What a great event! Really well organised and riding on the closed roads in race conditions was awesome. Having extra room to negotiate the hubbards was a huge benefit...still, one almost ruined my day.
Rolled out with OC Carey in the first group of somewhere around 1000 riders. Went up the first pinch and never saw him again - sorry Ollie. Got about 2.5km in and on the first proper climb and two people in front of me ran into each other and fell. I made the decision there to go hard until Jindabyne to try and leave the mess behind me. This worked pretty well and I would have been into Jindabyne in the first 150 or so riders.
East Jindabyne climb wasn't bad, and myself and another guy kept picking up stragglers who fell off the fast group at the front. About 23km in, the car at the front of the second start group cruised up and said a fast group was coming through. I probably started 8 and a half minutes in front of them so was thinking I was going hopeless, even though I had passed maybe 6 or 700 people.
As they arrived I felt a little better - it was full of NRS teams and elite riders like POC Racing, Alex Naz, Jake Kaufman, Amanda Spratt etc- even some Pro-Conti guys from Merida Racing including my mate Darcy Ellerm-Norton, that some of you would have seen doing insane attackks off the front on the Heffron videos. Luckily for me Darcy yells out "Hey Terry, c'mon mate, jump on". I jump on with these guys for the tow of my life! Next 50km averaged something like 43km/hr and there were some sections I was massively in the box as the different groups at the front made attacks.
This group was about 25 riders when I got on, and by the time we got to Berridale it had caught all from the first wave to leave except about 50 riders and was about 250 riders strong and covered about 500m. What a riot! Cool thing was I never saw one close call, even with all those riders.
Berridale was where I made my biggest mistake. I stopped for a nature break. Actually, about 50 people did but unfortunately mine took a lot longer than those younger guys and they all rode off with out me!
I managed to pair up with a guy in a Rapha jersey and he and I took 90 second turns for the next 25km until the feed station at the bottom of the Col de Beloka climb, picking up riders as they were spat out the back of the massive peloton.
He and I were heading straight through when a guy on the wrong side of the road decided at the last minute he wanted to stop and turned straight into both of us from the wrong lane (they had lane dividers at least 100m before all the feed stations to avoid this). I managed to stay up by unclipping and kind of falling to the side on my right leg while my riding mate went down, as did the King of the Hubbards. I honesty don't know how i didn't hit the deck (more luck than skill) but I twisted my knee and it was really hurting.
I kept going and in about a km or so was the start of the Beloka climb. I caught two guys just as we rounded a bend to see the first ramp and one of the guys goes "oh F&*k". That just about says it all. For climbs I have gradient and power displayed on my Garmin. When i saw the gradient touched 23% midway up the ramp I actually changed pages lol. I didn't want to see it. Averaged something like 13% for the whole climb I think, which doesn't seem like much but the first km was about 18%, then there was a rest of about 9-11% for a km and a half, then a final ramp at 15% or so to get to the top. Even when I went through in the first few hundred riders there were some people walking. Later on it was reported about 60% walkers to 40% riders or even more.
That was the hardest climb i've ever done. I've done steeper, but for shorter durations and not after a 100km smashfest to get to the bottom. If you just rolled out there and came across it at the start of a ride, would be a bit different i think. Still hard, but not a killer like it was. When I got to the top not only was my knee extremely sore but I was getting shooting pain into my right foot through my calf as well. I stopped to fill my bidons and had a chat with myself. I could either stop or HTFU and keep going but just reduce my effort to ease the pain as when I was really trying to push the pedals the pain was at its worst.
Obviously, HTFU won the day and off I went. The good news was there was quite a bit of downhill before the climb up Barry Way into Jindabyne, the bad news was a block headwind of 30-40km/hr.
Managed to get in a little group with one of the girls NRS teams and pulled some turns with them which helped a lot. Had a close call with a mummy deer and her baby. Mum came bounding across the road in front of me on a downhill which called for the small of burning break pads. Missed her by about 10m but the baby fell over the fence mum jumper over easily then ran straight at me. Luckily I'd bled off enough speed to stop and it missed me by a good 3 metres. Someone else was not so lucky, there were reports that at least one rider got taken out by a deer on the road.
