2014 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic

Day 1 - Ritchie Boulevard, Hot-dog criterium circuit. Superb conditions, spectator perfect on the waterfront. Riding for Team Procon Telematics, I was accompanied by world class sprinter and Garmin Sharp Pro Tour rider, Steele Von Hoff who, on paper, was our best chance of winning the Bay Classic this year. Joining Steele and I were young guns Ed Bissaker, Matt Lane and Damien Drapac who were all looking forward to the week of racing.
In the lead up to the first day, I was positive and really looking forward to the experience I was about to gain from this years race. Relaxing with my brothers before the start, having lunch by the waterfront, I wasn’t nervous or tense about the evenings criteria what so ever. The hours ticked over and following our first team meeting where we were introduced to the co-business parters of Procon, Dean & Rene, we each began our warm ups in preparation for the first race.
On the start line, it was pretty cool to look around and see Pro Tour riders, guys like Matt Goss, winner of Milan-San Remo, my own teammate Steele Von Hoff who has shown incredible speed to podium and win some Pro Tour races this year and 2013 defending champion Caleb Ewan who is Australia’s next best young talent.
A furious pace set the early tempo of the race with many attacks being controlled by the larger teams. Steele and I were very active at the start and we were rewarded for this effort as I found myself in the early move after 15mins of racing. The breakaway consisted of 2013 Australian road and time trial champion Luke Durbridge, Zac Dempster, Matt Goss, Felix English, Luke Parker and Harry Carpenter. It was a strong group and we all worked well together to extend our margin over the main field. There were plenty of people cheering me on and I was in the box seat to get a result for not only myself but our team, Procon Telematics.
I was feeling great, my legs in good form and i was determined, focused and hungry. Approaching the finish, we lapped the main field and the bunch sprinted for 8th place as we continued to race for the final 3 laps. In the process of lapping the field, Matt Goss and Luke Parker somehow lost contact with us and were left to chase hard.
On the final lap, Harry gave Zac a perfect lead out into the final corner to open up a winning gap which both Felix and I were only 1/2 a wheel of catching on the finish line. Zac showed his class and deserved the win, Felix took the green jersey and second place, whilst I was third and happy to make my first elite Bay Crits podium.
The crowds witnessed some great racing from the amazing views of the big grass bank overlooking the waterfront and it was even better to race on a course with so much activity going on surrounding the circuit. Day 2 - Geelong Botanical Gardens Circuit Waking up in the morning on day two, all riders lucky enough to be staying at the Four Points enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast which included a range of fresh fruit, bircher muesli and a personal chef cooking omelette’s on the spot. It was awesome and it’s what makes cycling and racing at these big events even more enjoyable and relaxing, everything is done for you. Most of the riders went for a roll after breakfast as we didn’t race until 2:30pm, so it allowed us plenty of time to do a 1-1.5hr pre-race ride in the morning. My legs were great in the morning once again and I was looking forward to the afternoon’s Stage two around the botanical gardens. Sitting in 3rd place overall, I was hoping to have another consistent race but try and help out my Procon teammate Steele Von Hoff if it came together for a bunch sprint.
Mid-way through the race, Steele, Ed and I were all riding well at the front, following a few moves and riding safely in the bunch. With 15-20mins to go, Orica-GreenEdge took control of the peloton to help set-up their lead sprinter, Matt Goss for the stage win. Steele and I with the help of Ed rode great position behind their lead-out train and with a few laps to go, Steele made it clear he was riding for me! I had mixed emotions because Steele is a great guy, I didn’t want to let him down and I had been than happy to do the lead-out for him.
