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We had two riders strong enough to win on Sunday: Greg and Andy. My job was to be the donkey.
With the nature of the climbs and crosswinds we anticipated a race of attrition, however with 5 strong Subway riders coming from the Tour of Korea we needed to be vigilant and make sure if a break went that we were in it. As soon as the flag dropped a break formed with Sam Horgan, Matt Wheatcroft, and Mike and the three of them quickly built up a solid lead.
Mike, Stu and myself stayed near the front of the race for the first 60 km and set tempo and covered moves. Subway didn’t look especially happy despite having Horgan in the break and they would sporadically send a rider off the front of the bunch who would be quickly covered by myself or Stu.
On the second lap (44km) Horgan punctured from the break and after a slow wheel change returned to the main field leaving Mike and Wheatcroft to go it alone. With no Subway rider in the break and with some of the best legs in the field we had to be especially vigilant.
On the third lap my legs (66km) were starting to get tired so I let Kendall and Dan take over and drifted back to check on Greg and Andy and have a bit of a rest. Greg asked for a push while he watered the roadside flowers – the first time I’ve done this and it made me feel very PRO. Andy then tapped me on the shoulder and told me to get back to the front and watch the Subway guys – no rest for the wicked.
The second hill on this lap (~80km) was where the first big move came. Just before the climb Odlin took a flyer – I chased for a while but with Horgan on my wheel and the peloton single-file I wasn’t getting much help. Greg saw the move and bridged across as I started to fade – whew! As the climb hit, the pace was high but not crazy and I was sitting comfortably in the first 5 wheels following three Subway riders when they looked at each other, nodded, and attacked.
I was red-lined and the long effort just before the climb wasn’t doing me any favours. I followed the attack and slowly the bunch thinned out; first a couple of individual riders, then the whole back half of the peloton drifted away. I clambered over the top with the front bunch with Greg and Andy. Dan and Stu weren’t far behind and they managed to work together to get back on.
On the next climb Subway rode a solid tempo and Mike was brought back from the break. I gave him a push but it was pretty clear his day was done. This left Wheatcroft out by himself.
On the 4th lap (90km) my legs were again tired so I drifted back for some well-earned rest. Andy and I were halfway through a chat when Horgan attacked from just in front of me. I didn’t hesitate and jumped on his wheel. He took a flyer off the front and we were 100m up the road before I knew what had happened. He flicked his arm for me to pull and turned around. I shook my head. He attacked me so hard I went cross-eyed but I held his wheel and within 30 seconds we were joined by the silver medal winner of Thursday’s time trial, Paul Odlin, and Matt Siliars. 3 strong Subway riders, a great time trialist, and me. Oh dear.
And this was where I made my big mistake of the day: I lapped it out with them. I had no need to. My two riders were back in the bunch and my job was to tail this break, not contribute to it. On a climb I would have stood a chance with them, but riding on flat roads with crosswinds the pace was above what my legs could deliver and I only lasted about 10kms.
I went back to the bunch with wornout legs and the realization that I’d messed up. Such is life.
As soon as I joined the peloton the attacks started and Stu, Dan and myself were dropped on the next climb. I fought like hell in the crosswinds for a couple of kms to get back on, and managed to just in time for the next hill to start. I was boxed. I made it to the top of the climb with the group but the drawn-out false flat with a cross/headwind top afterwards was too much and as other riders were shelled I didn’t have the horsepower to go around them and make it to the relative safety of the bunch. With 2 laps left my day was done.
With the exception of Greg’s flyer after Odlin, when I was dropped at the 110km mark, neither him nor Andy had been on the front or been forced to chase any moves for the entire race. Despite the disappointment of being dropped I was happy knowing that the work I’d done meant they’d have good legs for the final two laps of the race.
I rode the final 40km with U23 rider Tom Francis. The weather was sunny and warm, and other than the crosswinds and sore legs it was generally a pretty good day for a bike ride so we cruised around chatting.
Up front, the race came back together leading into the last hill. The pace must have been mighty and a group of 6 including Andy got away. Judging by the photo sequence at the finish the sprint was a bit dodgy and Andy did amazingly well to stay upright and cross the line in third place. He was later upgraded to second because of being badly impeded in the sprint.
Greg crossed the line in 8th place – an excellent result considering that only a few weeks ago he wasn’t going to race this event.
My new friend Tom and I finished up 20 minutes off the pace yielding me 13th and the last rider across the line.
We rode really well as a team and the work done by Stu, Dan, Chris, Mike and myself all paid off with those two great results.