Category Archives: Northern Combine
Ritchard Longmire is having a terrific road season and he has generously provided his race report of the John Sewell Handicap. Ritch won the 2011 version of this race and he wasn’t quite sure what mark he would get after winning the B grade SKCC Trophy Race a fortnight ago. As it panned out, Ritch was off 5mins in a very strong group which the book makers had penciled in as the early favourites.
Thanks again to Ritch for contributing the following race report and to Jo Upton for the photos.
Cold but sunny and light winds at Woodend for the John Sewell Memorial Handicap, hosted by Brunswick CC. Over 120 riders in 11 groups with Limit @ 24min with three laps of the 25km Carlsruhe West course ahead of them. Chief Commissaire, Cam McFarlane ran the race the way the late John Sewell would have run it to ensure safty for all and respect for the locals. See Cam’s detailed write up of the race from his perspective which includes the reasoning for the number of disqualifications.
The 5 min group comprised 13 riders: Anthony Fewster (SKCC), Nick Smith (Sunbury), Rick Horvat (SKCC), David Baker (HCC), Adam Versteege (CCCC), Julien Fleurus (HCC), Heath Jackson (SKCC), Ritch Longmire (SKCC), Paul Aulakh (SKCC), Adam Katsonis (Coburg), Simon Macaulay (Coburg), Lynton Zawadzki (SKCC) and Sean Roberts (SKCC). We set out at a solid pace and soon settled into a good rhythm with plenty of communication in the group to keep it together. Wind was cross-tailwind for the first part of the lap, head/cross for the second half.
At the end of the first lap, we had taken 8 minutes away from the front of the race and were still riding smoothly, picking up random riders from middle marker groups and keeping all of our riders working. Our pacing was pretty good as our second lap was marginally quicker and took a further 6 minutes with one lap remaining. 25km to make up about 5 minutes and the group was still working well with a handful of riders starting to drop off after giving it everything earlier.
We picked up a couple of riders from (probably) the 7 min group that were willing and able to contribute to the effort and helped us keep the pace high. As we rounded the turn onto the highway with 11km to go, we could see the front of the race a short distance ahead and close the gap to under half a minute with 5km to go.
The final railway crossing intervened in the race as a goods train held up the front bunch and enabled our group to complete the catch, freewheeling to join the front of the race with 4km to go. The group now comprised all of the front and middle markers as well as the 5 min group for a bunch of around 80 riders jostling for position inside the last 3km. As expected, the pace slowed and the expectations for bunch sprint increased.
The finish line was about 1500m after the final turn onto Cheveley Rd and was flat with virtually a block tailwind. The group wound up and I found myself crossing the finish in 3rd behind 69 (Iain Clark?) and Steve Duggan (Brunswick), the former timing his run to the line perfectly as Duggan just faded late from a long sprint. Fellow 5 min riders, David Baker (HCC) and Nick Smith (Sunbury) followed closely over the line. As expected, Charter Mason Drapac Porsche rider Shannon Johnson took out Fastest Time for the day, while Abby Grave (Coburg) won the prize for First Unplaced Female.
I was happy that our 5 min group had rode well together to stay away from 3 min and Scratch, although we learned later that Scratch had been held up by a train on lap one. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure rolling turns with such a smooth group. It was an additional and unexpected result for me as Clark and Duggan were DQ’d along with around 30 riders for crossing double white lines at various points around the course and so I ended up with the win by default. Baker was another DQ’d so Nick Smith ended up with a very well deserved 2nd, Baker unfortunate to lose out for his strong contribution in the group. All in all, another terrific result for @Becozcycling!
Although the train crossings influenced the final order, the groups would have arrived within moments of each other in any case, so it was a great job by the handicapper. Thanks to the volunteers and marshalls once again for devoting their time and energy to running the NC winter road series.
St Kilda Trophy race is one of the most popular & hotly contested races within the Northern Combine winter program. The Lancefield course is considered to be sprinters race, however, I recall it having some testing rises along Dons Rd and a few bumps through Rochford.
The SKCC boys and girls get right behind this race and are keen to sweep each grade and bring home the booty.
Nicole Whitburn was the winner of the womens A Grade race, Nonie Carr (Brunswick) the B Grade winner and Hawthorn rider Bridgett Slocum was first home in C Grade.
Liz Hall’s Women@HCC wrap (5.5Mb) has reports and photos from all the 3 races.
Kos Samraus (Coburg) was in a two man break which lasted 87km. Nathan Elliot (Brunswick) & Peter English (SKCC) managed to bridge across to the break late in the race to steel the win with Stuart Hill (SKCC) 3rd and Kos in 4th.
