first CV event, as an after thought I packed a musette with food and drink which turned out to be handy as the bunch rolled through without stopping. After I reloaded, I had unfortunately got slightly off the back of the bunch and had to fight to get back on.
From there, we started descending with one great straight stretch on the Bairnsdale to Dargo Rd allowing myself to hit a top speed of 90km/h which smashed my previous personal best. Unfortunately this all came to an end with one last climb before Dargo. The break was still clear with a gap over approaching 4mins and the hammer was down all the way up the climb. Unfortunately, I was on the verge of blowing up for quite a while and another cramp (coincidentally occurring as a rider broke off the front) saw myself lose touch with the bunch at the 85km mark just before the descent into Dargo. If only I could have held on a little further....
Riding into Dargo alone, I had backed off the pace of knowing I wouldn't catch the bunch and remembering what was ahead of me. I didn't stop at Dargo, dropping my first neutral water but I managed to hold onto the second and kept pedaling through with cheers of support from the Wellington club members volunteering on the day. I knew this final climb was going to be tough gaining 870m over 11km with an average gradient of 8%. I climbed the first section no worry passing a few stray C graders. But it was the next part that killed me averaging 11-12% for what felt like an eternity (realistically it was around 1.5k's). There was no shade and my Garmin was showing temperatures up to a whopping 38degC. I was starting to feel dehydrated and I may have stepped of my bike in a shady section not knowing there was respite about 300m up the road. From there on it, it was a matter of just getting to the line and as the gradient relaxed to 5-6%, I felt a little better with speeds starting to top a massive 12km/h.
(2011 A Grade Winner - Jason Spencer)
As I passed the 1km to go, it was just me and 'The Wall.' 500m of road with gradients up to 19% and the the whole time you could see the finish line taunting you to keep pushing. By this point, everyone in site was walking and two simultaneous cramps didn't make it a hard decision to get off. With the pleasant walk over, it was time to get on the bike and roll the last 200m to the finish line in a time of approx. time 4hrs 10 minutes. It was over and I could not have been more relieved. Facts as per my Garmin 500 (ride details here):
|Time:||4:11:45 (to be updated once official results are released)|
|Avg Pace:||2:23 min/km|
|Avg Speed:||25.2 km/h|
|Elevation Gain:||2,282 m|
|Avg Temperature:||31.1 °C|
Overall, it was probably the single most toughest thing I have ever done and in the end finishing was an achievement in itself. Next year, I will be back with a compact group set (as a 39/28 combo made the last climb tough) and a lot more training (Inverness repeats essentially until you are forced to walk).