Moorsele Kermesse Race Report

Pat brings us a much anticipated update from his last few weeks racing in Begium! Enjoy his words below.

On Friday 28/07/2017 I competed in my eighth kermesse. Entering the race I wasn’t feeling exceptionally confident, nursing a cold that just won’t quit, commuting 35km out to a 6pm race start. Upon arrival the rain started and we watched a few competitors quietly slink away without signing on. I heard someone drop the word “cobbles”, fortunately a false alarm; wet cobbles are probably the last thing you want when you’re unsure at your ability to even pedal the bike let alone fight for traction.

As has become the routine, we managed to get lost en route to the sign up so I got in a very hurried reconnaissance lap with Rich. This spooked us even more after discovering several 90 degree plus turns, a couple with copious amounts of paint through the apex.  Another false alarm as it turns out, it seems I can corner a lot better than I give myself credit for if the video evidence is to be believed.

We lined up in our customary at-the-front-but-not-on-the-front team position in order to keep ourselves forward of crashes and splits, ready to cover moves off the line without having to initially roll a turn of pace. My Flemish is limited to tot ziens (see you later), so the pre-start announcements always have me nervous waiting for a whistle, movement or the click of cleats to signal go o’clock. The lead vehicles took off followed by a whistle and I excused myself from the gutter I’d been forced to worm into on the start line, roughly one hundred starters off.

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There was an initial hard surge of pace off the line as attacks went boldly into the cross head wind. The starting street is wide but with a scattering of furniture, including speed bumps, a bollard protected lane, a “valley of death” (gap down the centreline of a concrete paved road) and ninja-catseyes made of glass at a low profile. The peloton expands fully into the space where it’s not lined out. I had a quick catch up with teammate Liam mid-topple as he got bumped through the valley, fortunately I was able to provide him the shoulder he needed to prop himself back upright.

I spent the first few laps surfing wheels, keeping myself in contact with any moves, observing teams and trying to peg strong riders. My reverie would be short lived. The hammer dropped and the splits started driving open. Myself, Joe and Rich had positioned ourselves well for this and either found ourselves on the right side of them or in position to hop them or help each other. Before I knew it, Joe and I were taking turns with the old one-two off the front.

Once it became evident to me how much damage the crosswinds, wet and pace were doing to the peloton I decided that my role for the day should be to try and enhance the splits and make sure Joe and Rich were across them in order to sprint for a result. I started rolling hard turns in the crosswinds, leaving about 4 wheels worth of room to echelon in order to apply pressure to riders further back. I continued to keep an eye out to make sure they were still in contact and protected.

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Champy, Jake, Liam and Tony unfortunately found themselves on the wrong side of some moves. They were pulled at lap 12/23…some 60-75 riders were pulled by this point. Rich suffered a puncture and had to withdraw. By this time, a lead group of ~10-12 riders has been established, with roughly that number chasing but without cohesion and in varying groups. I found the next phase of racing to be very frustrating.

We would periodically form a cooperative chase. We had brought the lead group back to about 100 metres at one point. Every time it looked like the gap would be closed someone would attack solo and fail to bridge, destroying the cooperation and allowing the gap to go out again. Ultimately our chase group split in two from the pressure, then the forward group would split again. This left my group of 6 at the back of the race, Joe in a group of 3 ahead and 3 that would bridge the break of the day.

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The uncooperative dynamic continued most of the way to the finish line, only diminishing somewhat with fatigue. I took a dig at about 2-3km from the finish line, hoping to solo away. Looking back at my footage though, this was ill timed – I failed to kick hard enough to snap the elastic and I didn’t corner hard enough so the counter managed to come back through my draft. The plus side of this was that I managed to grab the tail and avoid pulling another turn…on the downside, I was completely cooked anyway and rolled in as last finisher in 21st. Joe managed 13th, not unlucky in this case. We’re both pleased to have brought back some prize money. I didn’t snare that elusive top ten but I’m happy with being in the top fifth of the field with so few that were able to finish the race at all. The conditions were hard, the course technical and the competition high; all conducive to a thorough learning and training experience!

