Race report by Mick Tolhurst
Late September I made a last minute decision to embark on a ten day road trip to Griffith in NSW and then on to Ballarat in Victoria to compete in the NSW and National Masters Road Championships.
After riding strongly in the Cootamundra Annual Handicap at the end of August, I thought I was in good shape, and that I’d have another month to step up the intensity. Unfortunately a bout of flu wiped me out for several weeks. This was closely followed by Tiffen Cycling Team’s participation in the National Capital Tour, an NRS even that was always going to be a challenge. But it was great to race on local roads in big fields, and to see such depth in the domestic cycling scene these days. I got through the NCT reasonably well, and this gave me some confidence that I would be competitive in the Masters 3 categories in Griffith and Ballarat.
NSW Masters 3 Road Race Championships – 27 September
Five laps of a 17km circuit, with a bit of wind and a short climb towards the finish line at the end of each lap. A natural selection process ensued as the front group was reduced with each lap completed. The final lap was quite a tactical affair, with the strongest riders (Peter Milostic and Andrew East) paying particular attention to mark each other. I tried unsuccessfully to take advantage of this by either attacking myself or by letting them chase each other. Two riders slipped away on the final lap. And with the tactical cat and mouse being played behind they were able to hang on. I rated myself a decent chance of winning the sprint for the bronze, but I was simply up against stronger riders on the day. I finished 5th.
NSW Masters 3 Time Trial Championships – 29 September
I’d done a couple of recon rides of the time trial course, which used much of the same roads as the road race. It was a ‘T’ shape, with a couple of corners and a couple of U-turns, and only 17km. The trickiest aspect would be managing any wind, and the climb towards the finish. My strategy was to start hard, rest a bit on the downhill, push hard into the wind, and take another mini-break before the final climb. During my ride it all seemed to go to plan. I was only gradually gaining on my minute-man until the final climb where I accelerated (or did he slow down) and passed him. I’d averaged 300watts, which is about what I was aiming for, my heart rate was where I’d expect. To be honest, I thought we’d all be racing for silver as Milostic would be untouchable with the form he had. That turned out to be the case, but I was taken aback when he told me his time was almost one and a half minutes faster than mine. Andrew East confirmed his form by taking the silver, leaving me with the bronze.
Australian Masters 3 Time Trial Championships – 2 October
The time trial course was held just outside of Ballarat. It was 19km, more or less flat, cold, and windy. Not the type of course I’m best suited to. I was second last in the start order, one minute in front of Milostic. Based on the times we did in Griffith, I was expecting to be caught, something which no half-decent time triallist looks forward to. Milostic had told me that he produced 390watts in his time trial in Griffith. So at least that meant I wasn’t questioning my position or my equipment. My pacing strategy was for a much more even approach this time. The roads were either an uphill false flat with a cross-tailwind, or a downhill false flat with a head-crosswind. My powermeter failed on the day so I was left to ride by feel and heart rate, and the cold conditions made the latter difficult. At the halfway turnaround point I realised I wasn’t gaining on my minute-man, but I’d retained at least half of my advantage over Milostic, giving me hope that I’d not be caught and that I was putting in a good ride. But inside 2km to go Milostic stormed past on his way to another gold medal. Although I would only finish 6th, I was encouraged that my time seemed better relative to the competition than it was in Griffith.
Australian Masters 3 Road Race Championships – 4 October
Much of the desire to travel away to compete in these events was sparked by today’s road race around the famous Mt Bunninyong circuit currently used for the elite National Championships in January. Although the masters races do a larger 27km lap, each lap contains the full climb as used in the elite championships. The masters 3 race was three laps for a total of 81km. I was excited to have a teammate to race with as Matt Rizzuto had made the trip down from Canberra just for this race. We expected a select front group to form fairly quickly on the 10% gradients and that’s just what happened. Milostic appeared very eager to push the pace on the climb, and everyone else was happy to let him as long as they could hold the wheel. After the second ascent of My Bunninyong a front group of 9 had established a reasonable gap on the main field. Both Matt and I were there, and we were hoping to use this to our advantage. But there were also two riders from WA. Of the two of us, I thought Matt had the better form. So when Milostic started attacking towards the end of the final lap, I tried to construct a situation where Matt and one of the WA riders got away with him. A couple of times this almost came to fruition, but someone always seemed to bring it back. There was one moment when (with hindsight) I probably should have counter-attacked, but a moment of hesitation prevented me. With 2km to go I said to Matt that I’d lead him out in what was going to be a sprint. Unfortunately his reply was that he had a flat tyre! Coming into the fast downhill finish a rider from Tasmania slipped away. Instinctively I looked to the two WA riders to chase. With maybe 500m to go I could see the rider in front was going to hold on. So I tried launching my sprint early and using the strong tailwind to hold on for silver. It turned into a seated 53×11 drag race. I thought I’d done enough for the silver, but unfortunately I had to settle for 4th.
My results were consistent – 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and probably reflect the form I had. I’d like to think that if I hadn’t had the flu I would have been closer to the pointy end. But hopefully Ballarat will host the National Masters Championships again next year, and hopefully Mt Bunninyong will be used. This block of racing should provide a great platform to build on for my final objective for the year, the Tour of Bright in early December. Tiffen Cycling has won the Masters A Grade category on a number of occasions previously, and we’re keen to give it a good crack again this year.