Warny 2011 – War in the cross winds
MB’s Warny report
Well it was another wind swept Melbourne to Warrnambool (does this race ever have pleasant weather?) – suppose that’s part of the fun. That and the fact that a reasonable club rider with enough spare time to train, can race along side some of Australia’s best.
I’m talking the complete experience – closed roads, police escorts, a convoy of team cars, feedstations and the madness of a full size peloton. That might be all in a days work for many racing the Warny but for myself and many others its a novel experience, so allow me to share;
The day started out calm enough with light winds and a humid air – at 17 degrees it was a full 14 degrees warmer than the 5am car packing experience of last year. Things were looking good.
Rolling up to the Werribee race track at 6.30am on schedule (@kellyvantil team car DS had a briefing to attend) it felt like ample time to get ready. But between making final clothing decisions, checking the rig and finding team mates the hour evaporates in a flash. Before you know it, you are lined up alongside 210 others in peak racing form.
So off we set at 7.30am, with the typical nervousness of a big bunch, twitchy from tapering and too many carbs. The race carried on at a modest sort of pace till the first left hand turn, which heralded the first cross wind section. This was pretty early on in the day when the wind was still pretty light (perhaps 20kph) so whilst it strung out, it was nothing too severe. (although apparently at the back this is where the first hand-full of riders started getting shelled)
Rolling along enjoying the experience of a neo-pro peleton
As you can imagine this was just a warm up to the bottle of fury that was to be opened later on. The second turn left into the cross winds was pretty short and uneventful, and I was kept near the front by @wescords who was my designated super domestique for the day. Wes was moving me towards the front during this sector when 3/4 of the way up the peloton I got chopped off by someone who then sat up, so I got to watch Wes roll all the way the front and pull a turn (thinking I was on his wheel!) Anyway it had the desired effect and I was close to the front for the next right hander that took us adjacent to the You Yangs.
Along the You Yangs road, with the national park to our right the bunch contracted again into the now head wind, and sure enough just behind us Wes and I heard the horrible crack and thud of carbon and flesh hitting the deck. It went on for some seconds so we can only assume more than a couple riders got caught up.
Less than 1K later it was on again, with another left turn into an increasing wind. This time the Pro riders legs where a little warmer and the pace got fast (A grade crit fast) weaving forward I kept out of trouble again till the next right hander. Even though a selection had been made with the pace slackening into the head wind, a group of shelled riders where able to catch back on and the numbers swelled.
So again into another headwind section and a crawling pace (like 20 to 25K per hour at times) until, yes you guessed it, another left hand turn. This time I got seriously far forward, sweeping around the right hand side of the traffic island booting into the turn to emerge at the head of the race. This time things didn’t get aggressive very fast, so it was no big effort to roll echelon turns with a few Plan B riders. Soon though, this 280Watt (medium hard) rolling started to get aggressive, like when you and a few mates are out to wreck each other, and soon we were joined by a Search2Retain rider, then a Genysis rider who proclaimed loudly ‘It’s a swarm’ after which time things got nasty fast. I rolled a few more turns helping turn up the pace, which was surely unpleasant down the back, till I overcooked it and decided to drift back. This meant dropping the wheel a couple of times which made the odd swarming Genysis rider a bit angry but hey not everyone can keep peddling at 400Watts indefinitely. Anyway dropping back a little and taking shelter in the top 30 riders made for a relatively comfortable cross wind sector.
After the next right hander it was apparent that latest ‘swarm’ had caused some carnage further back as we appeared to be missing 50 or 60 riders. Looking around and recovering in a diminished group is a good feeling, like the survivor of a some sort of macabre selection, a culling of the weak and unfortunately placed. It’s great to be in the survivors club especially after experiencing the wrong side of an early selection last year. I could see Andrew but not Wes, though luckily Mr Cords made it back on with a smaller bunch after being caught too far back in the latest assault when someone dropped the wheel.
Next up was the first KOM where Zoom Video’s Andrew Clark dropped the chain attempting a simultaneous front cassette, rear cassette gear change (Campy!). Wes stayed with him, helping pace him back, another big tax on Wes’s mojo for the day.
Soon we were at feed station 1, where our team did a ripping job of handing our musettes laden with goodies. One of Zoom Video’s gun ring in riders @MrDanielStrauss from @BikeGalleryMelb missed his bag, and got re-supplied from those in surplus (certainly pays to take on extra, as you don’t know who may have missed out)
From there is was a bit of slow long slog into a head wind, with a few riders (I think three) up the road, no one chased too much and we plodded into the wind. there was plenty of stopping for nature breaks, and here I took my first of two for the day. Not a topic people normally write about but I thought it an interesting experience as when pulling over the side of the road you have the unnerving pleasure of watching the bunch ride off into the distance. (You certainly can’t stop nature breaking soon enough!) Anyway this is where a train of support cars is golden as you can motor pace and hop from car to car, with the last gap being bridged by hopping onto a Search2Retain three man TT outfit returning to the fold. Thanks guys!