Pickering Brook Round 2 – Wrap Up

Over the weekend the boys headed back out to Pickering Brook for 2017’s second round of one of Midland Cycle Club’s most looked forward to series of the Perth race calendar. Some of the boys used the opportunity to test their Time Trial skills and Patrick Saccani-Williams not only continued his excellent TT form by finishing second for the day’s A grade men’s TT, but also placed 4th overall in the Road Race after spending much of the day’s racing working hard in the break away with teammate Jordan Keightley.

Jake Warman gives us his insight into the day’s racing from the bunch.

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Patrick Saccani-Williams on the way to second in the A grade men’s ITT

We were treated with a beautiful, sunny winter day for the second race at Pickering Brook – a stark contrast to the sleeting rain of the previous event at the same course.

The individual time trial up first, the majority of the Santic-GDT riders had a crack at the 8km course, with respectable times achieved by all. Patrick Saccani-Williams again demonstrated his time-trialling ability, posting the second best time for the Men’s A Grade (10mins 14secs), beaten narrowly by Leighton Cook (Veris).

The TT over and warm ups for the road race completed, Men’s A grade racing got under way.

A number of attacks early on in the first lap saw the Santic-GDT guys very active and eager to make that first move stick. The bunch was attentive however, and it wasn’t until mid-way through the second lap that a move went clear – Jordan Keightley and Patrick Saccani-Williams representing Santic-GDT in the five-strong breakaway.

With the remainder of the team attentive and at the fore in the bunch (following and closing down any moves going up the road), things looked good with SGDT well represented up the road.

The light winds, combined with a general reluctance from teams with no representation up the road to chase (with the exception Veris) saw the break edge out to 1min 10secs advantage over the main field.

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Richard Schroth showing strong improvement in his A grade men’s TT

With 3 laps to go, Jordan Keightley and Jay Perrin (Midland CC) were reeled back in by the bunch and the break was reduced to three.

A flurry of attacks in the latter stages of the race saw the gap to the leading trio reduced to 45 seconds, however these attacks were being nullified by counters and close marking by the SGDT boys, with the hope of a podium place for Patrick, whilst ensuring our best shot at claiming the bunch kick.

Unfortunately, late in the second-last lap, Leighton Cook (Veris) managed to ride away from a small move at the fore of the bunch. Hesitance from any teams in the bunch to chase proved a crucial error, as whilst attacks and counters in the last lap reduced the gap to the Veris rider up the road, the catch would not be made.

The leading trio maintained a gap of 40 seconds into the final, however fatigue got the better of Patrick, losing contact with the break with 1km to go. Paul Bakker (Dome) sprinted to an impressive win over Guy Kalma (Pedal Mafia). Spent from a long race in the break (combined with his previous TT effort), Pat fell 10 meters short of the third podium spot, with Cook just coming over the top to steal third.

The bunch kick was contested by Yates (Drapac Pat’s Veg) in fifth and a solid lead out saw Richard Schroth of Santic-GDT manage sixth.

Santic-GDT rider Sebastian Barrett placed 5th in the Men’s B Grade race – another impressive showing from the upcoming rider.

Overall, a great day out on the bike, with some successful placings and overall strong showing by Santic-GDT.


Stay tuned for more event photos and thanks always to Zac Williams for giving Perth’s racing scene such quality local photography.

Thanks always to our sponsors Santic Australia, Oral7, and Bolle.

Pickering Brook Round 1 – Road Race

Team rider Pat put together a report and video edit of last week’s race out at Pickering Brook to give you a look into what it takes to back up a TT with a road race in less than ideal conditions.

