After the long trip up to Mildura on Monday, the nerves were rather unsettled.
Damo was laughing a fair bit as I think that he would have never seen me so nervous. For me, I don't know if it was nerves or fear.
The thought of lining up next to some of the countries best cyclists outside the obvious BIG names was rather daunting when I barely hit the podium in the local "B" grade races. Throw in the fact that I have only raced 4 times this year and 3 of those were in Veterans and the other I had an 18min start of a 100k race and reality hit me.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?
Meeting the team (Huon Genesys) that I was piggy backing off was a little intimidating although the oldest is still 8 years my junior. Just knowing the sport and having respect for the talent plays a big part.
I listened to their brief pre race team meeting and we rolled down to the start. Once we got there, we did the traditional sign in like the Big Boys do in the TDF. This was quiet cool (insert little kid smile) and I headed over to the team van to have some final food and drink before we headed off on Stage 1...163k Mildura to Robinvale.
The weather was perfect and the temperature tipped to hit 30deg so hydration was going to play a big part.
I grabbed my nutrition and hydration that I wanted to start the race with and was ready to go. The nerves had settled down by then and I was just wanting to get going.
Every rider got introduced to the 50,000 strong crowd (really 50, but hey we are in the TDF right??) and got our final instructions. My goal was to just see how far I could hang on for.
With the first 7k neutral was good to settle down and spin the legs, as we weaved out of Mildura I was just smiling inside due to the fun but also having fingers crossed that I didn't do something silly and come down.
Once the race proper started it was on (not for me as I was very comfortable hiding near the back). Being a bigger guy, I could see over the peleton (102) and see attack after attack go off the front. Like most races, once the attack goes the race settles down a bit, however with the conditions being so good, no break could get off the front, so we were cruising along above 50 for some time as the peleton chased the break down.
Throw in a sprint at 7k and the pace was on. A rider hit the deck which gave me a quick reality check about why I was here. All about getting K's for Kona.
So I hung tough (still near the back) and after 60k we could go and get hydration. Like the big races, you have to roll back to the team car and get fresh bottles. I headed back and Damo exchanged my bottles and told me to start working my way to the front. I did this and found myself heading the peleton trying to help chase down the break that had got away. What was I thinking here??
Before I knew it I was back where I belonged (near the back)...You get swallowed up by the bunch and end up near the back. You really have to find the right wheel and sometimes fight for position. 100k came and went and I was feeling quite good, heading back to the car, Damo once again instructed me to get near the front as the pace will quicken soon. I got near the Huon boys and decided to stay around them for the duration.
The break was up the road about 1min and the boys decided that it was time to starting bringing it back. I just hung tough where I was and once I saw the 25k to go sign I was confident that I would get through stage 1 with the bunch.
With 5k to go, the pace really increased, I worked myself near the front and found myself way too close to the sprinters. The HR was sky high and I exploded about 500m from the line. I was happy finishing just behind the bunch and even happier once I saw how many people were behind me. Crossing the line in 67th on stage 1, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Not only did I get through I didn't crash, nor was I last.
The stage results here.
The boys had a race debrief which was great to listen to and then again later last night a recap of the day and the plans for the following stages.
Today sees a crit race of 30 laps on a 1.1k circuit which the boys says is tough, so I don't expect to get around as the change of speed always hurts me alot.
This afternoon sees another 98k road race. The weather is going to be around 30 again and the winds are expected to be a little stronger so the race will probably get split. Here's hoping that I can once again put in a good result. The legs are feeling ok atm and am looking forward to another day.
This is the Pro Life.