After that, I focused really hard to do well and follow him as best I could. I got squeezed off his wheel on the last lap with 1km to go, but I found and jumped onto Caleb’ [Ewan’s] wheel straight away who was also sprinting solo. We both came from along way back, Caleb finished second and I rolled over the line for fourth behind Leigh Howard (third) and Matt Goss who took out the stage. Everyone in the team were super happy, as I had moved up into second overall as well as finishing fourth in the stage. It was an awesome team environment and both Dean & Rene were so supportive of us. We had a very nice team dinner to conclude the day, before we set our sights on day three. Day 3 - Portalington Circuit. The renowned Portalington stage has always been known to be the most challenging stage of the series which ultimately decides the overall General Classification. This year was no exception with the wind so strong and the course ever so brutal. The short but steep climb after the finish line was just enough to fatigue you each lap and by the time you recovered, you were back up the climb. Steele and I had planned to be alert at the front, follow the key moves and aim to pick up a few points at the end of the day so I could retain my overall GC position.
Starting on the front row, I lined up alongside Matt Goss, Caleb Ewan and Felix English. It wasn’t too long ago that I was on the commentary stage with Matt Keenan and Phil Liggett watching Australia’s best riders race this exact race, and there I was on the front row sitting in second place overall.
I gave it everything. The bunch split lap after lap and Steele and I were always near the front looking good. On one particular lap, Luke Durbridge attacked with Pat Shaw and they established a solid lead shortly after. An attack on the climb split what was left of the main bunch and a group of seven containing both Steele and I rolled clear of the rest. Matt Goss couldn’t follow the move and was left behind with only Zac, Caleb, Leigh Howard, Mitch Docker Tom Scully and Steele among the other big names at the head of the race. Steele looked around to see what damage had been done and immediately went to the front as he could see Goss wasn't there. Zac needed points too, so he attacked and was followed by Tom Scully. Steele did an amazing job to help keep the tempo high and keep me in with a chance to get some much needed points on the overall GC. Our small group of six sprinted for fifth place, Mitch Docker led out Leigh Howard but despite the good work by GreenEdge, Caleb won the uphill sprint to finish fifth and I was just behind in sixth, claiming enough points to hold onto my second place on GC.
Many of our team and my family were very encouraging after the stage, saying how strong I rode to keep up with the best riders around the toughest course of the series.
That night, I had a phone call from someone who was my childhood hero growing up. His name is Robbie McEwen and for those who don’t know, he has won the Bay Crits six times and is a multiple stage winner and green jersey winner at the Tour De France, 21 stage victories to be exact. I had been chasing some advice from someone like Robbie as I set to embark upon a new stage in my career, stepping up and aiming to achieve results I could only dream of. Robbie congratulated me on my performances so far in the series and gave me some key pointers and simple tactics in which I could work on for the final stage in Williamstown. Speaking to Robbie was inspiring and motivating to say the least. To say I was determined to win was an understatement, I was hungry to win and I had given myself the best chance of doing so up until this moment, I just needed to finish it off. Day 4 - Williamstown Circuit The morning of the final stage, I was focused right from the start. I think it was important for me to be positive, confident and believe that I could do it. I didn’t have any nerves or put any pressure on myself either, I was just applying the same mental focus and preparation I had done for the past three days. A morning ride flushed out any leftover fatigue from the day before and the legs began to feel great towards the end of the ride. I draw a lot from confidence from having ‘good legs’ so to finish the ride and drive to Williamstown in a good, happy and relaxed mood, was perfect. My mate Ryan MacAnally drove with me to the final stage and listening to some up-beat music and having a laugh along the way was definitely my type of pre-race build up. Some lunch from mum when we arrived and an hour spent relaxing under the Team Procon tent, I was ready to begin the warm up and get out onto the race circuit. My warm up was half on the road and half on my Ergo. I knew I had good legs and I knew I was ready to race so my confidence was good and my warm up music got me in the zone to race and race hard!
My whole family, including grandparents were on the barricades cheering me on, along with a handful of local club riders and family friends who joined in as my supporters for the day. It makes a big difference to my focus when I race past in the bunch, working hard to hold the wheel or attack and I hear a voice say, “go Brenton” or “go B.J”, it inspires me even more. The photo above captured my little bro Mitch, Girlfriend Lucy and my Mum. Following the advice of Robbie McEwen, I rode aggressively at the front to show I belonged there and wanted to win. My Avanti Pro Cycling Team manager Andrew Christie-Johnson messaged Steele and I before the race with some helpful advice on the tactics we should implement for the stage. Joel Pearson also came up to me before the start and gave me some advice which was helpful and I appreciated it as he has a lot of racing experience too.
