2016 Northern Combine 3 Day Tour

So, one year between blog posts that’s good right? No… * Mental note blog more *

That aside, here is a brief race report of my weekend at the 2016 Northern Combine 3 Day Tour.

In the Lead Up

This year was the fifth consecutive time I had pinned a number on at the 3 day tour, and it has become an event I really look forward to. It is great way to spend the long weekend up in the Macedon region racing bikes with mates, talking bikes with mates, and pretending we are anything but a bunch of battlers.  As soon as was possible, I made sure to get my entry in to secure my spot in the bunch.

As the race weekend approached I was happy with how I had been training, with my only concern being a lack of real “race fitness” after only competing in one road race prior to the tour. Mountain Bike events had taken the priority since the 3 Peaks Challenge in March. With that in mind I decided to not put too much pressure on myself for a result, but secretly hoped a top 5 overall would be achievable.

Roll on to race day! I had managed to do some actual time trial practice in the lead up at a local outdoor velodrome, so I had a rough plan for my pacing strategy and limits. However just before the event, the time trial course was moved due to road works, and increased in length from 5km to 7.5km. No big deal, tweak the pacing plan, and after all aero is everything anyway right? Watch your cadence, watch your heart rate, warmup properly.

Stage 1 Individual Time Trial

Five Four Three Two One Go! Here we go!

Out of the start gate around the right hander, flick in to the left and settle in. I was comfortable early on, watching my heart rate sit bang on 191bpm, legs ticking over the gear well. Look down at my computer, 2.5km down 5 to go, heart rate still 191bpm, wait there should be some movement in that number, check my cadence 90-100 perfect, lower my head, hunch my shoulders. As the time trial went on my heart rate monitor went from static reading to a random number generator (see below). Far from ideal in an event where pacing is critical. I pressed on, however felt myself starting to battle through the middle 2.5km, willing the finish line to appear somewhere in the distance. There it is! I pushed on for the final km, down the hill, wound out the 53×11 in full aero tuck, crossing the line 100% done, happy with my ride, but disappointed with the lull in the middle of the course.

timetrial_max_effort
Heart Rate Monitor fail

Following a light spin back to the accommodation it was time to rest up and prepare for the double header of road races the following day.

IMAG4499_BURST003
Aero is everything

Following the time trial I was 7th on GC, 16 seconds down on the race leader.

Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/605417784

Stage 2 – Newham Lancefield Road Race 

The second stage saw the bunch racing two laps of the Newham-Lancefield circuit. With bonuses available for the first 3 over the climb in Rochford on both laps and also for the top 5 finishers on the stage, it was going to be a hard fast race.

From the start it was on, with the average speed sitting over 43kph to the base of the climb. I tried to ride good position within the bunch, mindful that the climb was not too difficult, and that every sneaky bonus second would help my GC prospects for the rest of the weekend.  As the bunch hit the climb, I rolled my way forward up the right of the lane, managing to hold good solid tempo before attacking just before the road flattened off and turned right at the top of the climb. Two others followed and managed to get over the top of me before the line, though I still netted myself a bonus second. The pace stayed relatively high for the remainder of the lap, and with this stage historically coming down to a bunch sprint, everyone was keen to keep it together, myself included. The second time up the climb I disappointingly found myself following bad wheels, and a long way down the bunch. Resigned to no bonuses this time I battled my way up the group before finding a promising wheel. The speed wound up toward the top and the bunch thinned out allowing me to roll up towards the front of the group, rolling across the line for 3rd again! 2 bonus seconds for the stage, not bad. Now to focus on the finishing sprint. As the bunch surged its way towards the last corner I was sitting in around 6th wheel, hoping that a gap would open up on the left of the road up the final rise to the finish. With a chaotic final corner, a gap never really came, and I managed to roll in with the bunch for 10th place, happy with my race, and mindful of the tough stage to come in the afternoon.

Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/606443244

Stage 3 – Kyneton Pastoria Road Race

Three laps of Kyneton-Pastoria, not long in distance, but I was sure that would mean an increase in the intensity, and I was right. A break got away not too far in to the first lap, however the bunch never really let up until it was apparent that they would take all the KOM bonuses. The second lap, again solid strong pace, also had several break away attempts from some opportunistic riders across the gravel portions of the course, with one managing to succeed. As the group approached the climb of Bald Hill, I rolled my way forward, and subsequently on to the front (whoops!). I rode a solid but comfortable pace up the climb, managing to claw back some ground to the early breakaway riders. At the time I thought I was 4th over the climb, however double checking the results post event, I was given third and another bonus second! KOM points on both stages?! I’m not a climber! #shitcyclistssay

