The course
The race this weekend was at Wantabadgery which is 200 km from Wodonga and 35 km from Wagga Wagga. The race was 84 km, windy and hillier than I thought it would be. It was also a handicap, which means that riders are put into groups based on ability. The slowest group (Called limit) starts first, then the second slowest group, then the 3rd and 4th etc. The second last group to start is called block and the last group to start is called scratch (more detailed explanation here).

I was in Scratch which meant I started 15 minutes after the first group. The 30 riders in my group started off at a fast pace (we averaged 41 km/h for the first 20 km). Everyone was working well together until about 23 km into the race when we hit a 300 m long section of dirt. After the dirt the group got re-organised and we started to catch a few riders from the group that started 2:30 ahead of us. Up until about 35 km into the race my group continued to work together, but then the head wind began to pick up and people started to struggle and stop rolling turns. After a bit we started to go downhill and people felt better and began rolling turns again.

The race was going along smoothly up until 46 km into the race. Half of the group managed to miss a left turn because the lead car was too far ahead of us. This wasn't too big of a problem though because the rest of the group waited for us, but it did cost us a bit of time getting back up to speed. This meant that because we had turned left we had now turned into a crosswind. The strong riders put it in the gutter and formed an echelon (explanation of an echelon here). This was a problem for me because I was about two people too far back and was struggling to hang on. I knew that I had to get around those two people and get into the group rolling turns because when there’s a strong crosswind it's easier to be taking turns than trying to hang on. After a bit of forceful maneuvering I got into the group rolling turns and started to feel a bit more comfortable.

For the next 25 km nothing much happened. That was until we hit the first of three hills at 20 km to go. Three Illawarra riders went to the front and started picking up the pace then some one else attacked. I went across the gap to him and by the top of the hill about 8 more riders came across as well. As we went over the top of the hill our group began to work together to try and stay away from the chasers and also catch the riders that were still in front of us. As we hit the next hill the pace went up again and as we approached the top some one attacked. As we went over the top of the hill I was struggling to hang on and went to the back of our group. As we started going downhill the other riders kept the pace up to try and catch more riders.  At this stage we were 1 minute and 30 seconds from catching the front group.

At this point in time I was struggling and just trying to hang on to the back of the group. Then we hit the third and final hill. I kept fighting to stay with the group and as we went over the top I started to let a little bit of a gap go. I managed to hang on though; I closed the gap and just tried to stay with the group until the finish. 

As we came into the finish I was still struggling to hold onto the back of the group but knew that I had to move up if I wanted to have a chance in the sprint. As we went over a bridge at 500 m to go I was sitting sixth from the front and some one started to sprint. I knew this was way to early so I jumped in behind them and followed until about 200 m to go. The rider I was following started slowing down and I knew I had to start my sprint. I stayed out in front until about 50 m to go when three riders came around me.

We didn't catch the front group and I don't know how many people finished in front of me. This meant I got 5th out of my group (one rider had broken away before the finish). I was happy with this result because it was the furthest handicap I have raced and even though I was close to getting dropped I managed to hang on until the finish.

