The Victorian Road series continued just 90 minutes north west of Melbourne in Creswick. Keen to keep the Nero Racing flag flying in all parts of the country, Alex Abell lined up for the 138km Fred Icke Road Race.
The Victorian Road Series (for those north of the boarder) runs throughout the year, pitting the best cyclists in the state against each other in a variety of race formats and terrains. Every course has it's own unique characteristics - and typically when racing in the country it's either the pollen or manure that tickles the senses. In this rich potato growing region it's no different, although the manure is almost a delight compared to the sewerage/garbage dump odour that drifts over Eastern Creek at 6:30am on any given day.
Oder was the least of Alex's problems with a stiff 35-40kmh northerly wind and a Masters A grade field stacked with winners of the Tour of Mansfield and Bright, and a three time Olympian who ran management duties from the bow of the oarsome foresome.
There were also four large teams that made up 2/3 of the field, the wind, and the relatively tame elevation profile, it was panning out to be an aggressive race for the big units. Although the finish wasn’t - as it was a 400m drag at 3 – 4%.
Given a distracting few weeks with work and family, combined with not exactly being a flat-land powerhouse, Alex’s plan was to ride smart and survive the inevitable selections that would be made in the cross winds. From the start there were a number of sporadic attacks and nothing stuck until about 5kms into the race a Kosdown rider went off solo.
The peloton largely shut down and let him go, seemingly confident that he would not survive another 130kms in a juicy wind. Whilst the lone rider rode steadily and built a lead of 5 minutes, there were some nasty attacks in the cross winds in the peloton that halved the bunch in the first 50kms, but made no significant inroads into the race leader.
Coming into the third and final lap there were some tired legs and frustrations were starting to build, but finally two teams (and a few other riders from time to time) collaborated to bring the race leader to within 30 seconds with 10 kms to travel. Given the limited lead, it was thought the peloton were happy to leave him there to minimise the chances of counter attacks when the catch was made.
Riders tried to bridge but each time the peloton responded and in hindsight the peloton underestimated the determination of Darryn Benn, who continued to power on and force the peloton to finish the job. Remarkably, Benn held out for a well-deserved victory and it was left to a bunch sprint for the remaining two slots on the podium. Andrew Gray (Kosdown) and Richard Younger (Turbo Studios) took out those slots, closely followed by Nero’s Alex Abell in 4th.
Credit to Cycling Victoria for putting on another outstanding event. Nero’s looking forward to putting more numbers on the line for the next Vic race….