I arranged to ride the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo with Chris Cox. His in-laws live in Glenrowan, and they kindly let me stay the night before. They have this amazing view of the Alps from their back door. I woke up at 5:30 am and was fortunate to watch the sun rise. Recently, I had been sick a couple of times over winter, and wasn’t at my strongest. I talked with Chris, and a fair bit of the course is flat and straight. My plan was to coast for the first 10km’s or so before deciding when to push. Saving everything in reserve for the gravel climb. Chris said ok, but I should know better than to trust him…….
Gary Beazley also came down to the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo and there were 3 of us in our Hells 500 kits. The start was a sedate pace, and was only doing about 32 km/h to head off. Chris lasted a couple of k’s before getting bored, and waved me through to the head of the pack. I should have known what was about to happen.
He ripped the field a new a-hole, and started belting out 40 km/h.
I looked over my shoulder, and the Peleton fought desperately to keep on our wheel. Chris waved me through and we took it in turns in smashing out 40+km/h, and it was nice to know that you were up there dishing out the pain. But I knew I wasn’t in shape to keep this up.
About 10 km’s in I started to hit the red, and just aren’t used to riding on flat roads it’s sad to say. Chris was up there having the time of his life. Eventually cracking the field with 4 riders forming a breakaway. I tried to bridge the gap, but was just wasting energy and dropped back. The pace died down to under 30 km/h, and clearly no one could match the pace of the CC machine. I wasn’t happy with the pace, but I was in the hurt locker trying to recover for the climb. Figuring that I had done enough turns at the front at the start. So hid in the field.
I’m a specialist on riding on dirt, and felt really confident about the climb. Benalla-Whitfield Road is 6.3 km’s @ 4%, and on Strava looked like a consistent gradient throughout.
When we hit it, I probably pushed a fraction too fast and never found my rhythm.
I was able to keep a fast tempo, but was always in the red. Having to constantly pace myself to recover throughout the climb. There was about 3 other riders that were keeping pace with me. Normally I would have been able to fly off. I was mega relieved when we got to the top. Going at a snails pace down the descent desperately catching my breath.
After overtaking the 3 other riders that had headed off down the road. I saw the mighty CC rider on the side of the road with a mechanical. It was upsetting as he was in awesome form. Didn’t look like I could help him, and the last thing he wanted was sympathy. So I blurted out a stupid smartarse remark: “don’t give me such an easy carrot to eat!”.
Unfortunately he heard me, and when the CC rider’s blood gets up……
At the base of the descent I joined a group of 4 riders. This turned out to be the leading group. One rider from the Hawthorn Cycling Club was very strong, and did a fair bit of the pace. I wasn’t feeling great but did some strong turns. The other two guys stayed at the front for really short periods, and the pace dropped off. But we figured was best to work as a team. With about 10 km’s to go, I saw a rider speed up to us, and of course I saw the grinning face of Chris. He stuck with us for about 20 seconds. Like a cat toying with a mouse before he gave us the ass and flew off down the road. Guess we weren’t going to come first anymore. The Sam Miranda Gran Fondo was going to be his.
With 5 km’s to go was feeling good. Looking over our shoulder there was a group of about 20 riders that were fast approaching. Me and the Hawthorn dude dropped the others and put the foot down. It would have been a shame to not get there up in the front group. Unfortunately with 3 km’s to go we got swallowed. I tried to recover for the final sprint. Unfortunately I don’t have any racing experience and got boxed out. I tried to sprint, but only managed to come in 6th place. In hindsight I wish I had pulled longer turns at the front. Pushing the pace more and that group may not have caught us. But how would I know that we would be caught. Guess it was a good learning curve.
When I caught to congratulate CC. He was annoyed as hell.
CC was following an event car who took him the wrong way.
He ended up going through the finish line from the wrong way. He still got there first, but given the mechanical, and not having the satisfaction of sprinting over the line he wasn’t too impressed. All up I did far better than I expected on the second half of the course. It was a struggle on most on the flats leading up to the main climb. I learned a lot, and left with a plan to improve the two worse parts of my riding. Descending & riding on flats. Still averaged close to 33 km/h which was really fast for me. Gary Beazley also did really well, smashing PB’s all throughout the course.
A very successful day for the Hells 500 team at the 2014 Sam Miranda Gran Fondo.
- Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
- Here is a link to Chris’s Activity here:
- And Gary Beazley’s here:
How to get there
The event starts in the town of Oxley and is a 250 km drive north-east of Melbourne, and easily accessed from the Hume Freeway. This is a great event to do and can highly recommend it.