Ritch promised and he has delivered. Here is his report from the B Grade race:
B grade rolled out on lap 1 with a dangerous looking move of about 8 riders causing a little split that needed closing, but things settled down quickly as Andrew McGrath (HCC) attacked solo. The bunch was happy to let him go and so it went for the next 50 or so km, McGrath was up to a minute and a half up the road as a BG rider rode a lot of tempo on the front with few helpers.
We made the catch most of the way around lap 2 as the counterattacks started. I joined one just before Rochford KOM but it went nowhere and then saw Andrew Heraud (O’Mara Cycles) hammer across the top. Shortly after, a mad chase of a number of riders took about 5km to catch the flying Heraud. He was brought back and the front group continued to keep the pace high onto Three Chains Road.
Finally they slowed down and I rolled through to second wheel, looked back to see Michael Read (Preston CC) moving up. Sure enough, he lit the touch paper so I jumped on and we rode away from the uninterested bunch. We got away a fair distance but were caught by Heraud and Ryan Nyberg (HCC) on Don Rd as we came into Newham. Read was dropped on the steep pinch out of Newham, which left the three of us to roll track turns to the end.
Nyberg attacked us at Rochford KOM, but we caught him by the top. No time for messing around as the bunch was closing after the descent towards the finish, Nyberg attacked again but was unable to escape, while Heraud burned his last match as we turned into the finishing straight. Nyberg was able to close the gap and it was straight forward sprint from 300m. We just held off a fast finishing Rick Horvat at the front of what was left of the main field.
Thanks very much to all the volunteers organising and marshalling, was great fun!
C Grade by Jaegar Renn-Jones
A big thanks to Jaegar for providing the following report:
On Saturday I raced the St Kilda Trophy as my first foray into C-Grade club racing. After a good result in Hell of the West the handicapper saw fit to promote me, along with half a dozen others, to C grade. I suspect the main reason I got the nod was just the lack of an E grade race – hence the redistribution of riders – but I wasn’t about to look a gift-horse in the mouth.
In the week leading into the race, assuming that I was racing D, I’d planned to ride quite aggressively and try to force a split early in the second lap. I’ve raced that circuit three times and I’ve always felt that the pinch into Dons Rd is the perfect place to attack on a final lap. It is just steep enough that a 5-second jump can force a gap, then the sustained but gentle incline for the next 500 metres or so is enough put some distance into the bunch. Following that you have 14kms of undulating terrain to hold the bunch out.
But I wasn’t racing D anymore. So my strategy switched completely. Instead of being that person who rides aggressively, I set out to be the biggest wheel-sucker in the race, and watch the stronger riders to see if anyone attempted anything interesting.
Once we rolled out onto Three Chains Rd the pre-race nerves settled somewhat. I started out mid bunch, but I had no intention of burning any energy trying to maintain my place in the bunch. Because it was relatively small – around 25-30 riders – I felt that sitting on the back was not a huge risk. The other thing that made me confident in this strategy was that the course, with its gentle bends and limited corners, does not encourage dramatic changes in pace. In a crit it is a lot hard to sit on the back than in the front third of the bunch, but in a race like this there really is no difference being on the back other than that you sacrifice the possibility of joining a break.
So as people jostled for position in the bunch I drifted backwards over the course of the first lap until I was right on the back. Whenever people started to drop a wheel I could easily roll around them so I was happy.
Obviously being on the back I wasn’t in a position to watch the breakaway attempts closely, but from what I could see no one managed to create any kind of gap in the first lap.
The race continued in that way, with me sitting on the back, until we hit Dons rd for the second time. As I mentioned above, I expected that someone would attack at that point. But nothing happened. There was a slight change in pace but really no one seemed interested in attacking hard. It seemed that everyone with eyes on the prize was betting on either creating the split over the Rochford hill, or hanging on and winning a bunch kick. And that is how it turned out.
As we hit the Rochford hill, I was carefully stationed in my position toward the back of the bunch. For someone who is carrying a bit more weight than I should be, this was precisely the wrong place to be, but I justified it because, entering the race as the least-credentialed competitor, I never expected to be in contention anyway.
As we started to roll up hill though, I noticed that a lot of the other riders were drifting back. So I rode a little harder. The bunch was scattered by that point with a group of about eight riders moving 50 meters or so ahead of me and the other stragglers. As I rode harder I could see that I was beginning to bridge the gap, so I kept the tempo up until with a hundred metres to the top I came up to the back of the girls’ bunch. As I rode around them, with other riders trying to get past too, I had to get a bit vocal and yelled at my mate Drew to get out of the way. He politely obliged and I finally bridged to the front group as we crested the hill. Perfect.
