As usual, I worked myself into a tizz in the lead up my first Tour of Bright. I don’t know why I was so nervous? I had been training all year for this race. On Thursday night as we drove to Bright, it dawned on me that it was real, ToB 13 was finally here. My goal had shifted a bit since I started training for it almost 12 months ago. My original aim was to race C grade. Now I was racing A grade with Total Rush-Hyster’s Women’s team for the first time. Nervous but excited to be racing with Bridie O’Donnell, Kelly Bartlett, Penny Brown and Josie Simpson for the first time!
As you know Tour of Bright, is raced in three stages, over three days. Stage 1, a 13.7km ITT; Stage 2, 91km road race over Rosewhite and finishing on Towonga Gap; and Stage 3, a 58km race up Mt Hotham. The Women’s A grade start list was who’s who of the women’s NRS field. All the big teams and big names were there, Target Trek, BOSS, Bicycle Superstore, Holden Specialized etc etc. with Miranda Griffiths (Holden Specialized) going for back to back wins It was going to be tough.
Stage 1 – The Time Trial
Tizz aside, I diverted my nervous energy into the ITT. It is generally not my strongest point, but I was there and ready to give it a red hot crack. With TT master Bridie O’Donnell on our team, I was following one of the big hitters of the field. My goal was to do a PB time by averaging 215 watts over the distance. It was an achievable goal. I spent hours sitting on the ergo in the lead up, sweating my weight in salt doing TT efforts. I lined up on the start line prepared as I could be, ready to leave it on the road. So I donned my pink skin suit, got on my bike, and rolled down that start ramp gripping those clip-ons like I have never gripped before. To my surprise, did better than I hoped! My time 20.58 put me in 14th position leading into Stage 2. I can’t believe averaged 233 watts over the 14km! Bridie took away 2nd place, behind Flick Wardlaw in 1st setting our team up nicely.
Stage 2, Rosewhite and Towonga Gap
I was relatively calm about Stage 2 – which is quite unusual for me. We had a team meeting the night before, which calmed most of my nerves. The only part of the race I was worried about was the decent of Rosewhite gap, where I potentially would get dropped, though I had a plan of action if that was to happen.
Before I knew it we were racing, the stretch from Bright to Ovens is slightly down hill, so we picked up speed fast. After the first sprint point, there was an early break, with two riders (BOSS and BSS) off the front. The gap got out to 5 minutes at one point, and decision was made to chase the breakaway two riders. We had riders on the front driving the pace, working together to bring it back. The road from Ovens to Rosewhite is very undulating and exposed making it quite tough to be on the front, in the wind. I feeling good, although cautious that this effort was not going to overcook my legs. Before I knew it, the bunch was on the Rosewhite climb and the QOM was approaching. The pace picked up on the climb and the front runners scrambled for QOM. I was straggling out the back hanging on as we went over the top.
As I had predicted, I was off the back in no time. The speed picked up on the decent and I could not keep up. No need to panic I thought…My team mates had said that after Rosewhite decent the bunch usually slows, so it was just a matter of working hard for a few minutes, knowing that I would get back on. I don’t have the weight or the balls to descend at the speed some of these other women can! Thankfully though, I was not alone on the decent, there was a long string of riders descending almost single file. I just followed the wheel in front and got on with it. So with the few others that were off the back, we chased to get back on. Flash by a few minutes and we were back on and we had made it to the second sprint point, I think the time gap was back to about 3 minutes at this point. A few rolling hills that were hurting the legs later, the pace was kept high as we turned the corner to begin the Towonga Gap climb. For those of you who have not ridden Towonga Gap, it is a grueling 7.6km at 6%, it is tough.
The bunch was frantic as we turned the corner, everyone was fighting for first wheel. I was squashed out towards the back. I could see the strong climbers dart off up the climb like it was flat. I just settled into tempo and began chewing my handlebars trying my hardest to pick off riders along the way. By this stage of the race my head felt like it was going to explode with the heat, the sun was beating down on us and the heat radiating heat from the road was brutal. We passed the two from the breakaway not long into the climb. At approximately the 3km to go mark I caught up with my team mate Bridie. It was good to have her there to keep me going and focused on finishing at anything other than snails pace, because I was fading fast. Before I knew it, I was over the line. 16th. The team rode a great race, working together well to help bring the time gap back.
1st Miranda Griffiths (2:52:22), 2nd Tessa Fabry and 3rd Sam DeRiter. Full results here
Stage 3, Mt Hotham
It was stage 3, and I was feeling pumped because of how well the team rode the day before. Today it was about getting up the mountain, though I had in the back of my mind that I would like to maintain my 15th position on GC.
Mt Hotham, the brutal 30km climb with notable pinches including The Meg and CRB hill. We rolled off and almost immediately there were attacks. This was not going to be the Sunday coffee ride I was longing for! Riders were attacking, the bunch kept responding as to not let them get away. The 10km sprint point came and went. The second sprint point Bridie went early which launched her into the climb. I was not too far behind. I must say that these girls can climb! They again darted off like the road was flat!
There was no way that I could climb at their pace!!! I made it my mission to suck wheels and not let them go. I knew that I had to pull my all out for this one, stay with them and at least get over The Meg with the bunch. I needed to be in the false flat section with the bunch so that I could maintain a good pace. There is not much to say about Hotham, other than I chewed my handlebars and got over The Meg, straggling to keep up with the pace.
I managed to stay with them, and began the false flat section. We were strung out in single file for most of the next 10 or so kms, until the toll booth. The gradient rudely picked up. My legs said no. This is where I got spat out the back. I could not keep up with the pace. From the toll booth, to the end of the race, just gritted my teeth, wished for a few extra gears and made it my goal that I’ll be faster next year! Miranda won of course, followed by Jo Hogan and Felicity Wardlaw in 3rd.
I finished 15th in GC. I certainly did not expect that result. My (super) coach had me peaking at the right time for sure. For the first time, I felt strong all weekend. I’m most proud with my Time Trial result. It was totally unexpected especially for a 5” something with clip-ons! But all round I felt like I climbed better than I have in a long time and in general just got on my bike and rode it!
GC results can be found here. Miranda 1st, Flick 2nd and Sam 3rd
If I was going to sum up my Tour of Bright for 2013 it would be “consistent”. I’m still smiling two days later – I could not be happier!
Thanks to Total Rush for the continued support, my super coach, friends, team mates, room mates, Cycling Victoria, Alpine Cycling Club, and the 40 or so A grade women and everyone that made racing the great weekend it was. I had a fantastic time racing with my new Total Rush team mates. It was awesome to have a podium finish in the TT, overall we raced well together all weekend and I can’t wait for 2014 – bring it on!
You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @lowercasev or on Strava, Verita Stewart.
Get on your bike and ride it, up some of the toughest climbs in Victoria and smile your way to the top!