The tour of Wangaratta is usually a 4 stage race over 2 days, but this year was different due to the rain. As we arrived at Wangaratta it was pouring with rain and there were cars driving back out of the car park. I feared the worst, the race might be called off! Luckily it wasn't though, the race was only postponed for 3 hours which gave us some time to go to the bakery and get food.
The start line was a bit wet.
After the delayed start and the race being reduced to 3 stages we set off on 2 laps around the Glenrowan course with a hill top finish on Tamanick Gap. The race started with a few attacks but nothing too much, I was just focused on keeping near the front to keep myself out of trouble if there was a crash due to the rain. On the second lap I tried to go off the front a few times but never really got a gap. After awhile two riders managed to get a gap but it was on the downhill stretch of the course and there was a big group of riders from Coburg that were strong enough that their gap never got very big. They were so strong in fact that when the team leader gave the command at 2 km to go the whole team went to the front and bought back the two riders with ease. After the break was caught all the junior riders came to the front, this was because the junior riders that were in my grade are all good climbers (I think one was a national champion a few years ago) and knew they would be up there fighting for the win. As soon as we hit the final climb the pace ramped up significantly, I held on with the front riders until they started to sprint but as soon as they accelerated I couldn't hang on any longer. I still had to keep sprinting though because I was neck and neck with another rider. As we neared the top of the hill he managed to get past me, but the finish wasn't right at the top it was another 10 m. The other rider sat up as he went across the top of the hill and I managed to get back past him to secure 7th place.
The course profile for stage 1
Day 2: The two stages for day 2 were a 60 km road race on the U17 state course in the morning and a 14 km TT in the afternoon.  Nothing much happened in the first 15 km of the race except I decided to sit a bit further back in the peloton than the day before because I knew that the Coburg team wouldn't let anything go off the front and it was fairly windy. Due to this wind I finally had to do something and move near the front as we approached the second corner of the race. I had to make sure I was near the front as we went around the corner because when you turn right the road gets really narrow and if the pace went up and people started to attack it would of been too hard to get around anyone. As we went around the corner the pace didn't pick up too much but it was lucky I had moved up because the peloton echeloned across the road and I was in the perfect spot.
Example of an Echelon
After this we approached the bottom of the climb. Because we were near the bottom of the climb all the other junior riders started to come up to the front. The reason for this is because they are all really good climbers and didn't want to get caught behind any one else. As soon as the road started to climb the pace went up but I managed to hold my postion right at the front. As soon as the other riders attacked and accelerated as we neared the top I couldn't hang on any longer. But I had to keep going so I could try and catch them on the downhill. As we went over the top of the climb I was only around 20 seconds behind the leaders and managed to get in a chasing group. We caught the leaders as we went over the next hill near Glenrowan which meant there was around 10 of us in front. As we got on the narrow road for the second time a rider attacked. I didn't chase him though because I knew I was going to have a hard time making it up the hill so I left it to the strong riders to chase him down. As we approached the climb the second time I knew I had to stay with the front riders as long as possible because if I got dropped over the hill we didn't have very long to bring them back.  But in spite of this as we approached the top of the climb I got dropped again.

This meant that as we went over the top of the climb there was one rider out the front by himself, four riders chasing him and four riders (including me) chasing all of them. The group I was in was working really well together and we were all at our limits. As we got onto the finishing straight we were within 100 meters of catching the front riders. Then they started to slow down as they were thinking about the sprint and not staying away from us. Our group realised this and picked up the pace even further and dropped one rider. This lift in the pace made us get within 30 meters of the front group. But then they started to sprint and our group had nothing left to chase them. This meant we were so close to catching them but just couldn't make it. I had so little energy left that I couldn't even beat the people in my group in our sprint. This meant that I ended up with 8th place on the stage.
The course profile for stage 2
Stage 3 was a time trial which was of interest to me because it used to be my worst aspect and I've been working hard to try and get better at it. The course was 14.6 km and exactly the same as the last time I did a time trial at Wangaratta with one significant difference. It was extremely windy with 35 km/h winds! This wasn't a completely bad thing though. It was a head wind for the first 2 km, a cross wind for the majority of the course and a tail wind for the last 2 km. This meant that I could go out harder than usual because for the last 2 km the wind would help to push me along.
The blue line represent my heart rate and the red is the elevation
At the start I didn't have an aim for this particular race so I just tried to go as hard as I could in to the headwind. After the first corner I realised it might be possible for me to catch the rider that started 1-minute ahead of me. So this became my goal. In a time trial I usually use my heart rate to pace myself and try to keep it between 88% and 90% of my maximum. But because this time trial was the last stage of the race my legs were more fatigued than usual and I only managed to average 85%. In spite of this as I approached the second U-turn I was close to passing the rider in front of me. I wanted to go around him before the turn so I didn't have to slow down too much as I turned. This was a bad idea though, just as I got past him I braked and started sliding. This is because on the bike I was using I lean further forward than on my normal bike and don't have as much weight over the rear wheel and so it slides easier. I managed to keep the bike upright though and had to go back past the same rider again. After this I tried to keep pushing myself as hard as I could all the way to the finish line which I crossed in a time of 21:49. This secured me 5th place which I was happy with as it shows I'm finally starting to get better at time trials.
My reasonably good time trial time meant I moved up to 5th place on the General Classification. This was a good result as all the riders that finished above me are really strong. Furthermore it shows me what I need to work on and improve on in the lead up to states.

Full Results: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-8HJpoICKoPVXdkcEZLZ1RfYkE/edit


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