Mens C Grade – Robbie Storey – Stage 1 1st, Stage 2 2nd, Stage 3 Bunch, Stage 4 1st.
Stage 1 –Kyneton Pastoria Loop – Chasers Lane
Stage 1 for the 2014 was held on a course well known to Northern Combiners – a 22km loop featuring a climb of bald hill. This is the same course that Blotto hitter Max was able to win on at the tail end of the 2013 Combine road season. The big difference however was instead of the finish line being placed 2km from the top of the climb, it had been moved to the back of the circuit – potentially letting the sprinters get back in the game and fight for glory.
A nervous bunch of 40 featuring 4 Blotto lads (Paul Kippen, Max Osborne, Lachlan Stevens, and Robbie Storey) rolled out from the Kyneton Saleyards preparing themselves for 3 days of battle on the roads around the Macedon region of Victoria. Followibng the neautral zone out to the course, it was on with a few attacks from Italo riders coming quickly, however, with KOM points available on the first 2 (of 4) laps of they were never given too much room up the road.
The pace was high on the run in to the second KOM, and I found myself positioned behind Blotto climbing weapon Max, who was on the wheel on Nick Liau (SKCC). As the bunch hit the bottom of the climb for the second time, the climbers dropped a watt bomb, launching themselves clear of the field to contest the bonus seconds, with Max managing to grab 2nd over the top.
With the bunch re grouping after the second ascent, the pace slowed a little, giving hope to some in the bunch that a breakaway might happen. With a lull in the pace, I found myself next to the tallest rider in the field – Blotto’s own Lachie Stevens, he looked across at me and said “the finish looks suited to a gilbert style attack“ referring of course to my man crush – Phillipe Gilbert – known for his ability to kick hard on punchie rises to break clear of the field and steal the chocolates. I kept that in the forfront of my mind as we rolled past the start finish line to commence the final lap, hoping the bunch would still be together 20km later.
With a good cruisey tempo for the second last climb of the race, teh legs were fresh and ready to hit it out to stay with whatever moves came on teh final ascent of Bald hill, however as it turned out, the pace was strong, and no attacks went down.. enter the sprinters mindset. Cresting the climb for the final time, my thoughts switched from “lets just get bunch time“ to “ lets win this thing!“, and with that the blotto troup formed up ( anchorman style “news team assemble!“).
We were sitting pretty in the top 10 in the bunch, lachie and kippo near the front, Max and myself riding shotgun, before a slight lull in the pace at around 2km meant we found ourselves slipping back down the field. I moved myself up the left of the road, found a gap and slotted across to the right, and waited…
As the bunch approached the kicker before the line (http://app.strava.com/segments/1226892?filter=overall) I made sure i had a way out – a line to launch an attack, checked my cadence – yep 100+ good for launching and not taking too much out of the pins.. then as we started up the pinch, Kippo was on the front drilling it, with about 2/3rds of the pinch to go I hit it, in the drops, core tensed, head down! I kicked as hard as I could up and over the rise – hearing all sorts of chaos behind me – Kippo yelled GO ROBBIE, others yelled up up up up …. but they were powerless to catch me. With my legs screaming, heart exploding (205+ bpm), i took a look back, saw I had a gap and did all i could to get to the line as fast as i could. I’d like to hope it was a picture of euro pro controlled smooth spinning, however i sense it was anything but.. limbs flailing, mouth drooling, and face beetroot red all the way to the line. I took one look back before BOOM I knew I had won not only Stage 1 of the 3 Day tour, but my first ever road race! I was over the moon, the blotto boys all regrouped just beyond the finish, where I found out Lachie the hitter Stevens managed to also take 3rd on stage, just narrowly missing out on second! Max and kippo were 8/9th across the line, with all 4 Blotts in the top 10, three of us taking bonus seconds, WHAT A DAY!
With the stage done it was in to full recovery mode, and also time to prep the bikes for the next mornings individual time trial – deep wheels on, stems slammed, close ratio cassette fitted, aero bars added.
Stage Stats. Average Speed – 34.9 kph, average power 178w, Max power – 1173w, NP 280w (or there abouts)
Stage 2 –Kyneton ITT – 5.5km
With my tightest fitting kit on, I was on the trainer following my warm up routine. With the tt only being 5.5km it was crucial to get the legs firing to enable an all out effort for 7 or so minutes. I wasnt sure what to expect from my tt, previously I have also performed well, but not sensationally in the two TT’s I have done previous (at the 2012 and 2013 Three Day Tours). I managed to borrow a kask bambino TT helmet- black with a chrome visor for the ultimate pro look.
Following the warm up i double checked the tire pressures were up at some ridiculous value and headed off with fellow Blott Lachie for our start scheduled for around 9:30.