The now embattled Wes stopped for a drink not long after my pit stop, only to start his return to the bunch just prior to it turning again to the left (I can only image what went through his head!) luckily it was a short skirt around a town and he safely returned.
So on we spun. Feeling better all the time (I hadn’t made it with the main bunch anywhere near this far last year) I was growing more confidence in seeing the finish. But that’s where the Warny fun times ended
Approaching feed station 2, I overheard some Pro riders saying they where going to hit it at the 160K mark. Keeping an eye on the Garmin showed that this was lining up with Feedstation 2′s location which was worrisome. Sure enough the Genysis boys, who had been feeding from their team car, didn’t slow down for Feedstation 2, instead they put the hammer down. I missed my bag, and slowed down to allow my feeder (Kats) to run it up to me. Throwing it over my shoulder I had to smash it to get back up to the group.
There was barely enough time to stuff food into pocket and holster bottles when we turned left. By now the wind was getting powerful, it was ON and I was way too far back (even half way up the bunch is way too far back when the likes of Genysis and Search2Retain are literally sprinting full pelt out of the corner) – I shouted to Wes as I passed him just after the corner ‘get forward, its on’ then proceeded to smash it for dear life. The bunch was strung out in the gutter and everyone was fighting for survival. The section only lasted about 1K but it did some damage, with plenty of riders still exiting the feedzone and packing pockets, it was a harsh introduction to National Road level cycling tactics. And this was just the prelude,..
The real pain begins: A few more K’s up the road and we hit another left hander, this one opening up to a massive dead flat open plain. Zero trees just wind flattened grass and now RIPPING cross winds. Here is how it unfolded;
Turning into a the decisive left hander (by now turning left was setting off serious alarm bells in ones head)
Just around the corner, that’s me (113) just to the side of Hollywood from Soul Devotion. Note the Total Rush rider and number 94
Everyone starts sprinting for dear life as the race lights up. The Rush rider and 94 collide.
More riders get caught up – luckily here I have dodged the bullet and am up ahead (top right) putting the gas down
ATTACK, computer says pain, straight after this pic I registered the longest sustained 400Watt effort I have ever pulled. I managed to get forward jumping from wheel to wheel, but guys where exploding, gaps were opening, I could see up ahead the race had fractured into several echelons. There would be no more welcoming right hand turn into a headwind for kilometer upon kilometer of open ground. This was WAR!
I was now hanging on in the gutter to a group of fast movers desperately trying to rejoin the third group on the road, and as anyone who has raced in strong cross winds knows, the gutter only carries an illusion of shelter. Finally I cracked, I was being brutalized by too powerful company and facing still 90K or more to ride, I dropped back into no mans land.
In an instant the race had exploded over some distance and it took some time for the next group on the road to catch up. I was still however in elite company with South Australian Sports Institute, Budget Forklifts and other A grade racers (I was entered in C) coming forward in a group of about 20. Wes also was in this group though looked to be pretty cooked having sacrificed himself one too many times earlier in the day. He rolled a turn or two and that was the last I saw of him, till the team car caught up to give me some shelter in the blustering wind crossing the Camperdown Hill. Wes was in the car along with Clarky, their campaigning done for the day (Clarky was at the front hunting sprint points earlier)
This pic appeared on cyclingnews.com – Crossing the Hill past Camperdown in the HURTBOX, my bunch up ahead
So on we rode, the race selected with only the front bunch of 20 or so in contention. The legs still felt great so I rolled turns to the finish, just over-doing it a bit with turns into an increasingly strong and cold headwind, paying with nigly cramps in the last 20K.
Before the end, (and the 4th and final mini feed station) the team car pulled up along side and passed me my rain jacket with some advice ‘ get this on now’. (Thanks Wes!) as sure enough within 10 mins it was raining hard. Cold sideways rain that stings the face. This was the rest of my Warny experience till we rolled into the finish – shy of 8hrs clocked up for the day, 29 mins down on the leaders, 83rd overall.
So what does it feel like to finish the Warny?
First there is this – some sort of shattered…. Then This;
Well I didn’t win C grade (got an 8th) but having out lasted at least 20 A grade riders and 40 odd B grade riders, and making the finish line, it felt bloody awsome! Could not have done it without the team support – Wes you are a gem, Kelly in the team car enduring a sometimes snails pace and Jac, Kats and Fi at the feedstations. You guys ROCK. They should hand every rider a couple of medals, so you can share with your team support – it wouldn’t be possible to make it without their dedication and encouragement. This ones for you guys!
Ready for a lie down. A Great day out for Zoom Video Racing, 2nd, (@MrDanielStrauss) 7th (@Cam_McDonald) and 8th (@mbonthemove) in C Grade, 17th Team overall
And yes we’ll be back! Cheers – Mike
>Finish line photos by Kat lee
>Race Photos (and a comfortable rear end) thanks to Nalini and their awesome custom kit