 

Last weekend was the first round of the very popular, and very probably rained out Pickering Brook series for 2017. The Pickering Brook series plays out over three rounds, each round consisting of a prologue time trial (~7.5km) and a road race on the same course (9 laps for A grade, coming to 70km). Each individual race of the series is assigned points for an overall winner, this favours those that can both TT and place in the road race. This year it’s been added to the newly formed Element Road Series, an extended series of races with points contributing to an overall winner. No one has memories of a first round at Pickering Brook that hasn’t been rained upon and this was no exception

Time Trial

I’ve been looking forward to the time trial for a while now. I’ve worked hard on honing my time trial abilities and I’ve ridden uncountable laps on this course so I know it well. I arrived early, got coffee, registered and gas bagged too long before kitting up and hopping on the bike to warm up. I’ve made a habit of doing a reverse loop of the course as part of my warmup to try and check for any new potholes and whether or not it’s clear of gumnuts. Another reason I do this, which would be vindicated, is to check for mechanical issues; my front brake anchor had slipped, leaving me with very little stopping power. I was able to get that fixed before completing my couple of activations and rolling to the start line.

The TT course is tough, there’s a fair amount of climbing for it’s short duration. Given the elevation and shortness, this necessitates going for an average above threshold and well into VO2 or anaerobic power on the rises to take the necessary seconds to compete at the top end. If you’ve not kept yourself in the right condition, it’s going to be a rough day. The weather was an additional complication, TT bikes don’t brake great on the best of days and even less so in the wet. The corners were greasy, ready to throw an unsuspecting rider if you glance at them cock eyed. This added an element of technicality and a little more punchiness to get back up to speed. To be honest, I think my penchant for alloy braking surfaces paid dividends here – still allowing me to brake somewhat late.

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Aero mode; engage. Photo: Zac Williams

Warmed up, I readied myself at the start line, ditching a gilet at the last moment to retain body warmth. I pegged the riders ahead I’d target passing. I nudged over 60km/h heading towards the first corner and managed to get through at 39km/h. I flogged myself down the back straight, into the wind. Dug deep on the largest of the rises, crested with speed and got back on top of the gear. The whole time I was fighting nausea. There’s one last drag before reaching the downhill home straight, this always seems to go on for an age, yet another critical part on the course to push hard on. By now I’d passed two riders.

Entering the home straight, I worked my way back up to speed and settled to maintain control. I estimated time to the finish line and gradually ramped my power as I approached. By this time, my visor had thoroughly fogged and I had a narrow slit of visibility up the top. It’s not as bad as it sounds, I think this really enforced the importance of keeping my head tucked as it was the only way I could see anything! I passed team mate Ryan and kept building momentum. Shortly after, I lost the battle with nausea and left a shameful deposit on my sleeve, still, there’s a line to cross. I hit the finish at 61km/h for a time of 10:13 and an average of 44.5km/h. It’s not my best time on the course, but it is good, great even for the conditions. It was good enough to come away with the win by 22s so that made it a hell of a day in my books.

Road Race

I won’t write too much here, I have a video that can do that for me. I broke away from the gun with my team mate James. We managed nearly 20km before being bridged by a group of 4 riders: Theo, Bryce, Guy and my team mate Rich. This unlikely group of fast finishers changed the dynamic. I now set about pulling more and long turns to ensure the break stuck for Rich. We didn’t count on Michael Freiberg’s phenomenal horsepower pulling us back in at around the 42km mark.

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Driving the breakaway, beautiful weather. Photo: Zac Williams

I settled, started trying to recuperate and nearly went off the back a few times. I got it together in the end to tow a small group out of the bunch for the final sprint: Freiberg, Scott Sunderland (his Isowhey team mate), Bryce (Satalyst), Matt Peterson (Veris) and my Santic GDT team mate Stuart. Freiberg lit it up and took the leadout up from me, leaving me in the dust to empty the tank solo towards the line. Stu came away with 5th. We had a great day out, above all else, our communication and team work was absolutely on point.

Thanks to Zac Williams for the photos.