Got through the climb up to Jindbyne into the wind with the help of around 1000 people on the side of the road yelling encouragement and ringing cow bells. That was one of the things that was amazing and something I didn't expect. There were people on the side of the road everywhere, from the little towns to farm gates. It was amazing and really uplifting to have people cheering you on.
Started the climb up to Perisher. 23km at about 7% and it had started to get hot. Was 33c when the climb started. Froomey still hadn't caught me so I was going ok! I started about 19 minutes in front of him - the 50km in the fast peloton certain helped me keep a gap but it was inevitable!
About 5km into the climb a course car comes by which was really unusual, then there he was. Looked to be doing it easy while I'm hurting! I though I was going ok up the climb, kept passing people at a steady rate and only a couple of riders passed me which I was pretty pleased about as it hurt my knee and foot when i really pushed. At the point he went past I was doing about 15km/hr on a 6% grade and he would have been doing 30km/hr lol. Not sure if he was going that fast but it felt like i wasn't even moving. I yelled out "Hey Froomey" and he yelled back "keep going mate". What a top guy. I saw him a bunch of times over the lead up and at the end and he couldn't have been more accommodating to the other riders/fans. He hasn't surpassed Sagan as my favourite rider, but he is now a close second.
After the Froomey excitement it dawned on my I still had 17km to go to get to the top! Oh well, back into a rhythm and just grind it out. It was really hot and the headwind wasn't helping. There were a couple of flat sections but they were offset by some 10-12% bits. I just kept focusing on the rider in front and trying to catch them and also making sure I had a bit of a look around and enjoyed the view. It was just beautiful in sections between hurt box visits.
Made a 60 second stop to fill bidons with about 7km to go as it was still really hot but as we got higher the wind got stronger and it was helping to cool me down a bit. As i took off another guy stopped and just fell straight over, never even unclipped. I think he was done lol.
I was still making good time and passing riders when this young girl of about 20 caught and passed me. She was tiny, probably weighed 42-43kg. I tried to stick with her but she pulled away. Came up to a bit of a descent right near the end and nearly got blown off my bike as the wind was across from about 45 degrees. Must have affected the girl more than me as I made up about 500m on her and into the final part of the climb I caught her and went over the summit for the run into Perisher and outsprinted her down the hill. Me going faster than someone else down a hill? There is a first time for everything!
It felt good coming into the finish and I'd been planning a pro style both arms raised across the line finish but it was so damn windy I though I'd get blown over so rather than fall over in front of 1000 people standing on the side of the road cheering, I rolled across with both hands on the bars!
I'd really trained hard for this event and as I finished I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to push as hard as I wanted for the final climb. After things had settled down and I'd had a beer or three, i realised that it was a pretty good achievement for someone who is turning 50 in February and has only been riding for just over 12 months.
Official time: 5hr55m39s Moving time: 5hr46m33s Stopped for 9 mins for toilet break, bottle refills and settling down after nearly crashing. Finished 261st overall of 1882 who did the 157km race in my age group (45-49)came 63rd.
All those training rides by myself where I missed going on the Sunday social ride because I wanted to put in my 4 or 5 hours without stopping really paid off, allowing me to get the distance done without any real rest.
Fastest time was my mate Darcy who got in a 4 person break at Berridale then dropped the last guys going up the Perisher climb. He did 4hr 31m to be 3 mins faster than the first guy across the line, but Darcy started in the second group about 10 minutes behind him. Next level!
It was a great weekend. Hung out with Craig Cadman, Guilherme Barbosa, John Skinner, Glen Wilton and Adam Gibbons. Top bunch of blokes.
I know its expensive, but I though it was worth every cent. It was an event that was exceptionally well run and with the fully closed roads, a chance to do something that in Australia we don't really get much chance to do. If you get the chance, sign up for next year.