National Road Series - Tour of Mersey Valley

The first event on the National Road Series calendar for the year kicked off in the wet and hilly region of Mersey Valley, Tasmania. The 3 stage, 2 day Tour was contested by Australia’s best domestic teams and riders with a quality field of 95 riders lining up on the start line. I was racing with 2 of my teammates, Robbie Hucker and Jack Haig from the Torq/Bicycle Superstore Road Team. Stage 1 was a 24km Individual Time-trial starting and finishing in the small town of Forth. The course was flat with a strong head wind on the way out which made race conditions just that little bit more challenging. With a tough 93km road stage in the afternoon, it was important to gauge how much energy was used in the Time-Trial. My plan was to ride a strong TT and post a reasonable time and this was achieved when I rode a 32minute 38second TT which placed myself 32nd on the results sheet. Jack and Robbie rode strongly but were saving their legs for the all-important road stage in the afternoon. We headed back to our accommodation to relax and re-fuel for a couple of hours before returning to the course to commence stage 2.
The afternoon Stage 2 Road Race was only 94km’s but after already completing the Time Trial in the morning, the legs were tired. It was cold and wet but that’s the joys of racing and everyone is in the same boat. From the start, the racing was aggressive with most of the strong teams controlling the race tactics. After a few early climbs which sorted out the weak and the strong, a break was formed out front and the bunch became less aggressive. As we headed in the direction for Moina (stage finish), we first negotiated a brutal 30km loop which definitely destroyed the legs prior to the final hill top finish into Moina. Jack was in the break and riding very well with myself and Robbie holding onto our positions in what was left of the main bunch. Approaching the last ascent, a very steep and very wet downhill proved too much for some as a handful of riders went into the bushes and off the road. After the dangerous descent, it was all or nothing on a steep road of pain right to the finish line. Jack climbed strongly to finish in 8th with Robbie riding fast to finish 11th. In a tour and a stage that does not suit my strengths or physique at all being a strong sprinter, I was very pleased to place 25th behind 24 mountain goats who would weigh at least 10kg lighter than me. Overall, from a team’s perspective and an individual perspective, we were very pleased with the day’s efforts.
Stage 3 saw all 95 riders start the 116km Road Race, but it wasn’t long before the steep climbs and torrential weather got the better of half the field. Only 50 riders managed to finish the race which goes to show how brutal the course and weather really was. Robbie, Jack and I managed to stay close to each other all race and this helped us to communicate and keep focused on race tactics. After losing contact with the main group up one of the last climbs with only 30km’s to go, I kept the pace on with a small group to try and re-join the bunch. With 10km’s to go the bunch had 45seconds on us and we were coming back, but a gradual 3km climb (only 7km’s from the finish) was just enough to stop our small group re-joining what was left of the lead bunch. At the top of the climb, we could see the leaders and the final 5km’s was mostly flat/downhill – a perfect finish for me but I just fell short finishing 27th only 1.5 minutes off the winner over 3hrs of harsh racing conditions. Jack and Robbie rode awesome on the climbs to make the front group with Rob finishing 3rd and Jack 5th – a tremendous effort for both of them. Once again, we were all reasonably happy with our individual and teams performances in what was a very tough day in the saddle.
Next event on the calendar is the Tour of South West which will hopefully see some great results across the board from all Torq/Bicycle Superstore Team riders. Big thanks to all my sponsors for their on-going support and to our my brother Jarryd and Mum for their awesome support throughout the Tour, we couldn’t have done so well without your help. Keep posted for my next race report, Cheers Brenton


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