Tom Lowry Criterium

The Tom Lowry Memorial is an annual event held in Collie. It consists of a criterium on a Saturday, held at the Collie Motorplex on a beautiful hotmix circuit with wide, fast turns. The road race is held the next day, the A grade course takes a lap of the Motorplex then a roughly 30km out and back to another lap of the Motorplex and repeat for a 121km race. It’s undulating but has no serious climbs.

Motorplex Criterium

I headed down with Santic GDT team mate Jordan, our masseur and soigneur for the weekend (what a bloke!). Just a casual 221km drive, with some quality coffee and pastry on the way. We left with enough time to set up our room at the Motorplex, relax, catch up with mates and get warmed up with no panic.

The Motorplex circuit is fairly long as far as criteriums go. It’s a smooth, hot mix tarmac with wide turns that suit a steady pace and 5 deep dive bombing. There’s some exposure to wind down the back straight. Aside from the finish sign on the track, not many hazards.

Racing was very aggressive, there were maybe two brief periods of lull after the start. Other than that it was a solid composition of attacks and chasing. Leighton from Veris attacked pretty promptly and I bridged and rolled past for a turn to keep things moving. Leighton gave a moment of comic relief by yelling “TOUR DE LOMBOK” at the back of my head, I let him know that I’d forgotten my Veris jersey and instead opted to wear my far more stylish GDT kit. We were joined by Cade (Veris) but also, shortly thereafter, the rest of the peloton. Not long after was about the only other time I had a laugh instead of a grunt, Bryce (Satalyst) launched an attack to be promptly shot down by the whole Veris train.

I think this was really my main attempt at a breakaway for the race. From here I spent time lurking, on patrol. I was keen to control what went down the road and what didn’t. I countered a number of moves and most definitely left a lot of sweat out there.

My hardest moment of the race came when we got caught out by a split. Rich (our sprinter for the day) was forward of our main horsepower and started chasing. My heart rate was already at 175 when I jumped a 10s sprint to get to the front of the bunch and pulled a 49km/h chase for a kilometre to bridge the split back. Playback of the video reveals an audible whimper upon connecting back with the bunch.

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As I bridged the split back, 4 groups came together. Soon after we were able to establish some control. Some moves went off but myself and Jake rode tempo at the front. We kept the moves at a safe distance to settle the bunch, knowing we could bring the escapees back if needed. The peace accord would be broken again not long after.

Coming to the end of the second last lap a lone rider went for a flyer. Tim from Satalyst started the chase in earnest and rolled off. I went to the front and gradually ramped for about 800m. I had closing speed and thought I had things under control to catch at the last turn and then lead out the sprint. I was mistaken, other riders thought differently and attacked over the top of me. Ryan responded instantly and I yelled at Rich to grab his wheel which he managed smoothly under pressure. I drifted back and let everything unfold as there was no way to get back to a useful position. I rolled in casually to the line and took a lap to roll out the lactic.

All up, I enjoyed the hell out of this race. Plenty of action and I felt strong. I was able to exert influence for my team and while it didn’t quite pan out to our best intentions, we raced hard, learned lessons and got more vicious kilometres in the legs.

 

Blog post courtesy of Patrick Saccani-Williams

http://afewspokesloose.com/2017/05/tom-lowry-memorial-criterium/

State Criterium Championships

At 16 years old, Sebastian Barrett is the youngest member of Santic GDT Racing Team.

Fresh from The Pemberton Classic where he took out 2nd place in the U17 Criterium and 1st place in The Road Race, Seb shows ability beyond his years.

Read his take on his recent win in the U17 State Criterium.

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The day before Sunday’s criterium I was feeling fresh, I woke up feeling good and getting to the race I felt confident in my preparation.

The race mainly consisted of people trying to get away and others counter attacking with the pace was pretty full on the whole time.

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I managed to close down a few moves and felt good coming into the final two laps. Into the last corner I was third wheel and I knew everyone was exhausted.

