The Eildon Junior & Women's tour was a two day race that comprised of three stages. A time trial and two road races (one with a hill top finish).
Warming up for the TT.

Stage 1

First up was the time trial which is something I'm usually not that good at. I have been getting better though so it was a good opportunity to see how I was going only a few weeks out from states. The TT was 11. 6 km and almost completely flat. Going into it my aim was to hold 90% of my max Heart Rate (185.4 BPM) until the turn around and the go as hard as I could on the way back. On the way out I averaged 89.6% (184.6 BPM) which is close enough to 90% that it doesn't make a difference, so by the halfway point I was right where I wanted to be. On the way back I was still going really well but coming into the last kilometer I faded a little bit. It wasn't to bad and I still finished with a good average speed of 41.3 km/h and a time of 17 minutes. Even better I finished 7th out of my grade which I was really happy with.
My heart rate for the TT. You can see where it dips at the turn around and where I fade a little bit near the end.

Stage 2

Stage 2 was a 77 km road race that comprised of two laps of the 'pondage loop' and then a 1.9 km hill with the finish atop the dam wall. The race started under control which meant we had to sit behind the lead car until we got out of the main part of town. As soon as the lead car pulled away people started attacking but no one was going to be allowed to escape off the front. After a while people stopped attacking and the group started rolling turns at around 40 km/h. After about 50 km we came through the town and some of the stronger riders picked up the pace. I'm not sure why they tried to force the pace through the town but maybe they thought some people would struggle with the corners or something. Anyway I just tried to keep near the front and out of trouble.
After we got through the town the strong riders stopped trying to force the pace and then expected everyone to start rolling through again but they didn't. This meant the group slowed down and therefore people started attacking. Again no one was allowed to get much of a gap off the front and after awhile the attacks stopped and everyone rolled turns again. This continued for another lap until we got to the town again where the same thing happened as the previous lap. The strong riders picked up the pace and then sat up once we got through the town again. But this time no one attacked after the town as everyone was just trying to save their energy for the climb at the end. 

As we got closer to the climb the pace began to slow as know one wanted to be on the front. I just tried to make sure I had a good position by following Thomas Slingsby. I chose to follow Slingsby because he usually beats me  in races with hills so I thought if I followed him I wouldn't get stuck behind any slow riders. As we hit the bottom of the climb the group was four wide across the road and I was in the second row which is exactly where I wanted to be. At about 500m to go the strongest rider attacked and got a big gap. 3 other riders tried to go with him and were slightly ahead of me as we got to about 250m to go. As we went around the final corner and the road flattened out I started sprinting around the outside of the other riders. In the last 30-50m I could see a rider coming past me but I could do nothing about it.  As we went across the line another rider tried to come past me as well but I wasn't sure if they made it around me or not.