The start of the race was great, I went straight into good position and never felt uncomfortable or challenged by yellow jersey leader Zac, or my closest rivals Matt Goss and Caleb Ewan. Steele helped chase a few moves and did a lot of riding to keep the pace high and hold me in a safe position in the top 10 all race.
GreenEdge took up the lead-out train and with 15mins to go, the countdown was on until the finish which would decide the 2014 winner. Zac was riding well up front, Gossy was sitting comfortably behind his teammates, Caleb was riding smart as the classy rider he is and Steele was still doing an impressive job working with me to match Australia’s best team and sprinters on what was the deciding stage. The last lap was fast, the pace was on and everyone was strung out, Steele looked back to see me on his wheel on the back straight and moved me up from eighth place to about third or fourth around the second last corner. He had absolutely nothing left and flicked his elbow to see me dive up his inside and get onto Zac’s wheel. It was the perfect position and he showed why he is a professional rider, using his race experience to outsmart his fellow pro's. Caleb rounded the corner first with an impressive early jump, Zac went down on the inside to enter the corner second while Leigh Howard and Matt Goss ran way too wide leaving the door open for me.
As soon as the road straightened up, it was 150m to the line and Caleb had a winning margin and would take out the stage. But Zac and I were sprinting for the win, whoever crossed for second place would take the 2014 crown.
It was a fair, clean sprint, I wasn’t going to back down now and I came around Zac slowly but surely to finish second behind Caleb and win the 2014 Mitchelton Wines Bay Cycling Classic, the biggest win of my career, so far.
My emotions were unreal! I was so happy and I couldn’t believe I had done it. I was so determined to get the job done and I did it.
I won for my family and the support they continue to provide me with, and I won for my friends, sponsors and supporters who have assisted me in my career throughout the good and the bad times - you know who you are!
I had put my name on the honour roll alongside guys like Robbie McEwen, Mark Renshaw and Baden Cooke to name a few, most of whom have all ridden and for some, been Stage and Green Jersey winners in the Tour de France - another small dream of mine.
To think all those years ago, I had no idea I would be the 2014 winner of the Jayco/Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic. I was only 13yrs old in the photo above, standing on the far right, net to my fellow local juniors, two young brothers on the stage behind and pro riders Matt Wilson and Baden Cooke in the mix.
I would’t have been able to race this year if it wasn’t for my Bay Crits team, Procon Telematics who were gave me great support and encouragement throughout the week. It was a pleasure to ride for them and to win the bay crits was an added bonus to the week of fun and enjoyment I experienced as a part of the team. Special mention to Steele Von Hoff for his display of sportsmanship, sacrifice and teamwork to help me achieve my dream and get the win for our team. Watch out for Steele at the Tour Down Under where he is riding for his Pro Tour Team, Garmin Sharp and will be their main sprinter for the tour, good luck mate.
Not forgetting my Continental Team, Team Avanti Pro Cycling, thanks for allowing me to ride with Procon for the Bay Crits, I absolutely love our 2014 Avanti bikes and Shimano wheels/groupsets, so fast, responsive and crisp. I’m pleased to get the bikes first win for 2014, I know it’s just the start of plenty more to come.
To my personal sponsor Diadora Australia, thank you for your support with cycling shoes. The Jet Racers are amazing shoes, both stiff and comfortable, plus they look great and stand out from the rest too.
Thanks also to my Coach Matt Wallace. We started way back when I was on the MTB as a 17year old when I represented Australia as a junior and now I'm continuing to follow and achieve my dreams on the road. Super coach! Good luck to my teammates and all the other Aussie's racing the Tour Down Under next week, hopefully next year I'll be given the opportunity to ride in the Uni SA National Team and continue to follow my dream of becoming a professional, have had a great year so far! If you would like to check out more of these awesome photo's from Mark Gunter, visit his website: http://www.markgunter.com.au Thanks for reading, I will be posting my next blog about the 2014 National Champs in the next few days.


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