M2B & Club Teams – New worlds of pain have been discovered!
Early this year my coach suggested that I do the Melbourne to Ballarat Handicap. When I saw it on my program I dismissed it thinking it was going to be way too hard for me. It took me until after the Northern Combine 3DT to actually start considering it. I’d had a few good races in the season and I was looking towards the Preston Mountain Classic in which I’ve usually raced well. I was put off Scratch and wasn’t looking forward to it as much. It was almost a scratch race with only 2 bunches in the women’s race, but, again, I rode well. So I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and enter M2B. I knew it was going to be all about putting myself through a potentially difficult and painful experience, at least once. And it was being able to do it as well as, or better than, my competitors.
During the week leading up to the race last weekend I was watching the weather forecast. The M2B Classic tends to be subjected to traditional winter handicap weather: cold, rain & headwinds. However, Saturday seemed to be shaping up as being a little more pleasant. Saturday dawned and it was cold, but sunny, even pleasant. The wind that was around by the time we arrived in Rockbank was weak, but it was still a headwind.
I was rather nervous, but rather glad the handicapper had out me off limit. I did my warm-up on the trainer and settled my mind. I needed and got lots of encouragement and reassurance I’d be fine from Andrew. Feeling ready, I got to the start-line in time to hear my name called and then my number. We were given the 1min to go call and Von Micich (Kosdown) and I wished each other luck – she was also racing M2B for the first time. 10… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we were on our way. The limit bunch worked really well and stayed together until the Pentlands. I was concerned I might have been dropped at this point, but I managed to ride at a pace that kept me in touch and I got over with the bunch. I was so happy to make it over the Pentlands with the bunch… and we hadn’t been caught by second limit yet! But they were coming.
I thought I would be all good for the remainder of the race, but I’d forgotten about the hill coming past the dam! And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the hill second limit caught us on. And I was out the back, I just couldn’t do it. Andrew, who was following the race was at the top of this hill and yelled at me to get on, there were 2 limit riders about 50m in front who had been dropped after me. I managed to get there and we started working together, well Victoria Snibson (Kelly Coaching) and I kinda sat on while the Kaos Custom Bikes guy did most of the work (my excuse: we’re weak girls, though I think we dropped him later!). We came up to another ‘viewing’ area and there was Andrew; he yelled that there was a bunch coming. It was third limit, I upped my pace and went to the front and then the bunch came past… we were on! And then there was another bloody hill and I was out the back again.
Further on, I saw Andrew on the side of the road, he yelled that there was another bunch coming and again I upped my pace. It was the 18min bunch. I can’t remember where we were when they caught us, but I was so relieved. They were riding hard and the pace was fast. I wasn’t interested in going anywhere near the front, but in my attempt to stay out of the wind I sometimes moved halfway up the bunch. It seems there had been issues in the bunch with guys not rolling through and then not calling others through, so I copped a mouthful from a guy for not calling him in; I told him I was limit and didn’t want to mess their turns up. He found me after the finish, apologised and explained. I understood his issue, and I was glad of the reminder about how important it is to call riders through.
I was enjoying sitting in with the 18min bunch, it was a fast and steady pace that was reasonably comfortable. I even thought I was going to be able to finish with them… I forgot, or just didn’t know, about hill before the third exit to Ballarat. It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t been drinking enough… adductor cramp on the climb, ouch! And I went backwards until I could get the muscles to loosen up. After the road had flattened out and I had recovered it was Victoria and I rolling along towards the exit. Then a bunch came flying past, too fast for us to get on, even if we’d known they were coming. I think the only number I actually saw was ’8′; clearly this is a very good explanation for their speed! 8, Anthony Giacoppo, went on to take fastest time. More riders came from behind, they were from the middle bunches so their pace wasn’t too high for us to sit on as we headed down Learmonth Road towards Lake Wendouree and the finish.
I had a feeling that the guys in this small bunch would sprint for the line, and sure enough when we came around the last corner, they did. I just couldn’t do it, I was too shattered. I came over the line feeling absolutely wrecked, but so happy that I had finished. All I wanted to do was stop and get off my bike. I saw Andrew and my coach and pulled over. But, I just couldn’t lift my leg over my bike, it was cramping. I was totally stoked to discover that I had finished mid-field, and only 7:15 down from the winners. I might even do it again… though I’m sure the weather won’t be quite as pleasant. Later I saw comments on Twitter wondering if it was one of the fastest M2B and someone even asked if it could have even been the M2B with only 2 minutes of misty rain experienced!
I backed up the next day for the Club Teams. Simone Koch and I rode in a team of two in the WMAS category. The Buninyong out and back course isn’t really a TT course, there are too many hills. But, I will say that those who are awarded medals have really earned them. That course hurts, especially after racing the M2B the day before! Simone and I are pretty happy with our ride for 5th place. We think we did very well to finish only 0:01:09 down on second place, especially given there were only two of us! I was also pretty rapt a few weeks ago when I discovered that BCC was entering 3 WMAS teams as well as an Elite women’s team! Great work!
Thanks to Andrew who drove all the way to Ballarat following the race, and hanging around on Sunday. He also ensured my bike was ready to ride on both days and gave me fantastic encouragement. Thanks to, Mark Neiwand, my coach who actually got me to the point where I could even ride the M2B. Thanks to the Brunswick Club, Phil and Cam, for organising the teams. Thanks to Phil, Cam & Matt for running around and helping out on the day. It wouldn’t happen without people willing to put their hand up and sacrifice their time for a sport they (& we) love!
And a final word, you never know you can do it until you try! So put your hand up, enter that race and have a go. It might hurt a little, or a lot, but the reward at the end is amazing and well worth it!