So it was on a sultry Sydney Saturday where this tale begins, when Anthony Shippard (Specialised Rider) waltzed into the shop with a box of health food. You might otherwise know them by the name of Crispy Creme.
"Shall I put these with the other health food?" Anthony asked, referring to the huge pile of pizza awaiting to be eagerly devoured by hungry staff for lunch.
Mmmm I wonder if working in a bike shop is going to impact on my lean physique...time will tell. I resisted the donuts until "Shippo"caved in so I thought I could probably get away with it as well.
The shop was going ballistic just before closing time and consequently the rendezvous with my racing partner Phil Welch was slightly delayed, but it was no problem for Phil and it was great to pack up the Santa Fe and head for the hills so to speak. The drive to Orange is pretty long and you have to be constantly watching your speed lest you get snapped by a network of highway patrol and speed cameras, but the scenery is breath taking and we were lucky to time our journey and witness a gorgeous setting sun illuminating the golden sandstone walls of the Grose Valley.
We made a quick stop for food in Bathurst, yep you guessed it pizza again (Lewy's on George St - can recommend!), and then onto Orange. Phil had sorted the accommodation at the Occidental and we went for a quick stroll to collect cereal for breakfast, much to the entertainment of some local gals cruising the main drag who clearly took our skinny shaven legs as a sign of youth, poor misguided Gen Y's!
So to the race, and Phil and I were feeling quietly confident. We knew Benny had been doing some not so secret training, Mark is always a tough competitor and we knew the #fortyplusfrothers of Troy and Matt could certainly ride fast but could they sustain it for the full 7 hours?
|Shredding through the forest on my time machine, the Giant 29er Anthem - Thanks Dave Bateman for this top shot|
Well without prolonging the suspense too much, the answer was yes! Phil again designated me to take the start lap and from the gun I felt pretty good. Mark beat me into the single track by a few wheels, but that was where he stayed and I kept him in sight for the whole lap. Normally I'd be expecting to hold a little buffer after the first lap, but not to today and I knew straight away this was going to be a even tougher race than usual. It looked like our competition would be taking no prisoners and by half way through the race, we'd given them around 5 minutes. Our one remaining hope was that they had gone out too hard and I was still lapping at a reasonable pace, so I asked Phil to stake me a double and if there were any signs of them cracking perhaps I could stem the bleeding, but it was to no avail and all we could do was settle for 3rd as the real battle continued up the track for 1st and 2nd.
|7 hr Master Pairs series podium - L-R Troy Matt Ben Mark Mike Phil|
Once the realisation set in that we couldn't win, it was good to ease off the pace a fraction and settle into some not so fast laps. We'd also learned that our no show at Awaba would be counted in the series tally so that lowered the expectation and I was quite happy to settle for 3rd on the day and 3rd in the series.
The biggest congrats certainly goes to Benny who has done some serious training and basically was the quickest masters rider on the day. Also congrats to my good mate from TORC Brad Tillack who has been chipping away at this series for a couple of years now and finally cracked his first win in Super Masters, what a great effort!
|Brad and I at the rider briefing - Thanks Phil Welch for this pic|
Cycling is an obsessive sport, anyone reading this who is related to a cyclist can attest to that. The pursuit of better fitness and sharper skills is like a carrot dangling in front that you never quite reach. The goal for Phil and I at the beginning of the year was a series win, and whilst that didn't quite pan out, we've had a great time riding, keeping fit and healthy and making some great friends. It's always worth remembering that cycling should be fun first, and also that there is more to life than riding fast.
A few thanks I have to make. Firstly Chocolate Foot's Joe and Fi for putting on an awesome series and setting up these races in all the best locations. Also to the sponsors and clubs for their support without whom none of these events would happen. I have a number of clans now that I count myself lucky to ride with like TORC, Easy Riders and Quantum. And now Pete and the gang at Cyclery Northside thanks for giving me a go. I am loving working with you guys and genuinely excited where this could lead "down the track"