The 2014 NRS season had already begun one week prior to the Jarvis Subaru Adelaide Tour, but for some of my teammates and I, it was our first race for the year.
I was lining up alongside seven teammates from the Avanti Racing Team, including current NRS Individual Series Leader Joe Cooper, fresh off his win at the Tour de Perth, Neil van der Ploeg, Jack Haig, Ben Dyball, Tom Robinson, Jack Beckinsale and Mark O'Brien.
We arrived three days in advance to ride some of the courses and acclimatise to the weather. After reading a few chapters of 'Battle Scars' by Stuart O'Grady on the way over, I was motivated for a good few days of racing.
The four stages included a short but sharp 84km road stage which finished up and over the infamous 'Corkscrew’ on day one, another road race on day two - 154km's around the rolling hills of Handorf and Bird in Hand Winery, a 60km city center criterium on day three and then an 80km Kermese race on the forth and final day of the Tour.
Staying in newly renovated caravan park cabins, we most importantly had comfy beds and also a fair bit of floor space for the evening foam roller or two.
All of the guys have their own specific pre-race routines, whether that be watching a movie, spending hours at the coffee shop or curling up in bed for the afternoon. I'm pretty flexible but have my usual routines I always try to replicate each race, it helps me focus and control any nervous energy I may have.
The night before stage one, we had a team meeting to discuss our race tactics. It was decided that our climbers were going to be our best chance of a result, so my teammate Tom & I would try to ensure they got to the base of the climb as best they could.
Heading to the race, I was excited to start my first NRS race of 2014 with the Avanti racing Team, so much that I forgot my Garmin, which I thought I had packed. It wasn’t the end of the world, because I had my shoes, helmet and kit so it didn’t worry me too much, I just told everyone I was saving weight for the Corkscrew climb.
With 160 riders starting the Tour, it was important to ride at the front, hopefully to avoid any crashes and to keep an eye on the attacks that were created at the front of the race.
Aggressive riding from most teams saw many small moves go clear of the bunch, but they were all eventually brought back.
The breakaway of the day was established after 20km and included a handful of teams, but we missed the move along with Team Budget Forklifts.
Teammate Tom Robinson was straight to the front setting the tempo and beginning the chase. I joined him soon after and we were joined by Team African Wildlife Safaris and Team Budget who eventually put a couple of riders into the chase.
As we approached the Corkscrew road, we set a fast pace flying down Gorge Road. The undulating terrain saw a few very fast sections, one in which we hit at nearly 90kms/hr.
Most teams had a full lead-out train when we entered the base of the climb, all strung out and the tempo set high. I finished my last big turn at the base of the climb and swung off to see all of our climbers positioned well at the front.
When I returned, the boys fell 39 seconds short of victory, as the breakaway had split and all but two riders stayed away. Joe Copper was the best placed in 4th for the stage. Not the result we wanted, some miss-communication out on the road resulted in the breakaway gaining too much advantage at the base of the climb. A lesson learnt and we would fight on to improve our results the following day.
The morning of stage two, I was feeling very good. My sleep was great, I was motivated and I had targeted this stage in the lead up to this tour.
The 156km road race consisted of three laps of a 52km circuit, which was fast at the start then undulating with a dirt road section towards the finish. It was made for a typical classics rider, someone who could endure both the length and terrain of the course.
With Joe, Jack, Marko and Ben all within striking range, we were hoping that at least one of them could follow the right move and put us in a positive position out on the road. I was told to take a slight back seat and save myself for the finish in case of a bunch sprint.
Early on in the stage, teammate Ben Dyball was involved in a nasty crash, eventually forcing him out of the stage. Later scans at hospital confirmed he had a broken his wrist, which was disappointing news to hear.
Down to seven riders, we played it smart and let the leading team (Drapac) do all the chasing to control the small breakaway early on.
By the start of last lap, the field had split dramatically around the back of the course - the most difficult section with short, sharp climbs and a dirt road section to test your skills.
The fast, open roads enabled small groups that were split just off the back to rejoin our leading group of 10-15 riders, which formed over the dirt section.
Racing through the busy main street of German town Hahndorf, about 25km’s remained and the main bunch was down to 60 riders.
Shortly after Handorf, some hard climbs split the race which saw a 20-man group ride off into the distance. The leading group consisted of my teammates Jack Haig, Neil Van de Ploeg, Joe Cooper, Tom Robinson & I. Team Drapac’s Wez Sulzberger who was the current yellow jersey holder made the front split but due to the solid pace set by his team, his teammates simply could not follow the flurry of attacks which left them behind.
I was the last rider to make the break and I waited until the final small rise before descending off into the distance with the group, amazed at how that last few kilometres had unfolded.
Most of the group worked well together and we quickly extended the lead. Tom was unlucky to get a flat and with no team car in sight at the time, he wasn’t able to rejoin. The race was over for the rest and with less than 15km’s to go, our group began the attacks and the tactics became interesting.
Jack and Neil set the pace and we all shared the chasing. Approaching the first climb through the feed zone, a small group of six riders escaped, including Budget Forklift’s Brodie Talbot, plus Search to Retain rider Stuart Smith and I.
The other guys had just chased down another move and it was my turn to chase this one. Little did we know, the move led by Brodie (who was only 39secs behind Wez) went on to be the winning breakaway.