I kicked as hard as I could, positioning myself nicely and was happy that I had the legs so that no one came around me.

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This win has given me confidence moving into future racing and I look forward to seeing what the 2017 season brings.

 

Photo: ZW Photography

Pemberton Classic Criterium and Road Race.

Pemberton Racing Weekend over for another year. Read Joseph Breheny’s account of the weekend.

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Oral7-GDT Racing came away with 4th in the A-grade crit on the Saturday night and 3rd in the road race the following morning, courtesy of myself, Joseph Breheny, with stellar help from all of my teammates at various times over the 2 races.

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Joseph Breheny

The A-grade crit was chopped to 35min + 2 laps due to lack of daylight and was run at lightening pace, with an average of 40.5km/h on the lumpy, rough surfaced circuit. After following and chasing almost every move and instigating some of our own the race was set to be concluded from a bunch sprint all the way up to the crest of the hill and the finish line. I was positioned well as we approached the final corner, however, riders started to chop up the inside about 20m before the turn. So many riders took the corner in too high of a gear and could not put in an adequate start to the sprint. My good position then led to me being blocked in. I punched through a gap about 2s too late and opened up my sprint, passing a handful of riders and chasing down the Satalyst rider in 3rd place. The finish line came too soon and I ended up 4th with so much left in the legs and left a bit frustrated. So close to the podium and so much more to give.

Lets see if we have better luck in the road race!

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Road Race

After a solid warm up on the rollers I was primed to tackle Pump Hill straight from the gun. Surprisingly, an attack went halfway up the climb and began to stick. I followed other moves that were attempting to get across to the group of about 7.

This chase group consisted of about 15-18 riders with all of the major teams represented. HOWEVER, many of the major contenders had played it too conservative and chose to stay sheltered in the main bunch and missed both of these moves. While we (and all other teams) had a teammate in the break in the form of Pat (Saccani-Williams), Richie (Schroth), Matt (Champ) and myself chose to drive on this move with the help of only 3-4 other riders to catch the front group and help Pat out while also keeping the major contenders that missed the moves out of the pointy end of the race.

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The catch was made about ¾ of the way around the first lap. Attacks immediately followed for several kilometers with the only one let away being a lone rider in the form of Satalyst’s Henry Pennell. For the next lap we kept him on a short leash, Oral7-GDT doing most of the work with the odd input from Veris and Wormall. Going into the last lap we had a call of 50s to Henry. James Ball (Giant Perth) attacked at the base of the climb and was closely followed by Veris’ Ash Mackay. I punched a hole through the bunch to latch onto Ash’s wheel as he attacked James and followed him up the climb. Just before the top we were joined and attacked by Conor Lambert (Veris) and passed a weary Henry just before the crest. I chased Conor with Ash on my wheel, followed by James, Brian Starring (Unattached) and Bryce Lanigan (Satalyst). The group stalled as we all came together and seeing that we had a huge gap I rolled to the front and pressed on.

Having all three major teams represented meant that all of the onus to chase would be placed solely on the three Wormall riders, this move was the one that was going to stick! We all started riding through (with some needing a bit more “encouragement” than others to contribute) and pulled out a massive advantage. This continued up to 10km to go when a few attacks flew, however nothing stuck and it kept coming back together. In hindsight I should have attacked at 5km to go given how good my legs felt, but on this occasion I chose to play it conservative. I knew that Ash would sacrifice himself in the hopes that Conor would take the bunch sprint.

Ash led out the final few kilometers keeping the pace high to prevent further attacks. Coming to the sprint it was Ash, Bryce, me, Conor, Brian, James. Conor opened up his sprint on the left 1s before I was about to, Bryce was straight on the wheel and I followed up the right hand side in order to have a straighter run into the final left-hander. However, the line I chose was going to intersect with Bryce’s and I almost ended up in the hay bales.

