Monday, September 17, 2012

Blake's Manor

Situation: Genesys Training Camp; day 6

Weather: Filthy, bordering on horrendous

Motivation levels: Beginning to wane

The saving grace? Blake’s Manor

There were six of us out riding around the windy flats near Deloraine, Tasmania. Nearle, Dyball, Jai, Sammy D, Matt from Launie Homes and myself. About an hour into our ride we saw some pretty horrid looking black clouds coming in over the Tassie highlands. We pulled over and chucked on our rain jackets, extra gloves, head warmers, pretty much anything we could.

It was a smart move.

Five minutes later the scene had certainly changed. Ben Dyball was busy grovelling along in the gravel shoulder after being blown off the road by the increasingly strong wind (like seriously, seriously strong*)

*We are talking 170km/h wind gusts that ripped roofs off houses in Deloraine that night
Then came the hail. Oh the stinging hail. It hurt. A lot!

We cowered amongst a cluttering of trees trying to work out how best to ameliorate this truly shitful situation. The initial equation involved us riding up a climb to the Great Lakes which would see us gain another ~800-1000m of elevation. Given the temperature was hovering around the mid-single digits whilst we huddled, shivered and contemplated the crapulence of our situation; there was no doubt that tackling that climb would result in

1)      Snow
2)      Hypothermia
3)      Insanity
4)      A rather low level of satisfaction
5)      All of the above. And some.

So to Deloraine we soldiered.

Now on our training camps, and races, accommodation is always a highly variable theme. Given we end up staying in some tourist areas in ‘off peak’ season, or in other areas in ‘on peak’ season; for a given cost, we could be in a caravan park, or a chalet. Sometimes we score some really, really nice spots to stay.

Anyone on the team will happily regale you with tales of Toowoomba. Four people to a space so small it truly was a stretch of the truth to deem it a 'cabin'. All piled on top of each other. Only separated by our own sweat, dysentery and the dirt and sand that was just everywhere.

But fear not, because in stark contrast came our deluxe lodgings at San Remo. This stroke of good luck saw us start Tour of Gippsland in luxury villas with ceilings even higher than our enthusiasm to sleep beneath them.

Needless to say, we were all hoping to score a gem for the night. We were cold, miserable and hungry. Let’s be honest, caravan parks are fine. At that point in time, all we really needed was a warm shower. Heck, we’d have had one in the main street of Deloraine if that was our only option.

But then there came, Blake’s Manor. You. Little. Beauty.

Probably best not to wear our muddy shoes in here...

On arrival it appeared we’d slipped back into the days of ye Olde England. We had arrived in the palatial surrounds of something out of Downton Abbey. Certainly, no complaints here.

Certainly comfortable

But what’ that say you? Free food? Oh, well of course, many motels give you some tea bags and cookies!
Oh no, not just ordinary cookies!

Oh really, do tell?
We started with; fresh baked macadamia cookies. Brilliant. To which we then uncovered some local chocolate truffles. Oh how swell. Nevertheless the local cheese platter went divinely with the flagon of port. But only trumped by the delicious iced cupcakes. Truly satiating.

Anyone for cheese?

But wait, I know you want more;

Local Bacon, six rashers.
Local Eggs, times six.
And a fresh, baked, loaf of bread. And don’t you dare forget the fresh butter and Jam.
Yep. It was a feast. Of glorious proportions.

Here's hoping for warmer weather come Tour of Tasmania...

It equipped us with sufficient nutrients and motivation to tackle the dastardly climb we had avoided. Albeit in the car.

A good night’s sleep, surrounded by an abundance of pillows, teddy bears, tassels and all manner of opulent furnishings left us with the nobility of kings. Until we returned the next day, to our more customary abode of the Hobart Airport Caravan Hotel Caravan Park.

Accommodation on tour or training camp is about taking the ups with the downs. At the end of the day, we are lucky to have someone else organise and pay it all for us. And even luckier, to get to dot around the country and see places we’d never see. Even if it means rain, hail, snow and a lot of washing.

A clear and frosty day up on Mt Wellington, Hobart.

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Sun on the other side of that grey cloud. And in this case, a hefty dose of fat, sugar with just a sprinkling of alcohol at the end of a despondent day in Deloraine.