It turns out the other rider hadn't got around me because the judges gave me third which is way higher than I ever expected to finish. I was really happy with this result as I thought I would struggle to get top 10.
The Victorian 100 km Championship was the day after the Cecil Shore handicap race. It comprised of thirteen 8 km laps around a square course, which much like the day before was very windy.
Also much like the day before there were many strong teams such as team Bike Bug, V.I.S, Target Trek and African Wildlife Safaris. These teams made the race as fast as they could to try and set up there riders for the win. Due to these teams and many of the other riders being really strong it was an extremely outside chance that I would win. So I set my sites a bit lower and tried to aim for the first U/19 rider. But even this was going to be extremely unlikely/ hard because one of the other U/19's was Zac Shaw who has won the 1 km TT at the Junior world track championships. Even though it was going to be hard I was going to give it a crack anyway.
Rolling off from the start
The first lap started off hard as riders tried to get off the front in the breakaway but the big teams didn't want to let anyone go. After 2 laps a few riders did manage to get a gap but it wasn't very big. The big teams kept the pace up high on the front and I was just trying to make sure I was in a good position for each corner. Positioning was especially important coming out of the second corner because the wind was going to the left (from top to bottom in the picture of the course) and like the day before the peloton was in an echelon but there wasn't enough room to fit on the road. This meant that coming up to the second corner everyone would try and be up the front and as soon as we went around the corner push against the left side of the road to try and get some protection from the wind. But if you weren't in the first 1/3 of the peloton you weren't getting any protection from the wind so everyone was either trying to push and force their way into that first 1/3 or riding in the dirt on the side of the road to get there.  
So pretty much a pattern formed for the race. Coming in to the first corner I would be in the first 1/3, then I would try and get right near the front going into the second corner, then everyone would sprint out of the corner and push to the left and I would try and hold my position until we approached the 4th corner where I would follow some one up on the outside of the peloton to try and get near the front again. This pattern continued until 5 laps to go. As we swung left coming out of the second corner I couldn't force my way into the group and dropped off. But I wasn't the only one that dropped off three other riders did as well. So we worked together, rolling turns as hard as we could and managed to catch back on the group as we went around the third corner. But I couldn't ease up now we had caught back up, I had to keep going hard and try and get back near the front so i didn't get dropped again. I managed to get near the front again but we were on the last lap before the intermediate sprint (an intermediate sprint is a sprint at some point during the race where first place gets a prize). As we went around the second corner I managed to hang on this time, but I was right near the back of the field and as we went around the last corner riders started sprinting and I dropped off the back of the field. As went past the line I was only 10 m off the back and was fighting to get back on. Just as we approached the first corner I got on the back of the peloton but the riders sprinted out of the corner and I got dropped again. This time I couldn't get back on no matter how hard I pushed my self. I kept pushing as hard as I could until the second corner but they were just getting further away. As I rolled over the line with three laps to go the commissaire waved at me to pull over. I had lotst 5 minutes in the 3/4 of a lap I was by myself and it was obvious I would soon be lapped so I was forced to pull out.
Even though I didn't finish the race or get 1st U/19 I was still happy with how I went. I hung on for longer than I thought and when I did get dropped I managed to fight my way back on twice and I also got second U/19 which was pretty good considering who got first. I ended up having a hard but fun weekend and also learnt some valuable lessons about ridding in the wind and ridding in big groups so all in all it was a good weekend leading up to Eildon this weekend and Wagga to Albury, States and Tour of the Murray in the next few weeks after that.
The 'Cecil Shore Memorial handicap' was a 120 km handicap road race that started in Hamilton went through Macarthur then to Orford and did a U-turn and went back to Hamilton again.
The map and course profile
Luckily the race started at 12:30 in the afternoon, this meant for once I didn't have to wake up early  and rush around and I could actually warm up properly. I rode from where we were staying out along the course a bit and back to the start line and ended up doing 15 km. After this Mum and Dad met me at the start line so I could get ready and start to do a more serious warm up on the rollers.
I started the race in the 12 minute group (the middle out of six groups). When we started it was windy and it stayed like that  the whole race. Not long after the start it began pouring down with rain. Luckily on the way out our group worked well together in the wind, we formed an echelon and kept an average pace of 42 km/h for the first hour so we were going fairly hard and I didn't get to cold.  
An example of an echelon
After a while we started catching riders that had been dropped from the groups in front of us and then eventually we caught the group that started 4 minutes ahead of us. Even though we had caught one group we soon realised we didn't have much chance of catching the front group. As we went past spectators on the side of the road they would yell out the time gap to the front group. We weren't catching them, if anything they were getting further ahead of us. And then as we went around the turnaround we could see scratch (the fastest group) had caught the group in front of them and was almost upon us.

Because our group knew we were going to be caught everyone slowed down and waited for scratch to catch us. When they come past they were flying and we had to sprint to get on. When we did get on it was hard. The wind had picked up and there was a few teams on the front driving the pace.