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I stayed upright and went to chase down Conor and Bryce, but was in too big of a gear to really get on top of it. I chased and held on for 3rd, but again was left feeling very frustrated given how much I knew I had left in my legs, very much a missed opportunity.

Looking back though it was great to finally nab the podium placing that we have been chasing since the start of the season and also to see how well my teammates rode in order to keep me in contention until the final break went.

A big shout out to all of our sponsors: Oral 7, Bolle Eyewear, CC Communications, Seight Custom Clothing, Glen Parker Cycles, Active Body Massage.  Also a personal shout out to Vitality Chiropractic for helping relieve me of lingering niggles that I’ve had from previous racing crashes over the years (misaligned hips, dislocated vertebrae, dislocated/subluxed ribs), which enabled me to work more comfortably and efficiently on the bike, conserving precious energy for each finale.

I’m really delighted with how we are progressing together and we can only learn from all these experiences, applying them in the future races that we are targeting. I am very much looking forward to our next outing together!

 

Photo Credits: Tony Lendrum and Michelle Sherwin

2017 MARS Cycling Australia Criterium National Championships

Currently sitting in seventh position on The Ring Summer Criterium Series Championship Leader Board, Matt Howlett shares his account of his recent Road Nationals experience.

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Matthew Howlett

The National Criterium was the first race for Oral7GDT during the nationals trip, and being a 7pm start time, it left a long time throughout the day for excitement and nerves to build up.

We rolled out for a few laps of the Buninyong circuit in the morning, adding in a few activation’s to prep ourselves for the race. After a larger than normal lunch and an afternoon siesta, we were feeling good and arrived at the Ballarat circuit early to enjoy a race-side coffee whilst watching the U23’s and women’s races. This also gave us a chance to relax our nerves, enjoy and soak up the whole scene.

After a few sighting laps of the course and a pre-race prep talk from our coach G, we were focused and ready for what we knew would be a tough race.

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The pace was high from the gun, and the first few laps felt more like a dream than reality. The size and excitement from the crowd, riding amongst a field of world class riders and hearing Phil Liggett’s commentary ensured this.

The course was wide and smooth, with flowing corners that encourage a fast entry and high corner speed. The kick out of the bottom corner onto the front straight climb was testing, and holding a good wheel up the climb was crucial to hold back attrition. A break formed but having Caleb Ewan in the bunch kept us relaxed, knowing that the break would most probably come back for the favourite.

Hearing G yell encouragement and advice to us each lap kept us focused and determined.The last few laps strung out the bunch, and the pace was raised to it’s maximum as we crossed the finish line, which was an emotional experience.

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We learnt so much from this race and now know where we want to be, and what we need to do. Racing the National Crit has left us more motivated than ever, and it was an absolute privilege to be a part of it and represent Oral7 GDT.

 

2017 MARS Cycling Australia Time Trial National Championships

A week on from the National Time Trial Championships in Ballarat, team rider Pat shares his thoughts on the trip and his race experience.

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Patrick Saccani-Williams rolling off the start line

Last week I travelled to Ballarat for the most significant event of my short cycling career, the Australian National Championships. An ambitious first hit out for the Oral 7 GDT racing team. It would be a week of many lessons, my first lesson was that red eye flights are evil, with my flight leaving late on a Monday night and arriving around 6am AEDST. The next lesson was that it pays to check the destination weather when travelling a few thousand kilometres as I arrived in shorts and a shirt in 12 degrees with a threat of rain.

One van rental later and a quick reunion between the two halves of the Oral 7 GDT team (Matt and I had caught the same flight, Jordan and Ryan beat us by a week) and we were on the road for Ballarat. Sleep deprived and hungry like only cyclists can be, one of the 6 Mcdonald’s on the highway proved irresistible. Coffee rated 8.5/10 – naturally bumped up a couple of points by being awake for 24 hours at that point.