Yep, I’ll take the good with the bad, because the good, is just that good.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fortnightly Roundup

Wow, what a busy time it has been!

Since we last spoke I got my full dosing of double stage madness at the Tour of the Greater South Coast. It was wet. I was windy. It was madness. Madness I tell you!

But it was a lot of fun. We worked out arses off and came away with the win.

The South Coast Tour was markedly different from the Tour of Gippsland or the current Tour of the Murray River. Both of those tours are more about accumulating time bonuses continually to build your lead throughout the race. Given the morning crits will have sprints every second lap or thereabouts the oppurtunity lies for a quality sprinter to win 3-4-5-6 or more sprints and go away from each morning stage a good 20 seconds or more in front of their rivals.

But, and yes there is a bit but, you still have to survive the arvo road stage.

At races like Gippo and Murray where it may be easier to control (cross wind pending of course) you can let your lead rider, such as AJ Giacoppo for us, go nuts in the morning, and then sit back a bit more in the arvo.

But at South Coast, with some big and hard arvo road stages, combined with some good bergs and some solid wind, it was a balancing act of sorts. An act that we got right, but only just.

On the 4th stage which to us looked like the true queen road stage we had a solid 100+ kilometres heading in through the southern grampians to finish in Casterton. To those who have raced the Tour of Coleraine in the past, you know how windy, dead and lumpy this area is.

Even with a clear plan to control and mark the right moves we let Darren Lapthorne escape our grasps and he ended up with an awesome solo win. We'd been warned! He was the man to watch, and Drapac were certainly going to throw it all at as.

From my point of view, I had a simple task. I had to try and tag moves, fill gaps etc, if there was a break that did not have the riders we wanted in it, then I had to get my chase on. But you can't chase everything, so it's often much easier to tag on the back and follow moves.

Cue day three. The day of madness.

Forecasts were for gale force winds. Snow in the grampians down to ~700 metres. Sideways rain. Horizontal hail. It. Was. Chaos.

We fronted up at the circuit at Port Fairy. We performed our obligatory get to the start line about 3 hours before the start, just so we could start on the front... and we shivered. It was cold. Miserable. Filthy.

It was a true laugh to be on the start line whingeing my arse off with Jordan Kerby who exclaimed that he was from QLD, he doesn't ride in this shit! (only to go up the road and nearly win the stage!)

Anyhow, we got through that stage OK. We had to work and try to bring back Kerby and the ol' Ox Gordan McCauley but we couldn't do it. But no big losses.

It was the arvo stage that really concerned us. The wind was getting stronger. The rain was setting in.

We had seen the roads we had to race on. There were plenty of potholes (which would come as a mystery surprise under the blankets of water that now covered the road). There would be a ripping cross or tail cross wind. It was going to be an absolute balls to the wall smashfest.

Then came possibly the most memorable moment of my season.

CSV promptly came and informed all the teams that the days racing was cancelled. The police had decided to cancel the stage citing rider safety.

Now here we had and huddle of hardened cyclists, layered up with all sorts of thermal clothing and windstopping devices. Everyong was gripping their caffeine or sugary fix of choice, just mentally preparing for the big afternoon.

Then, like night and day, the grown men were reduced to near tears of happiness. Group hugs. Exclaimations of "Thank f##k for that" and similar were exchanged. Phew! Dodged a bullet there!

The rest of the tour was not quite as dramatic, better weather, more hard racing, and yep, AJ got the win. But it was the solid weather and tumultuous times of the first three days that stick in my mind!

You can have a peak at more NRS highlights over here

Now I am down here in Tassie enjoying a solid training camp. Emphasis on solid.

But more importantly, how good is it to see Joel Pearson on the top step?

This guy is an absolute legend. After I messed myself up in China he really looked after me, especially helping carry me from my wheelchair to the airplane seat on our return flight!

Then about a year later he put me in touch with ACJ, one of the main men behind the Orange Army, and I was lucky enough to get a gig with Genesys. So it's not just good. But great, to see the double warny winner, do stuff like this

Stage 4, Tour of Murray 2012, 'Killer' Pearson just keeps on, keeping on

Over, and out. Time for a brew ride.