IMAG4553
Just tapping

With some riders up the road I was ready for a hot paced final lap, managing to smash in an espresso flavoured caffeine gel as we rolled through the finish line. It would be a 22km team time trial to bring the break back, except no one was really too keen to take responsibility. The pace was high, then it would slow, all the time tipping the advantage toward the break. Across the gravel for the third and final time, the pace was kept high as the stronger riders tried to flex their muscle and shed some of the passengers before the final climb. We approached the left hander on that signals 10km to go, still the two riders were away, and unsighted by the bunch. Some attacks came, with some of the bigger guys trying to steal an advantage before the final climb, the little guys followed the moves, keeping their collective powder dry ready for the final throwdown up Bald Hill. Again as the bunch approached the climb I found myself further back than planned, having to duck and weave up the climb as people went backwards. Approaching the top of the climb, I was only 4m off the back of the front group of 6, I smashed the chain up on to the big dog, and powered over the top. Chunk chink clunk down in to the 12 tooth, and after what felt like a 2 minute chase (really 10 seconds) I was in the front group, and in the mix for time bonuses at the finish line. The high speed run in to the finish was an absolute blast, everyone trying to keep the gap we had formed over the climb, while keeping their sprint legs primed. With 350m to go I saw my opportunity, and I launched what I hoped would be a Cavendish like sprint, I hit the front, kept low…… then started to get swamped. DOH! I threw at the line for 5th in the group (7th on stage -later corrected to 6th). No time bonus, but some time gaps, and hopefully a slight reshuffle of the GC order before the finale. Another few lessons learnt; 1. train your sprint, and 2. time your sprint (no you cannot outsprint everyone for 350m).

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Always throw to the line

 

After the shakeout of results, I was 6th in GC, 59s back from the race lead, but only 11 from 2nd. A long shot, but doable. Unbeknown at the time, I was also in contention for a podium in the KOM competition.

Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/606540934

.Stage 4 – Metcalf Redesdale Road Race

mornigns
Proper Cold

The final stage, 85km around the Metcalf Redesdale loop in chilly 3degree conditions. The legs felt ok after a good warm up on the trainer. Righto let’s do this! Low winds meant the pace was very fast from the start to the KOM, with the bunch closing down the 3 minute gap the A Grade bunch in front of us. Again, perhaps a reflection on my lack of recent road racing, I was in a bad position in to the KOM, having to surge hard on the first portion if the climb to regain contact with the front 4 who had moved away. As he climb kicked up with 500m to go, several riders surged away, already in the red I was unable to match the acceleration, instead choosing to ride my own pace, and hopefully be able to ride my way back to them at the top. I managed to ride back toward them, netting fourth over the line, no bonus, but it was a boost in the confidence that I was still climbing well, and perhaps would be able to follow a move on the final climb should one happen. The pace was solid along Sutton Grange Rd, with no moves ever really being given any distance. Once the group turned left, a couple of riders were up the road and managed to get a solid gap. The bunch worked intermittently to keep the breakaway in check, however the gap stretched on approach in to the final climb.

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Trying to ride good postion

The anticipated fireworks on the final climb never really came, a small acceleration towards the top, easily followed by the majority, was the only sign of hostility. With such a large group passing the final big test of the race, a cooperative chase was hard to organise, with several passengers along for the ride. At one point, the train got rolling along very well, and it looked as though we were bringing the two solo riders back, however this caused a pause again in the chase, ensuring we were racing for minor time bonuses at best.  Into the sprint I was in second wheel, safe from moves in the right of me (or so I thought) as I was positioned next to the centreline of the road. The rider in front kicked, I followed, biding my time -a lesson learnt from the day before- then as I was ready to launch for the line, I was boxed in by riders coming on my right from the other side of the road, to the left there were riders bumping handle bars, self-preservation took over, opting instead to roll in for bunch time. Another 3 Day Tour completed.

One of the riders up the road was only 10s behind me in GC, leap frogging me (and many others in the process) with the well timed attack, however the group also managed to shed some riders with the tough pace on be stage. In summary, I thought at best I would hold my 6th position on GC.

Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/607707258

Summing Up

When the results became available, my prediction proved true, holding on to 6th overall, just outside of my ideal top 5 result. One surprise on the results sheet was to find myself equal third on KOM competition, relegated to fourth based on GC for tie break purposes. This was something I did not expect, and was certainly a boost in the confidence post-race.

What the race as a whole highlighted to me is my base fitness and strength is quite good at the moment, with the big losses coming mainly from a lack of racing and poor positioning, and perhaps a little bit of top end intensity- also potentially from a lack of racing. It’s given me some focal points to work on for the future, but also a big confidence boost that I am not out of my depth in what was a very strong B grade bunch.

I’m not entirely sure what is up next, possibly by the Cycling Victoria Eildon Time Trial and Road Race in early-July. Stay tuned for another post soon (perhaps less than a year this time!).

Results Summary:

Stage 1 7th

Stage 2 10th

Stage 3 6th

Stage 4 11th

GC Overall 6th

KOM Competition 4th

See the full results here: http://www.3daytour.org/results.html

 

Robbies Race Ratings

Conditions: 4/5 It was cold, but there was little wind, there was some sun, and there was no rain! Not bad for a winter road race at all.

Performance: 4/5 Happy with legs, let down by poor positioning on climbs, and ill timed sprints. More racing required!

Event Organisation: 4/5 As I said last year, for an event that survives on passionate volunteer efforts alone, it is really hard to fault. Thanks for your time and dedication!

Overall Satisfaction: 4.5/5 I’m overall very happy with how my weekend went. Sure you can always improve, but what a fun 3 days of bike action!

 

Until next time, Happy Pedalling!

Follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/131141

See what I’m up to on Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/robbieridesbikes/

 

 

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