I felt ok at this point and could have sat in at a faster pace, but I knew from my experience riding with the Friday bunch in Williamstown that at this pace it only takes one turn of missed-placed confidence to end my day. So I sat in some more.
If someone at the front had started directing us and got us into an echelon I suspect we could have held the bridging group until the sprint, but that didn’t happen. By the bottom of the descent, the bigger guys had caught us. When that happened I thought that we’d get swarmed, crit-style, and I’d be completely out of position. But everyone must have been shattered because when those half a dozen more bridged the gap no one came around me.
The next thing that was on my mind was holding the wheel into McMasters Ln. When I raced three-day tour last year, in the exact same stage I had needed to bridge to the leaders on the descent from Rochford, only to be dropped in the sprint because I missed the jump as we entered McMasters Ln.
As we turned the corner the pace seemed to drop a little – the garmin later told me we took the corner at about 40km/hr – but I managed to stay on as we straightened up into the last 500m.
So here I was, with about a dozen riders, contesting the sprint. Excellent. It is a narrow little lane and I didn’t expect to be able to come around anyone, but I was getting a nice lead-out anyway. In that last 500m we averaged 56km/hr, but I never actually had to put out any spike in power because I would have just run straight into the wheel in front of me.
In the final 50m Preben Kohler powered us on the front. Preben raced strongly all day, attempting a break late in the piece and spending a lot of time on the front earlier too. I can’t say I knew exactly what was happening on the front in that chaotic finish, but as it unfolded a couple of guys in front of me started to slow up, and I saw some gaps opening on the right-side of the road.
So I drifted right while trying not to do a Ferrari, and coming up to the line executed probably the most uncoordinated bike throw of the day. I threw the bike a second too early but on the line I felt I’d edged two guys who had been in front of me, and thought I had 5th or 6th place. Ahead of me Preben had managed to ride like a monster and hang on for the win, and his team mate Ash Abdou grabbed a clear second place.
As we slowed up after the sprint I had a quick word to Liam Hood, who said he also thought he and I were 5th/6th with the order uncertain. I thought I might have been disqualified for going very far right as I crossed the line, but other than that I was extremely happy with the outcome.
Until my perception collided with reality. On attempting to claim my place – “fifth or sixth” I told them “I’m not sure which” – the commissaire Lisa said that neither she, nor any of the other finish-line judges, had me in the top six. So that was the end of it.
Although I was disappointed, I consoled myself in the fact that I didn’t even remotely deserve a place, since all the other riders I contested the sprint with had done significant work on the front throughout the race.
No actual report, however Jaegar was able to clear up the “Who is Curly Black?” mystery that Lachlan Harrison-Smith raised in his Hell of the West race report. Curly Black is actually Brunswick rider Jarrod Peck and from all accounts he has a quick sprint which helped him win the D Grade race.
Lachlan Harrison-Smith was one of the HCC members saddling up to tackle the Hell of The West which incorporates the savage 20% climb up Mt Wallace. Here is his report from the D grade race where he just missed that decisive break, turned himself inside out and came away with a hat full of learnings. Great report Lachlan and good luck in your next race.
Here is a shot of the young man as he is saying his prayers before he takes on the demons from hell.
I’m not sure I can live up to Fuzzy Dave’s gripping race report from last year but I think it falls on me to provide the group with a summary of the racing from Saturday’s Hell of the West out at Balliang.
This is particularly true as there were only about 4 Hawthorn riders who managed to put in their entries in the 5 minute window before they closed (the notable absentees being certain Boomchikas who may have still been curled up in the foetal position after Baw Baw the week before).
Anyway, here is my race report of my second attempt at the Hell of the West (and my third road race):
I arrived nice and early on Saturday morning, having iphone-GPS’ed my way through the fog-covered paddocks west of Werribee to find myself at the Balliang memorial hall well before entries opened at 9am.
The advantages of my early arrival were twofold:
1. I was able to have a nice warm-up and stretch along the finishing 5km of the course (noting the splendid ’20 dead foxes hung up on a fence’ exhibit about 2km from the line); and
2. I avoided repeating my mistake from the Buller road race a month prior, where I was still utilising the public amenities as the race started and forced to chase on to the peleton through the backstreets of Mansfield.
The race itself started as it had last year – with the entire field conscious of ‘that hill’ and not wanting to exert any more energy than strictly necessary at this early stage. The result was that everyone in D grade attempted to find a wheel to sit on at 32km/h, so the field was stretched out in single file at the front, with me stubbornly heading a second column of riders from about 8th wheel onwards. And so we rolled on until the traditional ‘early break’, which I duly chased down for the peleton. I will call this “first burnt match”. Just testing out the legs.
