I’d have to rate this as one of the hardest (if not the hardest) races I’ve done.228km over a varied terrain, from the couple of short steep leg testers early on, to the big climb up the Gibralter Range, a 17.5km climb at 5.3% average gradient. Then the endless rolling hills across open farm lands, real leg sappers.
There was 150 starters in C grade which included Will and Norbert and myself. For those that don’t know, the grading is done by the state’s handicapper and is vastly different to club grading.
Support/feedzone handlers: Full credit to Tamara our VP and Andrew (my brother) for a sterling job in their feedzone support. Between Will and myself they enabled us to have a good basic plan with back up. All went faultlessly in the feed zones and very easy to spot wearing the MWCC jersey’s. I was quietly impressed given we were all basically rookies in an event like this. It’s all very basic but a lot can go disastrously wrong in a hazardous area of the race.
Early days: The early k’s before the climb (at 70km) are pretty uneventful although one poor bloke crashed in the middle of the bunch sending people everywhere but none others came down.
Thirsty: I got dropped in the first couple kilometres of the Gibraltar climb, joined up with a few others in the same boat. Fluid was an issue as we had thought there was a neutral water station at both the base and the top of the climb but as I heard later the RTA had not allowed the one at the top (I don’t know why though), so the next top up was your own at the feed zone 30km after the climb. There was a neutral service bike handing out water bidons on the climb although that was a bit of luck rather than a guarantee to get one. A bit of sharing a neutral bidon and rationing what you had was necessary. At the top I had about 2 mouthfuls left to last 30km, however I gave half away to another guy who had nothing left. He wasn’t going to take any given how little I had until I insisted, he was very thankful, to have that little bit. At this stage Norbert and Will were a few minutes up the road.
The Chase: Having no idea how far back we were and there was only 8 off us. Not all could help to much so sat on as best they could. Over time the group would grow and shrink in numbers multiple times. Best I estimated was between 20-25 people but generally around 15-16. As usual only half a dozen of us were active on the front keeping the pace steady and hopefully making in roads to a bunch ahead (I was told later approx 5-7mins at FZ1).
The Enemy: The biggest enemy was cramping. Now I rarely ever cramp and never whilst riding but I was cramping like there was no tomorrow. This hit me from about the 100km mark and suffered right to the end. If it wasn’t the right quad it was the left, change your pedal stroke to compensate and it was then your hammy, stand up and it was the quad &/or calf combo. Increase the force applied to quickly and bango, not very pleasant. The only way was to ride a lighter gearing and spin a little more yet try and keep the pace up. The fluid rationing earlier playing havoc without a doubt. None the less I did a good share of the work (although in the later km’s I wasn’t much help and had to sit in). Others in the group were in the same boat though.
The Carrot: After the second feed zone we started to catch some glimpses of a bunch ahead (approx 20-25riders including Will and Norbert) perhaps around 3 to 4mins ahead still.
By the 195-200km point we were close and not far from getting hold of the trailing cars. Our pace only increased with the carrot so close.
The Catch: With a little over 200km raced and we’d made it, we were into the cars and barrelling through them. This was harder work than I expected and single file, I was 3rd wheel and you dare not lose the wheel in front not now after all this time. It was a long chase of around 125km, virtually from the base of Gibraltar. A happy group of chasers with pats on the back all round, 20k’s to go and one small climb of 1.5-2km to get over (plus a few rollers along the way). After nice breather on the back for a couple of km’s I moved up to say hello to Will and Norbert sitting up around the front of the bunch. Missed Will though as he made a move off the front, now was a good time to sit on the front for a bit and keep the pace a little slower. Hardly a problem as most are happy to sit behind A few would jump the gap which I couldn’t follow, Norbert jumped across as well. Will ended up leading that little attack group home with the bunch close behind.
Off: I didn’t last long on that last short climb and couldn’t get enough power out without cramping so that was me gone off the back with 6k’s to go. Nothing left to do but ride in home from there.
69th place in 7:18:43 (31.3km/h) (+0:26:50 behind the winner).
Will 41st in 7:15:57 (+24:04)
Norbert 46th in 7:16:07 (+0:24:14) both excellent races.
The Crowd: Plenty of people around Grafton to see the start and along the way scattered along the course set up for a day of spectating. Glenn Innes also had plenty of people out to watch and kids lined up after the feed zones collecting a feed bag or two. I regretted throwing mine before hand, I’m sure they would have liked the Mars bar and snickers I’d left in it. Again there was plenty of people around the finish at Inverell.
The stand out though was the farm house with a long marque set up with probably 50+ people having a big G2I BBQ day. Some cheering, cow bells etc. and even louder when a couple of us waved back. An awesome race, if you ever want a hard race then this is it.
HR & Course Profile
149 Average HR
174 Max HR
107 Min HR
Complete results (all grades)
History and some past snippets (some good tid bits like the rider who finished his race on a BMX bike to give him 8th place )