By Simon Dwyer from the Phoenix Cycling Collective -?Twitter (@phoneixcycle)
We knew just how brutal this course was going to be. Just watching the faces during the support race and then the women?s race was enough to make my legs burn.? Personally that led to mixed emotions for me. I knew exactly how tough this crit was going be but I had found some form again during the morning?s stage (after rolling in close to last up Honeysuckle!).
Our team strategy was pretty simple. Stay safe, survive as long as possible and look after each other as best as we could. As always the first race was for starting position. On a short sharp course like this it was even more important and as soon as the women had rolled across for their finish the blokes were racing through any gap in the barrier they could find.
After a quick race brief from commissaire Bill Walker we were away ? a full on sprint to the top corner, then a big jam as the road narrowed into the first right hander. By that first turn I had lost track of any Phoenix team mates. After one lap the field was strung out over a third of the course. When you are squeezing through a corner at 20km/h and you can see the front end having exited the corner after that and already climbing at 40km/h, you know it?s going to hurt.
I identified a few riders who were a bit stronger than me, but not so strong that they?d disappear up the road on me, and I stuck to them. The tactic was working well for me. My legs were screaming and we were strung out in single file, but pedals kept turning each lap and we remained in touch with the bunch.
Unfortunately a rider came down going through the corner that leads into the uphill straight causing us to brake and a gap of about 50 metres opened up. I tried to push it up the hill and I managed to hold the gap down the other side, but then it was too much. A couple of guys managed to bridge across, but for the rest of us that was the end of our contact. I ended up with a group who were still keen to race though, and found myself riding on the wheels of our two guest riders, Paddy Corcoran and Sam Moorby. We knew we?d get pulled eventually, but with the group willing to work we did manage to stay in the race for a while. I ended up getting pulled after 20 minutes of racing, which might not sound like a lot, but on that course with that field, I was pretty happy.
That gave me plenty of racing to watch and we still had Craig Evers sitting up front and looking in reasonable condition. But in the end, after suffering a migraine through the night and having a solid dig in the morning stage, he wasn?t feeling the passion for the pain and he pulled the pin.
The finish was great to watch with Avanti trying to take the race on, but the h
health.com.au Search2Retain team was superb, not only defending the yellow jersey of Pat Bevin but getting Alistair Donohoe up for the stage win. Special mention has to go to the talented Ayden Toovey (Subaru NSWIS) who shook up the status quo with a daring attack on the final lap, only just getting pipped but still hanging on for third.? This was a tough but rewarding tour for us. We started with Evers smashing out a great ITT in stage 1, but in that same stage we lost two riders to the time cut. Stage 2 was simply a brute, with all the guys riding really well but me suffering and finishing well behind. Stage 3 we missed the main break but worked together really well to try for a long shot with 4km to go. Stage 4 was leg-sapping, rewarding and spectacular.
Finally, I?d like to pay tribute to the locals ? the organisers and officials, the army of volunteers, and the great cheer squads we had on the road.? Once again Mick Fay put on a great tour showcasing the best of our city and its surrounds. We did (now famously) protest the time cuts in stage 1, and though it was rejected, we thank Mick and the commissaries for giving it such thoughtful consideration. The volunteers? Well, we wouldn?t have bike races without them. The roads we raced on were not only challenging for the riders ? they are also pretty epic to marshal. We?re deeply grateful to those who gave their weekend so that we could have such a great race. Finally, the local supporters. The hometown support on this final day was amazing. All round the circuit this morning and at every corner and straight on the crit track this afternoon there were cheers and encouragement. Thanks to you all – it makes a huge difference!