I had thought about the tactics required to do well on this course and had concluded that I, too, should play it safe until Mount Wallace (about half way round the 65km course in D grade). So it was a bit of a surprise to me to find myself chasing and joining in another early break away a few kms later (we will call this “second burnt match”), with no real prospect of success.
Around the 90 degree corner it was on again, and having enjoyed the sensation of going fast and being in a break a few more of us tried to put the pressure on and stretch out the peleton a bit.
A few kms down the road, a strong solo rider in a black top and with curly hair rode away from the bunch (we will call him Curly Black). Shortly after that I was off attacking again, chasing down Curly Black with a few others in an effort to make it to Mount Wallace first (we will call this “third, fourth, fifth and sixth burnt matches”). We held off the bunch (which had been well and truly broken up by now) for a while but the real result was that I was hurting big time by the time we neared Mount Wallace, and slipped down through to the back of the pack to catch my breath. Ouch.
So I had totally trashed my race plan and my fresh legs, and we were up to the hardest part of the race. I worked my way back up through the pack on the hill, passing most of the pack again up the 1km section with an average gradient of ‘ridiculously steep %’. Cresting the top of the hill amongst the leaders, we formed up and took off across the ridge. Mostly St Kilda riders, a couple of strong women but no familiar faces, it was just holding on at this stage as I tried to recover from the max effort of the hill climb while not dropping off the group.
Curly Black, meanwhile, was way out in front somewhere with another rider. We weren’t sure where he’d gone, but I think at that stage he was still leading.
Anyway, I knew at this time that if I could stay with this group I would have a chance of snatching the choccies but alas, in a moment of weakness I dropped the wheel and exploded, burning all my remaining matches – it was simply too much time in the red zone. I caught my breath and rode pursuit style at a good pace trying to catch back on, but I was useless against a bunch of 7 rolling turns ahead of me, so eventually they slipped out of sight.
I had recovered by now so put on the afterburners, and this is my preferred style of riding so it took a while for me to be caught by 3 chasing riders. We worked track turns and put on a fast pace to try to catch the group in front, but didn’t get close enough to catch them. We dropped one rider and caught another from the group ahead, and almost caught another as we came up to the finish but the real race had been in the group of 7 up ahead of us. Deep down I knew that if I had been fresh enough to hold that wheel and stay in that chase group the day could have been quite different, so I slunk home in about 12th place in my little group of 4.
As for Curly Black and his accomplice? Well turns out that his mighty legs and lungs were no use for the smarts of the chasing group behind him, as there was no sign of him at the finish line when we got there. Maybe he took a wrong turn at an unmarshalled corner? Again the lesson to everyone is to KNOW THE COURSE. He will be kicking himself once he makes his way back to Balliang (he’s probably still riding out there now looking for the corner marshall).
The conclusion for me? Well, I started the day as one rower/cyclist in a bunch of strangers but was shaking hands and smiling with my finishing group at the end like we were old mates. Turns out it’s 100% true that you only have so much energy to use in a race – and I could definitely have raced a lot (LOT) smarter, but blooming heck it was fun while it lasted.
So the big question is, who is this Curly Black?
Going through Rod & Jo Upton’s photos it was good to see Paul Ambry and Laurie Lovelock flying the HCC colours.
Shane Miller’s A Grade report about his 2nd consecutive win of this race is a compulsory read.
Ritchard Longmire & Wes Cordingly collaborated unknowingly to produce the following report. Thanks heaps guys and congratulations on your great race.
The John Sewell Handicap, held at Balliang was greeted with sunshine and a nice breeze that would work to the advantage of the stronger groups.
The handicap consisted of three laps of 25km circuit. The circuit was pretty much flat apart from two short climbs, the second of which being about 500m @ 7%. The highlight of the course though was a 3km gravel road which was into a stiff northerly. Some 70 riders were split into 8 groups with limit being given a 24 minute start on scratch.
I had heard and read plenty about the Northern Combine 3 Day tour and it was on my list to do last year, however registrations closed early due to rider limits having been reached. Registrations closed early again this year, however his time I managed to get my entry in to secure my spot in B Grade.
The B grade start list was quite a mix & it felt like we were racing the SKCC championships as they represented almost half of the field. Add to this quite a few Brunswick & Coburg riders wearing red and blue of the TopGear team. Kosdown & Becoz were also well represented. James Dunn and Peter Wilkie from Canard and a couple of good EVCC riders Stef Kirsch, Simon Bone & Damian Burke dropping back from A grade could make things interesting. So not sure what tactics were going to be at play, what aliases needed to be made & who you could you trust.
See the race program for the descriptions of the 4 stages raced over 3 days.