Para-Cycling National Champs | Road Race | 78km
Sunday was the big race. This is the one I had been aiming it. I was nervous, and I really wanted to get a result to make my hard work seem worth it. I had a really good sleep the night before, and recovered well from the previous day’s time trial My race wasn't till 11:40, but nerves and habit had me up before 7am to get some food in. After packing the car and heading in we arrived with plenty of time, however in true Melbourne style we had on and off rain and sunshine and a pretty decent wind to contend with. For the race, mens C3, C4 and C5 all started together. It was an honour to be on the start line with a few world champions (luckily they weren't in my category!). The course was a 10 km loop that we would do almost 8 times. It was essentially flat, but with the wind being either cross-head or cross-tail it made for tough racing. The first few laps involved a bit of a ‘feeling out’, with Kyle Bridgewood (C4) and David Nicholas (C3) working together to try and split the bunch a few times. On the 4th lap they succeeded with the C5 guys deciding not to chase and the C3 and C4 guys not having the legs to keep chasing. This settled the ride down but I had other ideas. I attempted to attack the bunch multiple times over the next 3 laps to try and bridge across to Kyle and David, and break the bunch up. However, everyone seemed to want to keep it together and none of the attempts lasted too long. After a bunch of attempts I gave up and decided to sit in the bunch and wait for a sprint. With a 2 laps to go there were 6 left in the bunch (4 in C5 and 2 in C4). Halfway through that second last lap (15k m to go) one of the C4 riders attacked and another C4 rider set off to chase. The C5 riders let them go, which I saw as my chance to hopefully find some guys to work with. I let the gap grow out to over a few hundred meters then hit the C5 guys. I bridged to the first C4 rider and after a brief pause to regain composure I rode past him and went about catching the other guy off the front. I worked hard to chase him, closing him down over the next couple of km. This attack had sparked a reaction from the C5 guys and they were chasing hard and were holding me no more than 200m off the front. I caught the C4 rider out in front and we worked together solidly until a bit after the 5km to go mark when he could not hold the pace any longer. I went off on my own with the bunch breathing down my neck. I had a little argument in my head about whether I should sit up and wait for the bunch sprint or go as deep as I could trying to stay away. After a few kilometers of this argument, and noticing the group edging ever closer Option 1 won out. I sat up and let the bunch catch me with about 2 km to go to the finish. I quickly found a spot in 4th wheel and waited for the sprint. The sprint was opened up quite early by one of the C5 riders and another rider jumped on his wheel with me in third wheel. The rider in front of me started to fade and the gap begun to grow so I had to jump around. I produced my second little kick to come around both the riders and finished in first place in the C5 category. I’m super happy with the result. This is the exact goal I set for myself when I first started thinking about this and I made it happen. Now the dreaming for something bigger begins.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me on my journey to this point, including (but certainly not limited to!) my partner Ingrid, my parents (mum even came down to Melbourne as my Soigneur), the guys at Cycling Projects in Ashfield for keeping me rolling, Chris and everyone at Nero Racing, and everyone else who has encouraged me and helped me get over the hurdles along the way. Without all of you, none of it would be possible.
Thanks as well to Cycling Australia for holding an awesome event, and to the other competitors who made this race great. It’s awesome to see so many people overcoming their personal limitations to pursue the sport they love!