10 9 8 7 garmin start 6 5 4 3 2 1 LAUNCH!. I was off in full sprint, cadence increasing quickly, clicking gears on my super record shifter as fast as i could grab them, ignoring my power output until i settled in to my legs and breathing settled in to a good rythym. Into the aero position, head tucked down, eyes forward, back flat, legs spinning, change gear, calm breathing. I’d set myself a goal of around 360w average for the tt, I checked my power and cadence – mindful that too big of a gear would burn out the quads too quick, 375w, 92 rpm – yep good press on, breath good strong pedal strokes, click another gear, slight descent, click another gear – wait.. no gears left 62.6 kph, WOW I am flying. The campagnolo bora ultra 2 shod with conti competition tubulars sing across the kyneton road, the wind deflected across the visor of the bambino, my eyes glance again at my power, my heart rate, and cadence, I look up – there is teh climb before the finish, I stand, hands in drops, and push with all out effort, i’m slightly over geared, but pushing 700-750w, I give a couple of big strong pedals to regain some speed, and settle quickly back in to teh aero postion and maintain what ever power i can about 380 in to the line, before standing again and kicking across teh line. I stop my garmin – 6:23 – seems like a good time for 5.6 km on the readout.. Quickly in to the small chainring, and the 23t at the back and spin the legs, control the breathing, my heart rate is still in the 190’s as I try and compose my thoughts and assess my performance. I glance down at the normalised power after I turn around – 350W.. considering my spin down and u –turn , I figure i must be close to my goal.
I meet kippo and lachie at the line and we have a quick chat/debrief to compare performances- my time seems competitive, but kippo has blown everyone out of the water with rumours of a 6:13. Either way I’m happy, he is a power house, and to be somewhere around 10 sec off him will have us close on GC, and more importantly I’m sure he will be near the pointy end.. so hopefully I am too! As we roll back in to town we pass by Lachie’s lady Jess, who yells out stage results – Kippo has won, with me second, with Max and Lachie in 8/9. Another stage win for Blotto, all four of us in the top 10 again, and while I have lost the lead (and the yellow jersey for stage 3), its gone to KIPPO! With me only 3 seconds back!
We roll back to the kyneton showgrounds, and return our steeds of speed back in to road race specification. Aero bars off, stems back at normal height, 27t cassette fitted, bottle cages back on – and Im ready for stage 3. Time to eat, drink and stretch and prepare mentally for what is possibly the hardest stage of the tour – the 90km loop of Sutton Grange.
TT Stats – Average speed – 47.5kph, Average Power 356w, Max Speed 62.6 kpg, max power 741w.
Stage 3 –Kyneton Metcalfe Redesdale Loop
What is billed as the queen stage of this years tour looked to be race defining even before we were under way, with the strong southerly wind present in the tt, becoming stronger and more gusty as the afternoon wore on, it was time to be alert of the race situation, mindful that both kippo and I were 1 and 2 in GC, and max and lachie were not that far back either – it was all to play for and defend for the blotto crew..
With a tailwind assisted start to the stage, it was fast. Two riders got away as the pack charged in to the country town of metcalfe, however, they were not given too much of a gap with lachie on the front controlling the pace well.
As we approached the first KOM point of the day, Nick Liau (tenax/SKCC) launched off the front with Jacub Mumford (cycle link) in hot pursuit. Knowing Nick is a very strong climber, and chasing bonus seconds from the KOM competition, it was thought we would be able to bring them back after the bunch crested the climb, before turning left on to the kyneton-redesdale road. Whoops. Nick and Jacub caught the riders up the road and starting working well, the bunch had them in check, however as we approached the intersection, the corner marshalls indicated for us to stop to allow a car to pass. This had the unfortunate effect of letting the break get out of sight of the chase, which is both highly motivating for them, and quite the opposite for the rest of the peleton. With no breakaway in sight, it was difficult to get a cohesive chase to form up. Smooth rolling turns would start to happen, before breaking down in to a rabble, looking more like beach road on a Sunday morning than bunch racing for a stage win.
With the run back in towards kyneton (35k) being a strong head wind, we were hopeful of reeling the two escapees (Nick and Jacub having dropped their breakaway companions) before the final climb of the day. The commisaire started dropping back to give us time checks – over two minutes was the first report to come to the bunch, with 25km to go, we had to get organised, however try as we might, there wasnt the cohesive approach required. Max was on the front, rolling through motivating the group to pull turns where possible, doing an awesome job to try and get the bunch going. On one of the climbs just before Metcalfe, two more riders slowly rode away off the front of the bunch, Richard McCorkell (Brunswick CC), and Tom McDonough (Coburg CC) started to work together, much to the disappointment of the bunch.
