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Melbourne to Warnambool Reports

Kors's picture

By Kors - Posted on 16 October 2012

As you know Baz Kenyon, Neil Matthews, Simon Davies and I went down last weekend for the Warnie. The transport, accommodation and company were all fantastic. Thanks to my brother for being swanny for the weekend and listening patiently to our lame jokes and complaining.
Never ending sledging, off-colour jokes and Double bed suites with spa's were the order of the day. The race itself was a different matter. Definitely one of the hardest I've done. I was lucky to miss all three crashes but thanks to the mixed talents in the bunch still managed to get ridden off the back one too many times. We did it as prep for Grafton though (who's stupid idea was that !) so it was all good.

The reports I'm getting in are long so I'm going to post them separately for your reading pleasure. First is Barry's, next post will be Simons.

Barry Kenyon's Report:

Guys, this is very rough but that's how I'm feeling so forgive me! Bit of a brain dump from Saturday before my memory fades.

We rolled off from Werribee race course in cool conditions under a grey sky at 7.30am only 262kms away from our destination at Warnambool. The neutral zone lasted 500m which was just long enough for 234 riders to cram themselves into the tightest formation a two lane country road could allow before the flag went down shortly followed by the hammer from the NRS boys up front. I was uncomfortably positioned in the middle trying to stay relaxed and not be the guy that brings half the field down in the first minutes.

A 25kph Sou' Wester meant the wind was coming into our faces from the left for most of the time so sitting to the right of the bunch became prime real estate that proved difficult to hold onto as the bunch ebbed and flowed with riders circulating up the right side and back through the middle like a lung (I could have done with a spare lung by then).

The first few k's were quick, about 45kph but then the speed began to ramp up to approximately 'mental' kph with surging and braking becoming the norm until at the 11km mark on a straight piece of nothing road, the equivalent of a hand grenade went off in the middle of the bunch and easily 50 riders came down after a touch of wheels. I grabbed two very big handfuls of brake and managed to pull up inches short of the carnage only to be catapulted into the mess by riders from behind. I peeled myself off those around me, quickly appraised there was no damage to self or bike and then waited for the road to clear. The imperative was to weave through the bodies and try to bridge the gap to at least 60 guys disappearing up the road which represented the main field and the race.

I busted myself until I couldn't go any further without exploding when I looked around for the first time in 5k's of chasing to see if anybody was there to help. The answer was a pretty categorical yes as there must have been 25 guys on my wheel, the first half dozen being race favorites including the eventual second place getter. I pulled off and let them come through but after 15 or so wheels I couldn't pick up the pace to get on the train and found myself in no-mans land, pushing into a head wind with the gap opening up. I did the only sensible thing (short of not entering the race at all) and sat up until enough guys formed around me to make a bunch of 20 or so. We swapped off and kept the main field and first chase bunches in sight as we approached a series of six, 90 degree left and right handers.

Now you'd have thought that keeping together would be the most important thing to improve our chances of getting back on but for some reason, everyone wanted to accelerate at full noise from every single turn which meant the group started shelling riders on every corner until we were down to a handful before the straight roads returned. Not that smart in my opinion. By now I'd been on the rivet at least a dozen times, blown up once, felt nauseous, my lower back ached, so did my head and we'd covered no more that 25km's.

I've never ridden so fast for so long without any sign of letting up - ever. It was if the race was 62km's long rather than 262km. Dispondant, I did what I could to help the remains of the bunch but was dogged by feeling sorry for myself for having come so far to do this race only to lose touch through a crash. Funny how a few words and a few more riders can turn your attitude around though. I'd spied an obviously experienced Warny rider from the St Kilda club early on who exuded a 'been here/done this' aura. As we started picking up riders along the road this bloke said to me that our bunch would become the biggest of the day as riders fell off the back of the main field which is exactly what happened. He also reckoned the lower grade winners would come out of this bunch too which raised my spirits. We pushed on into the head/cross wind for miles, swapping off, bludging on the back for a few turns, counting heads, picking up riders until we must have numbered over 30 approaching the first feed zone at km 81. We got through the zone without incident and restocked our food and drinks. Another five k's later, we couldn't believe our eyes. Just there, just ahead, on a small climb, the bunch - at least 50 of them. Another few k's later we swallowed up the convoy of 20 cars who politely moved to the side for us and rejoined the race (apart from a dozen up the road in a break).