With less than 10 kilometres to go, the rolling hills kept the break honest approaching the final dirt section. Brodie was driving the break chasing time in the hope he could lead the tour. I was looking for a stage win for Avanti and despite knowing I could get the job done in the final sprint, I contemplated going solo numerous times. At the finish it was a sprint to the line and I got the win for the Avanti Racing Team with Brodie Talbot taking the overall lead for Team Budget Forklifts.
Jack and Joe finished in the second group a minute behind containing Tim Roe and Wez Sulzberger. Although we may have won the stage we were unable to capitalize on taking the lead of the tour.
Stage three saw a 2.1 kilometre circuit street criterium in the heart of Adelaide. An early start due to the afternoon’s AFL match between my beloved Sydney Swans versus the Adelaide Crows did not deter us from performing at our best. The 60 kilometre race began strongly with the yellow jersey team of Budget Forklifts taking up the early tempo.
A crucial error of not lining up at the front made for a solid chase to eventually get to the front after a couple of laps. A field of 160 riders made it interesting at times, but when you ride at the front, it’s generally a little safer and less taxing on the body. Any early attacks were shut down by Budget but after 35km’s, a two-man break escaped. Not threatening overall GC, they were left out there and controlled.
As a team, we were positioning ourselves relatively well in the top 20 riders, getting set for a bunch sprint. I was feeling good and everything was going smoothly, but with 10 laps to go, my chain somehow shifted down into the frame and got stuck. I quickly put it back on, jumped on the bike again and had a bit of a chase to rejoin the tail of the main bunch. With around 100 riders still remaining in the race, it made my job a little harder to get to my teammates near the front. I soon made it back a few laps later and we positioned ourselves in the lead-out train behind Budget who were still setting the pace.
Disaster stuck with four laps to go when I noticed my electronic group set battery was very low and I had very minimal power to change gears. I yelled at ACJ and our team mechanic Damo and the next lap I came screaming to a stop in the pits, carefully dropped my race bike and jumped straight onto my spare bike. You might think that something like this, three laps to go in a super fast criterium is nearly impossible to come back from, but I saw it as a challenge.
The field was slightly reduced, maybe down to 80 riders, and I was straight onto the last wheel of the bunch and immediately making up a handful of positions around every corner. With Jack Beckinsale and Neil Van der Ploeg still at the front with the rest of my teammates, we still had options but I still wanted to get back fast, I wasn’t done yet!
The bell sounded and I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be, so making up a few more places around the next corner and I was behind my teammates. With 1km remained and the at the bottom corner I was boxed in by a few guys and lost contact with the team, it was everyman for himself.
I went early up the climb, got up to the front and saw my teammates Jack Beckinsale leading it out off the front. Behind Jack was Jesse Kerrison and his Budget Forklifts lead-out man Myron Simpson. We rounded the final corner with 250m to go and I had spent a few too many watts in the end, not having enough to come past Jesse who won the race and finished about a wheel in front. It was close in the end but not enough to get another win. I was happy with my performance, putting up a reasonable fight after the mechanicals I had towards the very end of the race.
The final stage was the exact same as last year, an 80km Kermesse which had a few tight corners and one round-a-bout which had ‘crash’ writen all over it. Thankfully, this year there was no carnage on this particular section but a couple of guys went down very hard on some of the corners. Racing in the anxious 160 rider bunch, I avoided any such incidents throughout the race and so did my teammates.
There was only one major break of the day and the size and speed of the group eventually triumphed in the finish.
Team Budget had ridden the front the whole stage, but closer to the end, they were most definitely running on reserve as only two to three riders remained at best. Brodie Talbot was supported well all race but with four laps to go, he needed to do some of the chasing himself.
I was sitting reasonably comfy with my Avanti teammates in the main bunch not having to worry about chasing as we were represented by Joe Cooper, Jack Beckinsale and Mark O’Brien in the leading breakaway. At the finish, Jack got the job done and Joe held on for third place, which was a really good result to end the Tour on. The bunch sprinted for 6th place and ex-track sprinter Scott Sunderland got the early jump on the whole field. No one made the move so I followed and closed the gap as best I could to finish seventh.
Overall for the tour, Joe moved up to fourth on GC, Jack Haig was seventh and I was eighth. Out of the four stages, we won two and placed on the podium twice with a second and a third. We also won the team’s classification to see us extend our teams NRS lead and Joe’s Individual NRS Lead after two. rounds.
On the 4th of May, I’ll be riding 240km’s for the CareFlight Base to Base Charity Ride. This year, we ride from Brisbane to Toowoomba and will be once again joined by Tour de France Green Jersey winner, Robbie McEwen. I’m hoping to raise much needed funds for this not-for-profit helicopter rescue service who saved my life in 2011. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for CareFlight, so I’d appreciate any donation to my fundraising page: https://careflightridetosavelives.everydayhero.com/au/brenton-jones
Big thanks to all of our sponsors and team staff of the Avanti Racing Team, the results keep coming in for us and we appreciate your support!
To mum and dad, brothers and grandparents, thank you for your financial backing and devoting the time and effort into helping me reach my goals.
To my coach Matt Wallace, masseur Jude and chiro Sharon, thanks for keeping my body in perfect condition, it’s been an awesome year so far.