National Capital Tour
After spending numerous hours together, on and off the bike at the recent Tour of Gippsland last week, we settled into our Kangaroo Valley homestead quite nicely ahead of another team training camp in preparation for the National Capital Tour.
This time, it was a chance of our climbers to stretch their legs on the rolling hills around Kangaroo Valley and Nowra, which was where we based ourselves for the camp.
With the next two NRS tours both suiting the climbers and GC riders, the team goals for the camp were simple, climbing, climbing and more climbing.
Leading the National Road Series coming into another tour is a good feeling. It’s not the fact that I get to wear number one, but more about the hard work and sacrifice that this jersey represents.
The three-day, four stage tour featured an Individual Time Trial, a hill top finish and two final road and criterium stages which suited the sprinter or all-rounder.
On day one, the 17km Individual Time-Trial set the standings with the guys riding superbly to place second, third, six and eighth place. It was close, but we had our GC guys in contention ahead of the first road stage, which was most important.
I got off too a good start, then struggled on the way home to post a respectable time, but not one I was content with post race. My power was down, on what it should have been, so I knew I could have done better, but I’ve had more good days then bad this year so it’s not a real concern for me.
That night, I was fortunate enough to use some Normatec Recovery Boots, which are an amazing recovery tool and assist in draining fluid from the legs. Big thanks to Jarrod Butler from Bendigo for the loan of the boots.
The penultimate day of racing saw a hilltop finish at Honeysuckle reserve settle the GC standings on day two.
With Search2retain leading the yellow jersey, we were able to take a back seat and let them do the chasing.
Teammate Taylor Gunman, who was only one minute off the lead going into this stage, rode aggressively to ride himself in the break and put us in a positive position out on the road. Being able to have that ‘extra card’ to play is always handy in cycling, it takes the pressure off the GC guys and we all had a reasonably protected ride leading up to the final climb.
The break was caught with 15-20km’s to go and it was up to Taylor and I to set the boys up for the finish. Taylor had done his fair share and handed it over to me with a couple of kilometers before the start of the climb. Despite my seat which had somehow come loose and had dropped a good few centimeters, my job wasn’t done and I had to get the boys to the base. Once we hit the climb, my job was done, the boys were safe at the front and Marko took over with our GC guys in tow as they raced up the steep gradient at a furious speed.
I reached the top to find out that Ben had won the stage and Matt placed second, an amazing ride from the whole team. We couldn’t have done it any better, the results paint the picture perfectly.
The final day of racing saw two stages conclude this year’s event. In the morning, a road race around Lake Burlie Griffin saw aggressive racing lead to a winning breakaway of three, including our own Matt Clark who tried a late solo move only to be caught in the final straight. I was waiting for the catch, preparing for a bunch sprint after I picked up two intermediate sprints out on the road to gain points in the green jersey competition. Matt however, had earned enough intermediate sprint points out in the late breakaway to lead the Green Jersey competition ahead of the final stage.
The Old Parliament House criterium circuit was a brutal course. Straight up and down with the finishing straight situated on a 4-5% gradient.
From the start, SASI’s Alex Edmondson attacked and I followed to join him in a two-man break from the gun.
The pace was on back in the main field and we were caught after four laps.
With the whole field strung out in single file. Positioning was crucial and our GC riders in Ben, Joe and Mitch did a good job to stay near the front with support from the rest of us.
It came down to a sprint in the end and despite a late solo attack from an NSWIS rider, he was caught on the line by Search2Retain’s Alistair Donohue & Pat Bevin who came out of the final corner safely on the front, outsmarting the rest of the sprinters behind them. I placed a respectable 4th, but was disappointed I didn’t put myself in a better position for the finish.
We finished off with a second, third and fourth place in overall GC, the teams classification win, the green jersey, one stage win and a handful of podiums from the guys.
My expectations of retaining the jersey were not high leading into this tour, as I knew my teammate Joe Cooper was suited to these next few races and he’d definitely leap frog me with enough points. His focus for this year was to win the NRS and mine was to win races. I’ve been honored to wear the jersey due to his misfortune and my consistent performances throughout the year, so to see the Jersey back on Joe’s shoulders isn’t a concern at all, I’m happy for him.
We have now extended our lead in the NRS with only 3 rounds remaining in 2014 and have enough points to take out the overall teams NRS for another year running.
With the season almost over, my focus now, is for the 99th Melbourne to Warnambool 273km Classic starting in three weeks. It’s a race that suits me and I’ll be giving it a red-hot crack after some misfortune in last years race.
For my Avanti Racing teammates, they head to the NRS Tour of Tasmania, which is the ultimate climbing tour. Stay tuned for my next blog report.