There’s something about full road closures, a relaxed peloton and perfect racing conditions. Add a bunch of mates, a weekend of banter and no punctures or crashes, and it’s the recipe for a perfect Phoenix road trip. Yep, it’s Blayney to Bathurst again, and Phoenix was rocking a full team of 7 with our usual awesome support from unsung heroes Michelle and Oppy-dog. Kelsey was our only rider missing with work commitments. We had riders representing in all events throughout the weekend, including the hillclimb, the crit and the Sunday race. Here’s an overview of how it panned out.
I was lucky to get away on Friday, with issues with a pet and a young family, but everything resolved just in time. The road trip was long but entertaining and we reached Bathurst not too far after dinner time. The rest of the guys were there already and the banter and catching up began and lasted a little later than it should have for a team about to smash out some races.
NSW Hill Climb Champs
Saturday saw us tackle the hillclimb in the morning. These were the NSW state titles and medals were up for grabs. It was stupid cold when we arrived but soon warmed up to the point where it was probably a a touch too warm for my road aero helmet just before my start time. Nath and Scotty represented in under 23’s and, despite bettering their times from previous years were just outside top ten with times in the low 9’s. Next was Pickering and Haydo in elites and Macca and Dunny in Masters 1. I put aside a week of performance question marks for ten minutes to bury myself in Masters 3. Result: a time under 9:20 and a 4-5 hour wait to find out that I had won my category. Beer was now a must with dinner.
NAB Bathurst Criterium
We had Ed, Picko and Scotty representing in the elite crit and the boys put on one hell of a show. It was manic and the race split apart in no time. I was in awe watching the attacks and chases, and full marks go to the boys for the mammoth effort they put into staying in the race. Scotty was our best placed finisher in 8th after spending the majority of the race on the front of the chase group.
This set up an evening of laughs over beers and supermarket ready meals. I was taught the intricacies of monster truck racing and tactics for the race were discussed. The only focus was getting to a bridge at the 80km mark as close to the front as possible.
Blayney to Bathurst Road Race
Sunday morning, it was a quick brekky, packing and a clean up before a 7am departure for Blayney. We dropped cars at the finish and crammed into 2 cars to get the riders to Blayney. Upon arrival, the temperature read 3deg and felt every bit of it. Over some pit stops and coffees, the temperature steadily climbed to make leg warmers redundant. A clerical error somewhere saw me receive a race number for the second wave despite being shown as starting in the gold wave on the start list. After a conversation or two, I was allowed to start with the rest of the team.
After a minutes silence for a fallen rider, we were off. Neutral was a little quicker than advertised but was nothing like the nightmare at Warnie last year. For the first 50kms, the pace was on but the peloton felt relaxed and relatively secure. I love full road racing and I enjoyed being able to put my bike where I wanted it in the bunch. I had advice running through my head about not wasting energy moving up the bunch and to ride conservatively and smart on not quite in form legs.
After 50kms, the pace eased a little and I relaxed and conserved. Finding a place out of the mild headwind was tricky with the course meandering either side of the wind heading. It was all about conservation and riding smart. At the 70km mark, we all started moving forward independently readying for the dodgy bridge I was a bit nervous about this cos I’ve never been successful in moving forward in a peleton but figured I’d give it a red hot crack. I started moving up the right hand side and made pleasing progress but probably went too early. I got swallowed a bit so found a gap and followed some team mates up the outside again. Still too far back and a km to go. I pushed again and found myself about tenth wheel and stayed there. I had no idea how bad the bridge was but knew it was dodgy and that people had come to a stop in the pinch to get across.
Sure enough, the bridge was narrow and was immediately after a left hand turn. I felt totally boss being up the front having made my move stick and crossed with ease. Behind me, Nath was nearly pinched hard but solved with a show of strength forcing back a wayward rider. Then we hit the KOM.
I struggled hard to hold onto the front group but pushed on and stayed just away from the back of the main chase group over the top. From there, I helped form a 9 strong chase group that were teased with the sight of the next bunch tantalisingly close about 30 sec up the road. 15km to go and we were rolling turns trying as much to maintain position as to catching the group up the road.
Coming into the finish I went way too hard too early not knowing where the finish was but still felt good with my overall effort. This was a bit of fun and some training, and position didn’t really matter. I crossed the line slightly fitter, unscathed and feeling good. I met up with the boys not long after and the stories and banter began – including a harrowing tale from Ed who suffered a cut to a very sensitive area as a result of a flying rock. Standard Phoenix.
This was my first time at Blayney to Bathurst, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a great way to spend the morning of my 44th birthday. Today was all about bikes and buds and not crashing. On all counts – winning!