First point of business on arrival was assembling two bikes. I never did do the math but I think we increased the value of the rented house, bringing 9 bikes for 7 cyclists to the garage. A quick spin in the legs and everyone’s nerves were starting to unwind again. The fatigue melted away and we could have a laugh. We rolled out to Buninyong to survey the road race course, I’d later get a lift back with the TT bike to recon the 40.9km TT course. I’m really glad that I didn’t use this as my only recon as the conditions lied to me, with a headwind outbound leg and a tailwind return.

If you’re really invested in a time trial performance, recon is crucial. Understanding the nuance of the gradients and surface conditions as well as the probable winds are critical to pacing strategy. I returned on Wednesday for a second recon and some activation efforts and found that the wind had completely swapped directions from the day prior and that this was the forecast for the race on Thursday. While I was grateful to rehearse in the right conditions, I wasn’t exceptionally keen on 20km uphill into a headwind! Fortunately I was able to fight through it in time to see Matt and Ryan compete in the criterium championship which made for spectacular viewing.

Thursday arrives, lazy wake up and a familiar breakfast then the waiting game. My time slot is 2.22 so there’s plenty of time to fret, I’ve already made an effort to ensure I have everything ready to immediately proceed to the course. Now’s the time for thanks: Paul Chambers, Steve Pieterson and Gordon Hindley worked their butts off for us during the week. I owe them all a beer and thanks. Paul helped me load up the car with both bikes and got me out to Buninyong with plenty of time for me to accidentally waste while confusing myself.

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Things seemed to unfold in a beautifully controlled chaos from here. I was originally going to warm up on the TT bike on a trainer borrowed from WAIS but it couldn’t be found. So that became a warmup on Mt Buninyong on the road bike, for which I initially tried to start on sneakers. The warmup worked out spot on nonetheless, I returned and grabbed a radio and proceeded to bike check expecting some arguments about my height and bike fit but mercifully I walked straight through. All up, I was in a good headspace but nervous.

Before I knew it, I was standing on the start ramp, nervously fiddling with my visor and Garmin trying to absorb the minute until go time. The starter was a little looser on the hold than I’ve had in the past, the seconds ticked down from ten to launch; I edged a bit closer than I’d like to the side of the ramp on take off but did make it successfully down the first obstacle.

Gordon took the passenger seat of a support vehicle piloted by Steve. It was reassuring to have a spare bike zipping along behind me and a whole new world to have radio support. Gordon kept a steady stream of positional advice, course info and encouragement coming to me. It felt a lot less lonesome and 100% more honest knowing I couldn’t slack off for fear of being caught. The course was exceptionally fast on the way out, tending downhill on a tail wind. Getting to the turn around would not be a problem and I passed a couple of DNFs as well as another rider on first leg while averaging 47.2km/h.

The “easy” ride out would not last and was only to provide a false sense of security for the horror of the return run. It’s a 35 degree day and I’m wearing a long sleeve skinsuit with a space helmet, the slower return not only means less airflow, especially uphill but more time exposed to this.  For some perspective on the heat from the road, Nick Squillari had an unfortunate stack at 18.5km from hitting a patch of tar at the turn off. The toll of the heat and exertion really started to  be felt by about 30km in, feet burning, throat scorched from air intake and my head feeling like it’s in an oven. This also roughly coincided with me throwing my chain on a downshift, not an ideal situation when going uphill into a headwind but the mechanical gods took pity on me and permitted me to tease the chain back on with a bit of shifter tension and careful pedalling while I still had momentum.

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At 35km in I was struck by some severe cramping in my left leg and I almost fell over for the third time in the race (I don’t want to talk about the first…). Again, uphill, it was a struggle to pedal enough to remain upright but I managed to keep moving and work through it. After a couple of kilometres I was able to get back on top of the gear and keep some good pace towards the finish line. That is, until the final rise. Never has such a small hill hurt so much before, it’s an utter act of cruelty by the organisers to have this final lump ~200m from the finish line. I commend them for that. As I came over the final hill and down the straight I pushed my heart rate through towards it’s max, mostly to finish with as much style as possible before keeling over. When I crossed the line I was in third place which felt amazing, despite already being fully aware of how short lived it would be. I would eventually slip back to 16th place which I’m still very happy with as a first outing to the national championships.

