By Craig Evers – @Craig_Evers It was exciting to know I?d get to ride the 2014 Tour of Gippsland after having troubles earlier this year. My training was interrupted during Summer and Autumn, as I was on and off the bike with surgeries and other bike related issues, so being able to get in the amount of racing I?ve achieved in in 2014 has made me feel on top of the world. In the middle of the 2014 NRS season, I transferred to the Canberra based team Phoenix Cycling Collective, who have been extremely supportive of both myself, other riders in the team and helping the cycling scene within the ACT. Phoenix is still a new team, so all of its riders are experiencing their first real NRS season as a team. They have been so nice to take me in and help the guys find their feet. Stage One: Warragul to Warragul Road Race The Stage One Warragul to Warragul Road Race kicked off with nervous riders as usual and some hitting the deck early, keeping the SRAM neutral support busy and the paramedics alert. The stage was definitely hillier than I anticipated but nothing that had me struggling. We had two riders (Sam and Simon) caught out with one of the crashes on Stage 1, giving our Giro helmets and gloves a good test out. Simon and Sam had to be motor paced due to this crash to get back in touch with Grupetto. From what I understood from our DS Angus Bell, he had an intense time pacing the boys over the lumpy course while battling nervousness from keeping the boys in contact behind the car. Stage 2: Leongatha to Yinnar Road Race Angus suggested the Most Aggressive Jersey was something I would have free range for ?if it happened? during the Stage 2 Leongatha to Yinnar Road Race, so I took that as a ?go get it for me?. I did just that, attacking 27kms into the Stage and ending up alone for 10kms holding an unseen gap going into the first KOM, being caught just before the top. I joined onto a group over the top and followed numerous moves, everyone was keen to go for a break but it just wasn?t sticking. I attacked from the front, still not shaking anyone, and kicked a second time to have my wheel gapped slightly so I drove it even more to tear open the gap further. The break of the day was now formed with another 6 riders joining me, and the team plan to take Nathan Booth with me worked wonders when I saw him next to me smiling and pulling turns. The plan paid off even more when Nathan managed to take third place on the second KOM, a fantastic result for Phoenix and with both Nath and I on Avanti SL frames shows that this is a bike that can do it all. After the break was caught by the peloton with not many kms left to race, I gave some teachers a scare riding off the road toward them through mud and grass to high five the school kids and return to the beaten track. It was great to have so much enthusiasm and support from the local schools throughout the entire tour ? it was definitely a huge highlight for the week. Stage 3 Sale Criterium & Sale to Port Albert Road Race I was pretty proud to be called to the front of the start line with the other jersey wearers before kicking off the fast Midstate CreditCollect Sale Criterium around the famous Water Tower. We all managed to get through the Crit and start the Stage 4 Road Race feeling good. The Road Race started tame and I helped out the team by helping Dave, Simon, Sam and Nathan move up in the peloton. The team plan was to support Nathan and help him grab some more KOM points, but the climb caused many groups to form over the top, with Phoenix ending up being in the second group on the road. We all finished ok with our group putting it in the gutter on the fast run in to Port Albert ? Gippsland?s oldest Port. Stage 5: Paynesville to Metung Road Race The next day was short but possibly the hardest stage of the Tour, due to the steep pinches of the KOMs and the insane pace they were being ridden at. I managed to find Dave after the first KOM, who got me to the front on the descent, nailing it down on our Schwalbe One tyres to get alongside the Budget train. I tried to make a break, and it looked like it would stick, but we were caught pretty quickly by the chasing peloton. After that, my race was going well until the final kilometre where a crash took place just next to me, I was able to avoid it by riding down a side street ? I definitely was counting myself lucky to have stayed out of it. David Parker got himself up for a 24th on the stage which made him very happy. Stage 6: Midstate Creditcollect Traralgon Criterium I met my first ever Phoenix fan before the final Stage, a young kid who just loved that there was cycling in his town, his enthusiasm for cycling blew me away. I hope that the team get to sign him when he gets a bit older! The final crit was one of the harder ones I?ve done and attacking twice didn?t make it easier. I was gasping for breath, and felt like I sucking life through a straw. Our guest rider Sam experienced a small crash but everyone ultimately finished the Tour and came out with plenty of form to take into the Vie13 National Capital Tour. We got through the tour with no mechanical issues due to fantastic support and bike maintenance from Ride?365 in Canberra. After the final stage, the team had a chat with the local Highway Patrol, who let us sit on their bikes! We want to thank the Tour Organisers, Highway Patrol, St Johns Ambulance Service, as well as all the other local organisations and individuals that helped make this Tour such a fantastic event. The guys raced fantastically all tour, and have already come leaps and bounds since the Tour of Murray River, and are always happy to help each other. I really enjoyed the tour with the guys and a special thanks and mention to them: Nathan Booth, David Parker, Sam Moorby and Simon Dywer, also our DS Angus Bell and helper Michael Thomas and Simon?s partner in crime Lyndsey. I?d also like to shout out to Team Manager Andrew McCosker and Communications Director Michelle Balaz organising things back home in Canberra.