Tour of Bright 2014 VRS
I won’t deny that I’d been looking forward to racing in the 2014 Tour of Bright since finishing in 8th place for the race last year (+1:27.9 behind the winner). Climbing is the main focus of the tour with two hilltop finishes on both stages 2 and 3, but it was the Time Trial (TT) from last year where I lost most of my time (37th on the stage, +1:19) and any chances of being competitive for a podium finish.
With that in mind, I worked with my coach Stephen Lane from HPtek to make sure my training leading into the tour was appropriate. This vaguely included doing specific efforts on the TT bike while maintaining the focus of being able to go up hills fast. I was also fortunate enough to be staying the week beforehand in Porepunkah with Dr Lane’s teammate Shane Miller who is known for getting aero and going fast in a TT. I definitely learned lots from him, and was able to finish in 5th place for the stage 1 TT this year, +17seconds from the winner. It was a big improvement from 2013, and I was happy!
During this week spent in Porepunkah I also thought it would be a good idea to test the legs up the nearby Mt Buffalo (18km @ 6% gradient). The climb took just over 45 minutes, slightly under 360 watts and 186 average HR. I held some reasonable numbers and took the Strava KOM! It was a good sign, and I was confident that I could be competitive on the road stages for a result over the coming weekend. It was only a couple of days after this that my left leg suffered an ingrown hair which ended up getting infected, badly (pictures below for those interested). I quickly made a visit to the doctors who wouldn’t let me leave without a prescription for antibiotics and a strong recommendation to rest (i.e do not race the Tour of Bright).
Truthfully, the pain from the infection was bad and I wasn’t sure if I was going to start the tour. Fortunately, I did start, and once the racing got hard up the climbs the pain seemed to disappear and didn’t have an impact on my performance.
Having a small team including Stu Smith and Tim guy meant the loose team plan for stage two was to get to the base of final climb Tawonga Gap (7.6km @ 6% gradient) in a position to be able to take the stage win. Nearing the end of the stage there was still a dangerous break up the road that included strong VIS climber Angus Lyons and Avanti’s Chris Hamilton. This meant that the boys started setting the tempo up the Bogong Village climb. Stu also got to the front and drove it hard between Mt Beauty and the base of Tawonga. This ended up being really critical because I only managed to catch Angus in the last couple of hundred meters to the finish line to take 1st place on the stage!
It was an incredible feeling to have the legs in the last couple of KM’s of the climb. The first half of the climb was solid at just under 350 watts, but it cranked up in the second half to average over 380 watts including a few different attacks. It was Matt Clarke’s attack that broke the remaining riders and I was able to follow this move. We rode together for a little bit as we could see Angus Lyons in the distance and both had incentive to catch him. With less than 1km to go I was able to ride away from Matt, caught up to Angus, and roll over the line to take my 2nd win in 2014!!
We woke to some very wet weather on Sunday to start stage 3. This meant the usual finish up Mt Hotham was shortened to finish 10km earlier. The start of Hotham didn’t go so well. I had a little crash running up the back of a very slow moving Alex Morgan, and had to spend the first few minutes of the climb working back up to the peloton. There was also a break up the road that again included Chris Hamilton and was later joined by Freddy Ovett and Mark O’brien during the climb. The stage winner came from the break (Chris Hamilton) with Freddy Ovett coming in 2nd, while the battle for GC was happening behind.
I couldn’t put any time into Oscar today who rode really strongly and finished the stage 1 second in front of me. Matt Clarke whacked it really hard up the final 400 meters from behind my wheel, and I couldn’t respond to that either. He ended up beating me by enough to pass me on GC by 0.5 of a second, pushing me down to 3rd overall. Well done to them, and the VIS team for taking out overall teams classification.
I’m very happy with my results from the weekend. It’s extremely satisfying to get another win. I’ve had some fairly consistent placings near the top end of the field this year but haven’t managed to get a win since my Donna Buang ITT during winter. There’s a big difference between winning a race or rounding out the podium. It felt great, and I want to do it again soon!
With a couple of days before flying out to Adelaide for a training camp with Budget Forklifts I’ll be resting up to let the infection and minor crash wounds heal. This was my last race with Health.com.au-Search2Retain for the year, and possibly the last time spent riding the Wilier.
As always, thanks for your support over the weekend and following my progress!