I successfully completed my first Tour of Bright last weekend and what a great event. This being my second Cycling Victoria event as I have only been racing for just over a year (and riding for less than two), I was a tad nervous the night before as I attached my transponder hoping it wouldn't move during the race (Tip #1 - always bring extra zip ties). C grade contained almost 120 riders on the original list with a only a few names I recognised and I wasn't quite sure what to expect, except that it was going to be tough. The personalised Rapha numbers and show bag were a great touch at the sign in (Tip #2 -always bring extra safety pins) which I just made it too at 8.50pm after driving up from work (never again).
The Gaps Loop Stage 1 - 91km &1040m
As we rolled through the inflatable SRAM arches, everyone was jostling for position due to the big field and the first sprint being only 10km in. After everyone got settled, I was a back further than I would have liked but was nicely sheltered in he bunch steadily rolling along at speeds well over 40km/h. As moving up the bunch proved extremely difficult without crossing the center line, I settled into a rhythm focusing on saving energy, keeping up the fluids and staying alert for be sharp braking events that was rippling throughout the bunch. As expected, the pace kicked up going up Rosewhite gap and by the top almost 30 riders had been shelled. I too had slipped a little back the leaders crested the KOM and by the of bottom descent, the gap had unfortunately grown. Suddenly the commisaire car had passed me and I knew I was in trouble. I worked hard with another rider and dug deep rolling turns. Finally after a eternity, we both managed to get back as the bunch sat up and the pace relaxed. From here I tried to conserve what I had left before ascending Tawonga Gap. At the feed station I grabbed a neutral drink bottle and by the time I looked up, I was already off the back. From there was nothing much I could do but ride t my threshold all the way to the finish passing an odd rider here or there, but it was too late the damage had been done. I finished 64th place in 2h48mins.
Individual Time Trial Stage 2 - 15.7km
I wasn't on till 4pm, so I refueled and watched a few of my other club members race. I am glad I went as it was a nice afternoon with temperatures in the high twenties. Suddenly I saw one rider go past wearing full head to toe skins and winter booties. The worst part was that I found out he was a fellow club member. For the rest of the trip, we renamed him CATWOMAN and at the final presentation he was presented with his own special award and checked for heat stroke. I got ready, rolled my legs out and it was finally time. I wasn't sure how I would go as my legs felt shot but I gave it everything and even passed one rider on the way out. By the halfway mark, I had thus far managed to hold of any riders passing me but it wasn't for long as Paul from Velobourne rolled on by. I held him in my sights as long as I could and finished in a time of 25m17 at a avg speed of 37.2km/h. It wasn't world record breaking, but a solid effort on a challenging undulating course moving me up a few passes on the GC.
Mount Hotham Stage 3 - 44km & 1040m (shortened due to adverse conditions)
I woke up feeling better than expected and was looking forward finishing what I had started. Due to the adverse weather conditions at the top of Hotham (wind, sleet and sub zero temperatures), the race was shortened by approx. 10km finishing just below the ticket booth. The race started very similar to yesterday, but speeds were lower due to the head wind and slight incline on the way to Harrietville. The race exploded at the second sprint as the elevantion kicked up. A couple of riders lost their chains causing a bit of havoc and by the time I had rounded the first corner, I was well back. From there, I did what I could to make up time managing to pass a number of riders but as time passed the gaps of daylight got bigger. A small grupetto formed and set a steady pace up the MEG growing larger in size with each rider we passed. At one point we were almost organised and started rolling turns, but this was short lived one rider pulling away. I had enough left in the bank to hang on and finish strongly in 1h43min finishing 53rd.
Overall I managed to pull back a couple more GC places finishing 55th overall in a total time of 4hr56. Given that the winner of C grade and B grade had the same overall times, I was happy with my overall performance given the strong field. It was a great event that I would recommend to anyone that likes hills and multi stage races. I will definitely be back next year but perhaps arrive a day or two early instead of the late night run after work (Tip #3) and will definitely try to attend a training camp up in Bright (or two - Tip #4) to help prepare myself a little better for the larger hills.