Then it got scary... again. Well over a hundred riders, tightly packed, moving quickly. I'd been here before and I didn't like the way it turn out last time. Then... bang this time 20 riders down! Again I pulled up sideways and inches short after a full lock up before thump - again a shunt from behind. Only this time much much harder. I got knocked off my feet, separated from my bike and onto fallen riders a little winded and dazed from the shock. This one took ages to untangle from. When I got from beneath the guy on top of me and found my bike, the computer was off, both bottles were gone, my chain was off and the right brake lever was bent inwards. With plenty of swearing but no panic, I regathered my bits, put my chain on and got going. With a tentative gear shift, I was relieved the lever still worked so now it was on the chase... again! I grabbed the wheel of two guys for a while, pushed hard on my own when they blew up and busted a gut when a bloodied Genesys rider came past at warp speed followed by a convoy of cars and motorbikes zig-zagging their way through riders desperately trying to get back to the race. The Genesys rider and I nearly came off on a wet corner into a small country town, we narrowly missed being taken out by a spares car cutting us up and I only just looked up in the nick of time to see we had come up quickly onto a commissaire's car and nearly rode straight up the back of it at 50kph - I missed it by inches. For probably the dozenth time, I was on the limit and stayed there for 10 minutes until unbelievably, we rejoined the field.

Then the drizzle started... and the wind shifts. Like tacking on a yacht, the bunch would periodically duck beneath the boom to form an echelon to the left, then to the right, then the left again. Patchy drizzle turned to a five minute heavy shower as the misery continued - all at 40+kph. The 151km feed zone was always going to be interested in a bunch that size so as we approached the last few kilometres a lot of jockeying for position took place. With about 2km's to the feed at the base of a 100m rise, crash number three took out maybe 15 guys in front of me. Once more, I pulled up just short of crashing into the fallen riders ahead but then heard the unmistakable carnage of a crash behind me. I braced for impact but this time instead of being pummeled, I got a forceful nudge from behind but managed to stay upright for once. It wasn't until later that another rider told me the 'nudge' was the rear wheel of a riderless bike hitting me in the back mid-cartwheel. Stupid sport. All this meant I had to chase on from the base of a hill, starting off in the big ring because my left hand had gone numb from the earlier crash and presumably road vibration meaning I couldn't force the left thumb leaver down.

I got into the feed zone at the very back of the bunch, grabbed my bag and loaded up. Then I noticed I was 100m off the back again because most had guys chose to keep the pace on through the feed and replenish a little later down the road. Another ball busting couple of solo k's at 40'ish kph got me back on the main field, hopefully in time for a rest. This is when the funny buggers started. At km160, the NRS riders decided the bunch was too big and so began a series of relentless accelerations. These weren't little surges, they were full blooded attacks lasting between 15 and 30 seconds followed by a lull down to 28kph, then viciously back to 50+ kph, over and over again. Each acceleration strung the bunch out to twice it's length with a long string of guys in the left hand gutter clambering to hold the wheel. Each ebb, saw the bunch compress into a heaving mass of sweat and swearing. I think I held on for about 10 surges until it was my time to pull out of the line and let the blokes behind me try to stay on. Some did, a lot didn't. As the group ahead continued up the road, the remnants behind slowly formed into a group of about 30 of us over the next sorrowful 10 kilometres.

That was definitely the race gone now but in a mass start race, you never know where you're sitting in your grade, so everyone had something to ride for. We worked out the main group would be heavily populated with A grade riders meaning our group which would probably come in at about 80th position onwards could have some places still up for grabs in the lower grades so the B, C and D graders among us still had something to race for. The 200km sign coincided with a very unwelcome climb up the wall of a volcano into the crater (I'm not making this up) and then out the other side. That was the "Lakes and Craters" district according to the race notes. These were KOM's number seven and eight which were billed as the last two climbs of the day apart from some undulations over the next 60kms. It was time to knuckle down and grind out those last 60k, after all we're nearly there right? Now I'm no mathematician but even I figured out we had at least one and a half hours still to race so nothing to celebrate just yet. Time stood still as we passed the 40k to go sign, the 20k to go sign about a week later and the 10k to go sign a month after that.

Finally, just as time had been standing still we reached the outskirts of Warnambool and the five k to go sign. We knew we'd made reasonable time because all the roads were still closed, the traffic lights all flashing amber and the police escort moto's were grouping up ahead of us. As a final stinger, there was a 200m hump to get over with 2k to go, then a welcome down hill before the 200m uphill finish line. We hit the 200m mark as a bunch of 30'ish,

I held on as late as I could then gave what I had down the left side with 75m to go as the 20 of us who contested the sprint fanned out over three lanes. I came about eighth across the line in our bunch, gasping, spitting, cramping and aching beyond belief, ultimately in 115th position, 10th in C grade and about 26mins behind the winner. Kor Siestma from NSCC and I finished in the same bunch with Simon Davies from Norths about eight minutes ahead. Poor Neil Matthews had to withdraw breaking his seat rail 50k's into the race and continuing a further 100k's before pulling out.

Stupid sport - for stupid people but geez the beers tasted good.

BTW, the attached picture is typical of the day. You'll find me three rows from the back and two guys from the left (next to the eventual runner up as it happens). This was taken after the major regroup of the race at about 90k's.

nikos's picture

That was one good read.
Cheers for taking the time to write it up.

Rick K's picture

fantastic effort guys and thanks for posting the accounts which conveyed the sufferance down to a tee

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