Herald Sun Tour

Prologue – Fed Square, Melbourne
Surrounded by some of our sponsors, corporate business people and fans, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour prologue was one for the spectators.

The tight, but fast flowing 2.1km course along the banks of the Yarra River would see a close margin decide the eventual winner.

Some fast times were posted early on, but it wasn’t until the last 40 riders that the times started to get a lot quicker.

Leading into the race, my focus was good, the form was perfect and I was confident of posting a good time. With the appropriate hydration and fuel, plus a scheduled warm up, the body was ready to go for my first prologue of the season.

On the start ramp I wasn’t that nervous, just focused and composed.
The clock counted down and I was on my way, rounding the first corner and settling into a good tempo, pacing my ride as I always do.

Racing down the footpaths and along the riverbank, the atmosphere was electric. I had a few family members and friends cheering me on, so when I heard my name, I rode faster.

In the distance, a long chute of barricades lead to the finishing line, my legs were going full-gas! It was a probably one of the fastest last 1km’s I’ve ever ridden, then when I crossed the line, I heard commentator Phil Liggett shout “Jones has done it, new best time, 2:36:85”

I was relieved, because that was a hard finish and I left it all out there. I finished with no regrets and if I was beaten, I wouldn’t be disappointed with my ride.

Waiting in the hot seat, my time was never challenged until Caleb Ewan went 0.400 of a second faster in a time of 2:36:42. Not long after, teammate Will Clarke did an amazing ride, taking the lead and eventually the win with a time of 2:35:53.

With everyone in high spirits, it was time for recovery ahead of a big stage one road race. A Drapac first and third, what a great start!

Stage 1 – Mt Macedon to Bendigo
The first road stage of the tour was set to decide the overall GC, with a steep climb up Mt Macedon coming after just 5km’s of racing.

The pace began slowly with a gradual tempo before the punchy climbers began to accelerate.

Starting the stage in the leaders yellow jersey, teammate Will Clarke was ready to go and was right in the mix atop the first major climb.

I was climbing well, holding onto some of the other sprinters like Steele Von Hoff and Neil van der Ploeg who can both climb very well.

A major breakaway group of 21 riders formed over the top, with teammate Lachlan Norris the only Drapac rider to make the group.

Quickly establishing an early advantage, the breakaway group extended their lead to over three minutes.

Both Adam Phelan and Will Clarke were in a small chasing group of 6 going over the climb, but were blown away by the speed of the leaders who were increasing their advantage at a furious speed.

With 80% of the field having one or more riders represented out in front, the peloton sat up and cruised home to finish more than 25minutes behind.

Lachie rode very strongly to finish in the lead group and move himself up to 5th overall on the general classification while Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) won the stage to take yellow.

Stage 2 – Bendigo to Nagambie
Predicted to be a day for the sprinters, the opening few laps of the Bendigo velodrome offered a different feel to the beginning of a stage.

Once out of the town center, the race was aggressive with everyone trying their luck to get off the front and form the breakaway.

Some light winds kept the mind thinking tactically with position crucial to saving energy for the finish.

The big horse (Will Clarke) found himself in a move just before the one and only KOM of the stage, developing an advantage and riding away with MTN-Qhubeka’s Tyler Farrar and JLT Condor’s Mike Cumming.

The yellow jersey team, Orica GreenEdge controlled the peloton and allowed the break to hold a three-minute advantage.

I was kept safe with my teammates riding together and keeping well hydrated with fresh nutrition and drinks from the team car. The hot conditions can creep up on you and it was important that your fluids were adequate all race.

Approaching the finish, the lead-out trains took over and many teams fancied their chances of success.

The boys helped me out, placing me in good positions throughout the final 10km, allowing me to follow the wheels of fellow sprinters and some strong lead-out trains.

In the last kilometre, Adam Phelan brought me up to the wheel of Caleb Ewan, where I boxed on with some fellow sprinters approaching the final corner at 400m to go.

Safely around the last corner, I saw the line and kicked as Caleb saw me on his hip and kicked too. I went far left and he stayed right, sprinting heads down to the line.

I normally would have waited a bit later, I think I went a little too early and with 50m to go, faded to the left.

Under my arm, Budget rider Sam Witmitz was approaching along the barriers and we collected knee and bars, launching my body and bike sideways across the line in a fast and furious style crash.

I can’t remember the landing but the take off was pretty extreme that’s for sure!

Lying in a daze, I was surrounded by the doctor and paramedics who checked out my injuries.

With some sore muscles, nasty grazes and possible broken ribs, I escaped reasonably un-harmed.

Stage 3 – Mitchelton Wines to Nagambie:
Making the call to not race early in the morning before stage three was a sensible decision. There is still a long season ahead, so to punish the body which is trying to repair and recover itself would be a stupid move.

Instead, I cheered the boys on from the sidelines, watched them race down the road and pondered what could have been.

With another sprinting stage set to end the finishing results, the team rode aggressively until it was Adam Phelan who slipped into the breakaway.

A strong group, they worked well together and were only caught with one kilometre to go. With no sprinter, there was only one guy who could give it a crack at the finish and that was the big horse, Will Clarke.

He surprised all down the back straight with 1km to go, then got a gap and made the others look nervous. It was only in the last 100m that he was swallowed up, but he held onto 5th place.

Adam Phelan was awarded the most aggressive jersey for the stage, a nice reward for a long day out in the break.

Stage 4 – Arthurs Seat:
The final stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour would offer spectators a close up view of the painful faces on all cyclists as they climbed Arthurs Seat not once, but three times.

The team would look after Lachlan Norris until the final climb of the race, as he was still placed in 5th on the GC.

When a large break was formed off the front, the boys were represented with Sam Spokes and Will Clarke.

The break wasn’t caught until just before the last climb, when the GC contenders opened up the after burners and took off for the finish.

Lachlan Norris managed to hold onto the leaders and with 2km to go, attacked them to gain a small advantage. 25 seconds down on GC, he needed to try something and his move had to be made.

Unfortunately, he was brought back by Orica-GreenEdge but held onto a top 10 finish, placing 8th overall.

Will Clarke took home the Most Aggressive Jersey, yet another won by the team this week.

It was a consistent week from the team, but we didn’t leave empty handed, with one stage win, a third, two fifth places, two most aggressive jerseys and eighth place overall. To have worn the leaders yellow jersey after Will Clarke’s stomping ride in the Prologue, we were the only other team to do so, behind eventual winner Cam Meyer from Orica GreenEdge.

In conjunction with the Prologue, Cycling Victoria held their 2014 Cyclist of the Year Awards presentation. Recipients across all categories from juniors, to masters were delighted to receive their awards in front of the crowd in Federation Square.

I was honored to win the Elite Male Road Cyclist of the year, a nice reward for the hard work throughout the 2014 season.

Aside from the recovery, my focus is onto the next big block of racing with Drapac. We head to South Africa on the 25th of February to compete in the five-day Tour de Boland, plus another one-day race just four days later.

From there, we move to Italy, competing in the UCI 1.HC GP Nobili Rubinetterie-Coppa Papa Carlo-Coppa Città di Stresa, then the UCI 2.1, Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali five day tour.

I’m really looking forward to the experience and finding some good form to get some results in these races.

Photo credit: Mark Gunter http://markgunter.fotomerchant.com


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