Chris Winn: Ramblings From The Road


15 August 2011

Tour Of Geelong.

For those with a little amount of geographical nous, you would know that there ain't no Geelong in the USA!  Yep, I've slipped under the radar back into Oz for my next block of racing.  To be honest, there was a reason for keeping my travels on the low down.  My Grandma's 84th birthday just happened to be a few days after I landed, and with an already planned family lunch, we decided to keep my appearance top secret until I walked in the door.  So no FB, no Twitter mentions and most of all no blog announcements!  Not that my Grandma is quite up with all those things (!), but nonetheless the extended family is!  She loved it and good times were had by all.

As always my flight home aboard V Australia was nothing short of brilliant.  I've flown a bunch around the globe on different airlines and I have no trouble ranking V Australia at the top of my list.  Why?  Everything is quite simply stress free and well thought off.  The flight from LA to Melbourne is ~15hrs, so quite a time sitting in one spot, but the inflight entertainment system is unreal.  I watched two movies, "Thor" (C+) and "Hall Pass (B+) and listened to about a dozen CD's that I wished I had in my collection but don't.  Anywhere from Jebediah's latest record to The Who.  Throw in a decent snooze in a comfortable seat and food that you actually want more of and boom, all of a sudden you're landing.  Good times, good times.

Coming from the middle of summer to the middle of winter sure has been an experience, with the body taking some time to adjust.  After landing I had just under a week to get going, and following a small battle with a slight cold and getting a couple of decent days on the bike I was looking forward to hooking back up with the team and racing again.  The Tour of Geelong was a 5 day race, with much shorter stages than I'm used to in the US, and even multiple stages on the one day.  With most of the stages being criteriums our main focus was towards supporting Benny K and Scotty L for wins, with Brooksey chasing a high GC position.  With recent success at the Gippy Tour, it was quite obvious that the Genesys Wealth Advisers team were the guys to beat, with their three pronged attacked of Haas, Shaw and Van Hoff.

The first stage we arrived a little late, and by the time numbers were pinned, air was pressured and helmets were buckled, I had 10min of warm up on the clock before being on the start line.  Not ideal but nonetheless I was ready to have some fun on a treacherous wet and slippery course.  A straight up four corner affair, two of them featured some nice road furniture in the form of median strips and a roundabout.  Add in 150 fresh legs, greasy wet roads and rain, it was going to be a chaotic start to the tour.  And it was, with crashes galore (not just in the corners mind you), and with people coming back in from the pits, at one stage it was damn confusing as to where the front of the bike race actually was!  With 12 laps to go the V boys took control, and we kept the pace high and tried to keep it somewhat safe.  I rolled off with 2 laps to go and the rest of the guys took over, delivering Scotty Law to the win (and the yellow jersey) and Benny K third.  Perfect!

The second stage was once again a filthy wet affair, and I was quite amused in the fact the socks I packed were brand new, and in less than two hours would never be the same shade of pearly white.  Once again crashes were on the menu, and combined with narrow roads and strong wind I was on the back foot early, getting caught behind a stack and having to chase back on.  The rest of the stage was fairly aggressive until a late move containing Genesys's Pat Shaw snuck away, it was time to get on the front and spend some time in the wind.  In the rotation with me early was race leader Scotty, so it was clear to other teams we weren't looking to defend his jersey for the overall tour win, but also weren't looking to have a race winning break waltz up the road.  Swapping off meant my legs were pretty well done at the bottom of the final 3km climb into the You Yangs Park.  Break was caught and Brooks stayed in the front bunch.  Job done, on to tomorrow.

Whether I was still suffering some jet lag/time change/sea level hoodoo, the legs didn't want to turn so nicely on the third stage of the race.  It was another four corner set-up, and once again featured a few little corner surprises, but at least this time it was dry.  And windy.  A sharp cross wind along the front straight threw everyone into the gutter and if you weren't careful the day could finish a little early.  Once again we tried to set up our sprinters, and my job was too be one of the first couple to keep the bunch strung out.  This time I managed one (average) turn at the front and unable to slot back into the rotation.  That's bike racing sometimes, and Genesys took out the stage with BK 3rd.

Day three was a 28km time trial.  With no time trial equipment available, it was essentially a day off, riding the course at 80% pace to finish 10 minutes down.  Maybe be not so for road races, but at this level of racing, for time trialling if you don't have the specific bike, disc, helmet, skinsuit etc. there is really no point in having a crack.  Kinda like entering a Formula One race with a V8 SuperCar.  Yeah it's fast and has four wheels, but there is no chance when competing apples against apples.

Friday's stage I had a sneaky ambition for a strong result.  The only major road stage in the tour, it was a lumpy 140km around Anakie, and would also double as the Vic State Road Championships.  Hey, I'm a Victorian!  I wanna win this thing!  With free reign from the DS, I knew it would be a selective style road race, with a tough circuit featuring short steep pinchy climbs and hardly any chance for rest.  The first lap was aggressive right from the gun, with Genesys keen to take the yellow jersey away from Jayco-AIS after the TT.  Coming in the final 5km of the first of three 47km loops I felt the rear get a little spongy, and sure enough I'd flatted.  Not a huge panic, but still I had to do some solid chasing to get back into the bunch before starting the major climb heading out on lap two.  Lap two featured much of the same aggression, and managed to shell a lot of riders out the back, yet nothing was sticking.  I was able to keep good pace on the climbs and was looking forward to the fireworks of the final lap where I was sure something would slip away late.  I made my way in the front 5 wheels at each major climb, followed a bunch of strong moves from Shaw and Haas but no matter what nothing escaped.  Coming into the final 5km it was a final select group of 19 left in the front bunch, and we still had myself, Brooks and Bayly.  The run into the finish was fast and flat before a 90deg left hand turn 500m from the finish.  We lost Brooks to a flat, and with plenty of shuffling and jostling, I rolled underneath into the last turn as a few went wide on the wet road and gave it all I could to the line. At 65kg I'm not much a powerful sprinter and took 5th place.  So close, but so far!  Nonetheless the legs were good on easily the hardest stage of the race, and hopefully a win isn't too far away.

The final stage was a short 45km criterium in Geelong's Eastern Gardens.  With no GC podium possible, the team was keen to finish on a strong note, rallying all for Benny.  Although plenty tried, no break got established, and with 4 laps to go we amassed at the front to string out the bunch.  I was feeling good and ready to suffer for a good few turns, and with Haas and Bisaker going to a sneaky late move it was my job to nail them back.  We caught them inside the last lap and with two turns left I swung off leaving the rest of the boys to finish.  Nick Walker delivered them into the bottom corner and Benny K and Scotty threw down for 1-2!  Perfect!  Definitely a nice way to end the week.

For now it's back to the Nong's for some rest and recovery before building up again for the Tour of Murray River.  15 stages in 8 days, I'm looking forward to it already, hopefully it's a little warmer out there tho!

Big thanks to my Uncle Philip for all the photo work!  Great stuff!

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