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2017 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships

This past Sunday saw the Australian National Road Race head back to Ballarat’s Mount Buninyong circuit, the home of Road Nats for the past decade.

Take a look at Oral 7 GDT rider Jordan Keightly’s thoughts on the day.

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Jordan Keightley

For the four of us racing, it was our first experience racing a nationals race and we approached the Elite Men’s race head on against some of the best cyclists in the world.

 

The day saw temperature readings of over 35 degrees so we knew we were in for a hard race. After a short ride out to the race, a coffee, and a talk from Gordon to settle the nerves, it was time to head to the start line and sign on. Standing around waiting for the race to start has got to be one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life. Standing next to Ryan on the start line I had a heart rate of 110 bpm and the pedals hadn’t even started turning! The national anthem was sung, some riders introduced, and we were set off by the sounds of rifles firing and the race was on!

 

My heart rate hadn’t quite settled down, and even though the bunch was setting a nice tempo and no attacks of any significance were going, it was still a shock to the system being surrounded by so many high-level athletes all competing to with the green and gold stripes. What came as more of a shock was looking at the rider next to me and realising I was riding beside Simon Gerrans, mouth closed, eyes locked forward, focussed on the race. I’m not even sure he needed to breathe at that point!

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Ryan Miller & Jordan Keightley lining up in an elite men’s field

The four Oral 7 riders kept good position in the bunch on the first lap, staying close to the front of the group and making sure we went into the next lap strong – the bunch was getting ready to turn it up over the KOM point to get rid of any riders who weren’t strong enough to hang on. Riding with so many experienced cyclists is reassuring when you’re hitting corners at 48km/h as you’re surrounded by confident, calm people who are there to ride fast. The second time over the hill the sun was really biting and you could tell everyone was feeling the same way, but the big teams on the front were making sure that the pace didn’t slow down. We hit the climb and the group started to string out with the bigger sprinter types going backwards before the KOM point. Gaps formed and we moved up the group to come over the climb in good position before the whole group was lined out along Yankee Flat Rd. Learning how to prioritise nutrition in a race of this calibre was a highlight of the day because in a race that’s scheduled for 180+km, you need to have fuel. Balancing the speed, the other riders, and the foil wrapped around your food was a test, and a key point to take away for the day, but luckily I had some gels handy to get me through until the race settled down – which it didn’t. The descent was fast, and coming into the third lap we could start feeding. Making sure we had enough water was a key point for the day, but the more experienced riders who didn’t need to feed on the third lap didn’t need to ease up on the pace either.

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Matt Howlett

The bunch saw the opportunity to add pressure into the climb and the group rode up the hill hard. I was on the limit but I’d made it to the KOM point – which is when the group kicked. As I got out of the saddle to try and get back on, the team cars started to fly past me, with a couple of riders drafting to make it back to the bunch. It hit me then that it was quite a windy day in Ballarat. Without the protection of the peloton around me it was a battle to get around the course at anywhere near the speeds I was doing with the group, but I pressed on and caught up to the Ballarat local hero I only know as ‘Timmy’. Nearly all of the fans on the side of the road knew who he was, and riding the next 2 laps with him while the crowd cheered him on, even though we were 3 minutes off the pace was an amazing experience.
All in all the day was an incredible experience. We learned so much as a team by riding against pros on a completely different level, but one piece of advice from the day will always ring true – they eat like you, they sleep like you, they’re human beings too.

 

So now the benchmark has been set for 2017, it’s time to start building for 2018!

 

Photo credits: Michelle Sherwin, Dylan Burns, Kirsty Baxter