I’ve been looking forward to the Tour of Margaret River for a while now. This was my 4th consecutive time racing here, the scenery is always beautiful, courses challenging and there’s a wide field to enhance the competition. Competing with Santic GDT as a team of 5, we already knew it would be extra challenging against teams of 6. For the Tl;Dr, we managed to win the Tour’s primary classification, the Teams Classification in a nail biting finish. I’m still very proud of my team mates.
Stage 1 Team Time Trial – Nannup out and back
The team arrived the day before and settled into shared accommodation. We all arrived early enough to avoid any headaches and “warmed up” on the trainers. Realistically, “warming up” wasn’t necessary as we were sweating standing still. Nonetheless, we got the cardio into gear and prepped for a scorching day, with a hopefully, equally scorching pace.
Out of the gate we organised quickly into a tight paceline and ramped up the pace. We rode hard, very hard. On reflection, this is the only mistake we made; the pace we set in the initial 10km was a bit too redline for Jordy and Rich which made the race harder for them as it wore on. We steadied the pace with myself, Brian and Champy taking longer and more moderate turns. It wouldn’t take long until we began encountering teams to pass on course.
Coming out of the halfway point we struck perfect rhythm and settled in for that ever closer finish line. We’d already passed a handful of teams and were starting to become very confident in our pace. Then disaster struck. Brian’s rear tube exploded like a gunshot. We pulled over and he executed the most stunningly quick wheel and tyre removal I’ve seen, bare handed but a malfunctioning gas cartridge would cost us time on the change. Brian sent Jordy and Rich up the road to gain ground and recuperate while myself and Champy prepped to get back up to speed with Brian. We had to take Brian to the line in order to record a time with 5 riders. My heart had sank.
All said and done, despite the trouble, Brian had changed the tube remarkably fast. The brief respite gave us enough energy to go “over” and up the pace to catch up to Rich and Jordy. We passed Dome, they’d passed us while we were changing the flat. We crossed the finish line 1m05s from the winner, in 5th place and made the all important cut for Division One. It was bittersweet, knowing that we should probably have won this stage but we’d still made an excellent showing and confirmed our form.
Stage 2 Road Race – Nannup to Greenbushes
Unfortunately Rich had a post stage mishap and wouldn’t be able to ride the rest of the Tour, we are now down to 4 riders.
My legs just wouldn’t play ball for this, outside of the initial fifteen minutes of the race I suffered for the whole (short) 50km stage. After the first couple of minutes climbing out of Nannup, I took an opportunity to roll to the front and up the tempo, aided by Michael Kent from Pedal Mafia. We rolled a few turns then the team lined up on the front and drove. We were hoping for a serious split in the field that didn’t quite eventuate though we definitely shelled some riders.
After the first climb there were a few attacks before Brian would eventually get away with Brad Linfield and a few others. This would be the break of the day. Champy, Jordy and I set ourselves to cover and limit chase groups. We were banking on Brian’s strength, especially with another tough climb coming up in the 10km before the finish.
Heading over the second major climb, natural attrition took it’s toll on the bunch. I didn’t see anyone lay an outright attack, the steepness and heat simply ensured that it would blow open by strength alone. The bunch would crack into two major chase groups, coming together in the 2km past the top of the climb with a lot of wreckage left behind. After riding myself back in, I came to the front to ride tempo and try to discourage last minute flyers heading for the finish line. I cracked on the last rise, Jordy kept position with Champy who took second in the bunch kick. We were then excited to find that Brian had taken second for the stage and that we’d moved into second on the Teams Classification!
Stage 3 Road Race – Nannup to Balingup
I was looking forward to this stage but my legs still weren’t quite on point. I’d cover some tempo riding on the front early on and a few early moves. When I saw a good one go I had a wheel blocking me from immediately following. The gap opened before I launched. Champy came over the top of me and made the bridge, I sat up, hoping to get a free ride out of the rider on my wheel which proved to be a mistake.
Not much would happen on the way to Balingup. I took a dig up the only extended rise in the middle of the stage. Hurt a few legs but not much came of it. Oh well, settle in and surf the way to the berg in Balingup. Champy had already made it into the break of the day, nothing more needed to be done – for now.
Brian had conducted some top-notch recon when he drove some post-stage supplies up to the berg the evening before (we’d be resting for around two hours before the final stage returned from Balingup to Nannup). He’d noted the layout of the town and warned us to find position soon after encountering the speed signs on the main road. There was a rumble strip at the left that people seemed scared to cross so I simply hopped it and shot up the bunch, settling around about 4-5 wheels back from the front. This left me well placed cornering into the base of the berg.
Predictably, a lot of people went to hard at the base of the “Mur de Hay” as the Tour organisers had dubbed it. I ignored their insistance on immediate oxygen debt and pushed hard in the saddle, just aiming to stay above 500w. As bragging rights had already gone up the road, I was just keen to preserve a decent finish without destroying my legs before the TTT. I passed a bunch of people on the way up and watched Brian gently spin away to take the KOM for the segment. I was around about 12th out of the bunch. Champy excelled and came away with second to the day’s winner, Guy Kalma. The break had spread out and rode in a gentlemanly bunch up the hill until one by one they cracked and Champy was left to duel Kalma.
Stage 4 Team Time Trial – Balingup to Nannup
With Champy’s great finish and mine and Brian’s top twenty, we’d retained second in the Teams Classification by one point over Dome. Melo Velo were still winning, having placed well with Henry and Tony. It was clear, as expected that the Tour would come down to the final stage TTT. Despite sore legs and being down to 4 men, we were confident in our ability to perform. We’d discussed at length how best to pace this TTT and settled on a simple approach, steady threshold turns, don’t redline it.
It wasn’t long before we could see our minute men, Unicorn Racing in the distance. The catch would take a lot longer than I expected but we had them somewhere around the 25-30km mark of the 42km TT. They would pass us a few times, losing ground over rises. We also passed the Veris development team, they’d won the opening TTT but it looked liked a few days of racing had caught up. We reached the finishing line 1.3s down on Unicorn after I struggled with cramps through the final quarter of the stage. This still left us comfortable in the knowledge we were basically a minute up on a major competitor. I can’t thank Brian, Champy and Jordan enough. It was such an amazing team effort.
We started chatting to Dome, a little unsure about the accuracy of our personal Garmin skills. We thought there was a good chance they’d won. The mental math was suggesting that if we won the TTT we’d have won the Teams Classification so long as Melo Velo didn’t come third. Based on our assumption that we didn’t win the TTT and no results were being published for hours after, we got changed and carted a jersey with us to presentation just in case.
It’s a good thing we were prepared with the team kit, even if we weren’t wearing it. After much waiting we found out that we’d clinched the TTT by 6.3s over Dome. This secured us the Teams Classification and Champion Rider, for our own personal [Matt] Champ.