Wollombi Wild Ride
6th Elite - 2hrs:33mins
This weekend it was off to the outskirts of the Hunter Valley for the 5th round of the Cyclenation XCM series - the 75km Wollombi Wild Ride.
Not too much was known about this race, and as we descended deeper into the country side we soon realized we were in the middle of no-where.
We soon found the local pub - which also happened to be the rego center - and got our rego packs.
With the course being a mix of public and private roads, we would not be able to recky the exact course ... it also did not help that a big horse was still in the little paddock adjoining the start/finish area - so we would have to bypass that section!
We road out to the top of the first KOM point - basically 3 moderate climbs and then a loose soiled steep climb. It was all easily ridable but that loose climb would probably be pretty chaotic.
We met up with James Downing and Kylie Webb on the way back down, and this gave Garry some time to explore the run down railway cars in a junk lot. Pretty weird ...
Riding back on the dirt roads, Kylie was half wheeling and I was keeping pace. Slowly the pace picked up and soon enough I am thinking something is going on, as Jase is just hanging onto our wheels and Gaz is already off the back. I ask Kylie if she is trying to drop Gaz, cause he is gone. Turns out she thinks I am half wheeling her and visa versa! She should definately be a Bakery Bunch rider!
The morning of the race was freezing - literally - we watched the car themomoter hover at 0C. With the start sitting in the cold fog, it was clear it was not going to get warm until the sun could poke through.
With just 5 minutes before the start, the sun finally got through and it was a last minute rush for everyone to ditch their jackets, vests and warmers. A big thanks to Mike Blewitt and Kylie Webb for collecting everyone's gear!! I hope you guys find good prices for it all on ebay ... :)
The start was pretty random - as we had to walk over the timing mats. The event was using an old-school timing system with ankle bracelets. It looked like we were all on home detection, with the orange things strapped to our legs.
Heading straight into a big dirt road, the pace was quick but not crazy and a long peleton of riders spread out. At the first little gradient climb out of the winery Blair and AJ launched a little attack, but the group soon was back together. A few more of these little attacks came on the way to the climbs - but with the flat road it was hard for any of these to have an impact.
The climbs broke apart the big peleton, and by the time we got to the top of the loose climb there was a group of around 12 riders. Blair and Trenton had gone off the front on this hill, and that would be the last we saw of them for the day.
The Rockstar riders of Fleming and Glennan set the pace, and a sly Jason English was tucked into the back of the bunch.
It was frustrating to miss a few of the race arrows and have to turn around, losing vaulable momentum and time.
Around the 35-40km mark English started making his way to the front, and on the undulating fireroad he started to apply the pressure. English, Glennan, James Downing and myself started to get a little gap from our group and I thought that we would soon be away - but then we took another wrong turn into a picnic area and this break was lost.
About 10 minutes later, English did the same thing but this time I just could not catch JD's wheel. I was stuck in the no-mans land, just off the back of these three, and maybe 15 secs up on the rest of the group.
Cursing the VO2 sessions I could still feel in my legs from Thursday, I had to fall back to group. This group was still riding at a good pace, but there were only 2 other riders driving it. It was clear this group was not going to catch those in front.
We hit the final 15km of flats, and again there was a general reluctance on the group for anyone to work hard on the front. A sporatic rotating pace line formed, but the pace was definately kept down.
Coming to the final rise before the entry back to transition I was on the front, not the best place to be but I wanted to be in control of the pace. Down the rise and ready for the right hand corner into the field, Shaun Lewis and Matt De Pomeroy attacked up my inside, and Justin Morrin around the outside. I immediatly thought "geez, they have left that too late ... someone won't make that corner" and sure enough, Matt and Shaun were soon sliding across the deck in front of me.
I snuck through on the right, and held Justin off into the finish chute.
So 75km in 2hrs:33mins - the shortest (non clubie) race I have done. Certainly not the best distance and timing for me!
Our group finished 1.5 mins down on JD, 3 mins on English & Glennan, and 6 mins down from winner Andy Blair. So, pretty close racing.
All up, I am happy with that result. Such a short, roadie style race definately does not suit me.
On the gear front, I ran the Enve 29er wheels on my Cannondale Flash. These wheels never dissapoint. They give the confidence to attack any sketchy fireroad descent, and have an amazing ability to hold rolling speed. They are also really strong, I gave them a few good whacks out there but they hold their shape and spokes brilliantly.
Riding a course like this, you would want nothing but a 29er hard tail - so the Flash was the best choice.
As for the Rotorburn million dollar question of "what tires do you run", it was the good old Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskins which did the job. Even through the little sandy pockets on track these tires had enough bite to keep it upright, and on the flats a low enough rolling resistance to keep pace.
Next week it is off to Parkes for the Backyamma 100km - at least this race will be closer to 4 hours of riding!