As we crested the final climb, there was 10km to go, we could see (just barely) the two escapee’s up the road along with one .. or was that two other figures in the distance.. The bunch – motivated knowing both that the climbing was done, and that we could see someone in the distance started to work reasonable well and we startign charging in to the line, surely ripping time from the (tiring?) riders out front.
As the km counted down it became apparent that we were racing at best for 5th postion, only 1 second in bonus time – not really enough to dig too deep for. With one km to go, I could see an SKCC jersey in the distance, and immediately recognised this as Nick – could it be? Will we haul it back together right at the line as is done in so many grand tour stages?
I found myself on the wheel of Max who was hooking along, giving me an absolutely awesome lead out, 400m to go, still sitting on, then we hear Kippo “GO MAXXY“, max kicks a bit harder before I sense its time, there are moves either side looking ready to launch any moment..once again, double check the cadence, gear selection is crucial and then SNAP! Without hesitation I tense my core and kick as hard as I can. Immediately I feel both my calves (is this what cramping is?) I spin as hard as i can, get as low as I can, leading the bunch, hoping that line would arrive sooner than is really is. I sit down, get low, and keep whipping my legs around as hard as I can. I swoop around Nick – he is cooked and has nothing left. 50m before the line, I’m looking at 2 seconds in time bonus.. and just as i think that I get absolutely swamped. Kippo leads through and takes 4th on stage, 2 bonus seconds to extend his lead over me on gc, while Max and I roll in for bunch time. A few questions float aroudn in my head, 1) how far in front were McCorkell adn McDonough? 2) was Jacob with them or even further up the road? And 3) Where is Lachie?
We meet up with my parents and get a rough idea of where we sit.. It seems like Jacob won by a mile with a super strong ride, and the other two were maybe 20 odd seconds in front of us. Best case I’d hold on to third, while Kippo would be in second. Worst case we would be third and fourth.
As it turned out, Richard McCorkell (Brunswick CC) had managed to split us, With Jacob Mumford Leading by 44 seconds over kippo, from Richard 45 seconds back, and myself 49 seconds back.
Lachie, who’d worked super hard at the start of the stage, appeared to have suffered a bit of a hunger flat and ridden in alone from the final climb, slipping 7 minutes back on gc.
Stage Stats: Average Speed 35.8 kph, Power average 206w, NP 279w, Max Power 1088w.
With one day to go, there was podiums to play for.. In what is normally a sprinters stage.. It’s game on in Newham!
Stage 3 – Newham Lancefield Loop – 90k – 3x30km laps
Ordinarily the first stage of the tour may have found its new home as the finale`. With the finish point moved to Newham instead of Lancefield, there were some unknowns, however, with a close spread on GC for 2-4th, it was going to be on.
With the KOM in Rochford only 7km after the start (with no neutral zone), it was on from the gun. I kept thinking “It’s ok, everyone is tired as well“ however the speed, attacks and power in the bunch seemed to suggest otherwise.
I had the ambition to sneak some seconds on the first KOM, however with the pace being set by Matt Ellis (Phoenix Racing), and some of the Route 33 lads, it dawned on m pretty quick that there was more than 1 of us up for a bit of KOM activity.. I rolled over the KOM point in about 6th, but I definitely felt outside my comfort zone, it was time to roll back in the bunch, spin some lighter gears and free the pins up, leaving the chasing and monitoring of the bunch to some of the other stronger lads for a lap or so.
I was happily sitting in the bunch, cadence around 95-105 lightly tapping it out, making sure to eat (.. do you really eat gels?) at the top and bottom of the course, and drink in between, there was no need to bring back any water as a passenger today, all the calories i could get in would be useful come the closing 30k.
With the moderate tempo being set, there were of course a few attempts to get away from teh bunch, and catch us off guard, luckily they were never given enough rope, and instead just left to dangle at the front of the bunch. With a break semi established, it was good to roll along at a comfortable tempo, plenty of people happy to keep the two or three out front in check.
As we approached the KOM it was on again, Nick Liau and Jacob Mumford both going hard at it again to try and grab some seconds here and there. Nick had the KOM jersey sewn up after stage 3 (although some would argue.. he had it in the bag after the first KOM point on stage 1.. such was his burst of power!).
It was all together again over the start finish line to commence the final lap. I’d made sure to take note of some artifacts on the side of the road to use as Km countdown markers, as I’d not seen any put out today.. Road works end – 2.5 k.. ok. I need to be in top 10 here.. maybe a bit further up, but no further back etc.
Over the climb i was sitting behind Richard McCorkell, after seeing his sneak away yesterday I was sure to watch him, he only needed one second to get over kippo- which was not going to happen!
