Ride time: 3hrs 20min
Placing: 3rd, 45-49 age group
Having done AGF all four years, this year’s race saw the introduction of age group bunches, to align with how the race is run in other parts of the world. My goals for the day were to get in the top 3 in my age, break 3hrs 30 min and hopefully help Team Blotto get on the podium.
I was in the 45-49yr bunch of men and women and wow the start was insane. It was a lot more dangerous than the format of previous years and I witnessed a few crashes. Luckily I have a fair bit of racing experience, as the bunch flew averaging over 40km/hr for a while with bikes weaving all over the place. I stayed with my bunch until the 25km mark and then those strong 45-49yr men (and 1 women) pulled away. I was then in a small group and we worked well together and surprisingly caught the lead bunch at the bottom of the 9.5km climb.
The goal on the climb was to get my rhythm and climb at my pace, so I did and it hurt. I was happy with my QOM of 32 minutes, improving on last year’s time by 3 minutes. I saw a guy climbing in the big chain ring and as I passed him he said he lost his DI2 battery and wanted to borrow mine so he could change down gears. I said I’m sorry, I can’t, as I’m currently sitting 2nd in my age, I felt bad for him, however I knew there would be more bikes passing him who also had DI2. I knew I was sitting second in my age group and wanted desperately to keep this position (as I also finished 2nd in 2013). At about the 50km mark I saw another Blotto kit, it was Anna, I said, “jump on” and she did. Anna and I then stayed together for nearly the rest of the race. She was riding and especially descending amazingly. I kept pushing hard the whole race and hoped that no one else in my age group would passed me, especially on the climbs as they are not my strongest points.
With about 6 km to the finish a slimmer girl went passed me, damn she was in my age group and she looks like a climber. I tried to go with her however I had nothing left. She was climbing strong and looked as if she would beat me by a couple of minutes. I kept pushing as hard as I could and knew I was giving it my all as my quads were starting to cramp, when out of the saddle. So I sat and pushed to the line securing 3rd place, beaten for 2nd by only 22 seconds.
I improved my time by 11 minutes on the previous year, doing 3hrs 20min (yay cracked the 3hrs 30min). First place in my age won convincingly by 12 minutes (3hrs 8 mins) and chatting to her later, I did not feel too bad when she mentioned she use to be in the AIS with Tracey Gaudry. We later found out that Team Blotto also won. Three goals set, three goals achieved….it was a great day shared with great friends…..go Team Blotto!!!!!!
Ride time: 3hrs 2min
Placing: 15th, 30-34 age group
This year’s race was my first attempt Amy’s Gran Fondo. I recall in the last couple of years when the Blotto crew has headed off to the race in Lorne thinking “Geez I really wouldn’t be in any form for that race in mid September after a Melbourne winter!”, but having committed to enter earlier this year I actually had been riding a bit over the winter.
I wasn’t particularly nervous lining up on the Sunday morning; I wasn’t carrying any expectations and was there to enjoy the ride. The sun was out and arm warmers were even able to be shed before rolling out. There were a hundred or so starters in my age group of obviously varying abilities (I made a mental note to stay well clear of any riders wearing the 2” high orange Wiggle socks that were free with registration).
The rollout and ride down the Great Ocean Road to the climb was relatively uneventful, average speed was 38.5kph for the first hour, partially set by fellow Blotto Adrian on the front who loves an early race smash-fest. Not knowing the course and being too proud to stick the massive course guide on my top tube, Adrian also passed on the mile markers and how long to the climb (which due to my inattention I had thought was at the halfway mark instead of much earlier). Entering the turnoff to the start of Skene’s Creek KOM climb there was an appropriate & audible amount of communication to hold your line, which people of course didn’t and resulted in a pile up which I was partially caught behind. A large individual nearly landed on my front wheel which I whipped out from underneath him just in time and booted it to get back on the tail end of the lead bunch of 15 or so up the climb. Unfortunately this necessitated 400w for over 2 minutes which put me well in the red and with the bunch tempo at my threshold I had to dial it back for a brief recovery before setting into climbing rhythm at my approx 30 minute power. I joined forces with another guy who had a particularly striking Cervelo R3 (aka exactly the same bike as me) and we rode to the top and caught a tail end bunch of 5 riders just before the crest including Adrian for a KOM time of 27 minutes even.
Our grupetto worked together pretty well for the descent and rollers (Adrian and I bombed down some of the descents to force the pace and gain a little time) and we could see the merged bunch up the road of leaders from our age group and the elite’s in the distance on the long straights before being caught by a bunch of the fast old men (ie, 34-39’s & 40-44’s). That group had no particular incentive to chase and was holding that gap pretty constant so I was pretty content just to recover and eat. My legs were feeling pretty rubbish around then and I was questioning my endurance but sat in comfortably enough with my nose out of the wind without getting caught out by a brief attack after a turn into a slight head/cross wind when the whole field was briefly strung out single file. Entering the final 10k’s, again with tips from my personal directeur sportif Adrian telling me distances & what terrain to expect, the group started to pound up the several short sharp hills with people getting dropped left right & centre. I was briefly popped off the back of the bunch on the second last ascent but managed to rally to others to chase and get back on the bunch who had sat up slightly to recover for the final 2 km’s. At that point it was every man for himself and people were going backwards fast, so I sat on the right hand side of the road and crunched the last 2 km’s almost entirely out of the saddle, keeping an eye out for age groupers that I was chasing or who were chasing me. In the end I finished in 3hrs 2mins, about a minute down from most of the lead bunch who had got away on the climb except for the top few finishers in my age group who managed to find a few more minutes from who knows where. Very happy with my result for first time racing AGF and stoked to qualify for the world champs in Denmark next year and to help Blotto bring home the prize for fastest mixed team!