The bunch stayed together, and I’d found my legs feeling pretty good having not exerted myself on the climb too heavily, and i started to surf my way up the group to start prepping for one last bunch kick.
With the long drag from Newham all the way to Don’s Road in Newha combined with the dead roads in the area, its ideal for a break to sneak away and take a few metres. Lachie, having recoverd from the hunger flat the day before with flying colours was on the front, along with Matt Ellis (Phoenix) working for Chris Woods (Phoenix) – 5th in GC 11 seconds behind me. The two of them set a great tempo that no attempts to break were given any real chance. Ever the attentive opportunist – Nick Liau was sitting pretty behing Lachie – getting an easy sit all the way.. You knew he was going to try something. Sure enough, about 1km out from the Dons Road left turn, BOOM Nick hit the bunch with a good attack as Lachie rolled off, fortunately, he and Kippo were well on to it and jumped to Nicks wheel. His one big attack was neautralized, next minute BOOM another one on the left, from a rider we did no recognise, he was given some distance, we’ll catch him no worries.
Left up Dons road and boom another rider bridges up to the solo breakaway ahead. Lachie aware of the power of two riders bridges across – It’s all happening and there is only 4k to go. Max finds his way to the front. Im on Kippo’s wheel, Max eases back, letting Lachie move up the road a bit.. Then BOOM, Chris Woods hits the bunch, he is behind me on GC so I jump and push as hard as I can to get on to his wheel, I cant afford him too much leeway let alone combined with a stage win bonus.
Its on, we pass the road sign I noted earlier 2.5k to go. SNAP- Richard McCorkell goes for one last opportunistic move on the left, I hesitate – he is a threat to Kippo not me, Boom Kippo winds up and gets on to his wheel. The pace eases slightly, my heart rate is at 200 already – beating out of my chest. Legs screaming, heart pounding, less than 1km to go. “GO GET ‘EM BLOTTS!!!“ yells Lachie as the bunch swarms past the breakaway trio.
Up the left goes Jacob Mumford, the yellow jersey, its an attack that gets the attention of Anthony Corp (The Kings Men), he jumps, and jumps hard to get to Jacobs wheel, I mark the move (Anthony finished 2nd to me on stage 1 – I know he packs a bit of a sprint on him too – as well as good endurance). 500m to go… I’m second wheel. I can feel the pack behind me – I imagine is like people fighting for the wheel of Kittel or Greipel. I outsprinted the bunch on stage 1, I’m sure they know who I am. 350m to go, I can feel the bunch.. its swelling behind me, I know its time to go soon, but not to soon, I learnt that yesterday.
250m to go, I give Anthony a bike length gap, my slight ease in pace gives an urgency to the bunch behind me… Once again, check the cadence 85.. hmm its a bit low, but its a downhill sprint.. I can wind that out from here.. I stand and kick again.. one last bunch gallop to end the tour.. If i get to the line first, I’ve done all I can to move myself to the podium on GC. Tense the core, get over the front, DO NOT STOP CRANKING. I reef on the bars, head down until I see the line coming. There are shadows approaching, but its too late. I cross the line, WINNER of the stage, my second one for the tour, my second ever road race, the third stage for Blotto. WOW is all I can think. I try to spin down to get the heart rate figure to read something below 200.. its hard. Every pedal stroke is an effort, but its all worthwhile. We meet at the claims judge, and report our positions.. Kippo is not sure if he is 3rd or 4th – its down to the timing, and photo equipment.. I’m on the podium.. its just a matter of where..
We roll up to the finish line, the results are online already – Kippo was 4th, I’ve moved up to 2nd on GC, and he is in 3rd. 2 Blotto Lads on the podium.
This stage win was made super awesome by the ridiculously good work of Max and Lachie, the pace setting, the attacks, marking of attacks, the way the last 5km played out was just awesome. To hear Lachie screaming “GO GET EM BLOTTS“ just added to my already brimming motivation. To finish it off with a win is an awesome feeling – and I honestly owe the win to Max and Lachie.
Race Stats: Average Speed: 36.7kph, Average power 181w, NP 277w (or there abouts),
Max Power 1141w
I’ve raced the 3 day tour 3 times now.. I DNF’d D Grade in 2012 – after being dropped in stage 3. I finished 11th in 2013 after being dropped on the final climb on stage 4..
To move up to a podium position and net 2 stages, and second in a TT is just awesome.
Thanks to the Blotto crew on the weekend for the support, thanks again to the Blotto crew for getting me out of bed Thursday mornings and working me to my limit! It was an awesome weekend of bike racing action – I can’t wait to get the Blotto Train rolling again.