It turns out that scratch and the 7 minute group was filled with riders from the semi profesional teams Target Trek, African Wildlife Safaris and the Victorian Institute of Sport team. So when they caught us they decided it would be a good idea to go as hard as they could on the front to get rid of us. It was especially hard because it was still a crosswind which meant I couldn't just sit on the back and have an easy ride.

The reason I couldn't just sit on the back is because the peloton, due to the wind was riding in an echelon. This meant we were riding in a diagonal line and because the group was so big there wasn't enough room for us to fit across the road. So therefore it was easier to take turns at the front than try and sit on the back. But after rolling turns at 50 km/h for 10 km I was struggling to roll through so all I could do was try and hang on the back. This didn't last long though and I got dropped with 40 km to go. 

I thought the rest of the race was going to be a long boring ride by myself but one of the African Wildlife Safari riders who had been dropped caught up to me so we talked and rode for 20 km together. At 20 km to go a small group of riders caught us so we all worked together to getback as a group. But after about 10 km it started poring rain again (at some point during the race it had stopped and I didn't realise) so a few riders began to go faster so we could get back and get out of the rain.

Eventually after 3 hours and 15 minutes we got to the finish. I have no idea how I went because they havent put up the full results but I felt happy with how I went and learnt some valuable lessons about riding in the wind.

That was not all for the weekend though. The next day was the Victorian 100 km championships which I will write about tomorrow or on Thursday.

The 2013 Preston Mountain Classic is a handicap race of 135 km. The race consists of two 65 km laps around Strath Creek with a 3km hill at 20 and 85 km with an average gradient of 6%. After the two laps the finish is on a 2km hill that averages 9%.
The race profile
In the race there was 6 groups of around 20 riders except the 1st group (limit) which had 6 riders. I started in the 3rd group which meant I started 18 minutes in front of the best riders (scratch). Our group started out well with everyone taking their turn on the front. In the first 15 km the race didn't feel that hard and I didn't know if this was normal or not because I'm use to doing much shorter races (my longest race before this was 80 km). This started to change as we hit the first climb though. Our group began to slow down, but one of the more experienced riders Brendan Washington made sure our group didn't slow down too much. This was probably because he knew the riders trying to catch us wouldn't be slowing down at all. As we went up the climb not many riders wanted to help keep the pace up but a few of us realised that we needed to help Washo at the front if we were going to have any chance of staying away from the chasing riders. 
Our group before the start (Image from:
The majority of out group managed to stay together over the climb and as we went down the other side we managed to hit speeds approaching 75 km/h. This long downhill gave me a good opportunity to refuel. My refuelling strategy that I came up with 15 minutes into the race was to have a small piece of energy bar every 20 minutes, a gel every 60 minutes and 750 ml of water/ 1 litre of homemade energy drink as I needed it. 

As we went down the descent our group split up a bit, but as we approached the bottom our group got back together and we kept rolling turns. At around 55 km into the race we caught the two groups that started in front of us which meant we now had around 30 - 40 people in our group trying to stay away from the chasers. The majority of this group kept rolling turns until we hit the hill for the second time. Many riders seemed to be struggling (including me) and those that weren't struggling went to the front to try and keep the pace. Even though I was struggling as we hit the climb I knew I needed to be at the front. The reason I needed to be at the front is because being at the front allows me to drift from the front of the group to the back as we go up the climb. This is a good thing because it means I'm not going as hard and using as much energy as the riders that are staying at the front, but I'm also not getting stuck behind slower riders at the start of the climb.
Image from:
After the climb and the descent our group got back together again, but it had been reduced in size. We began rolling turns again, but as we got closer to the finish fewer and fewer people were rolling through. The speed of our group seemed like it was slowing down and then a few riders attacked up a short hill. Even though they didn't get very far ahead this was a bad thing. It put more people in the hurt box and this meant that the numer of people rolling turns was even less. As we turned left to head back towards Strath Creek I became one of these riders in the hurt box. I was staring to struggle and began sitting on.
Image from:
At about 5 km to go I knew that I had to start moving up near the front. Not long after moving up, Brendan Washington attacked. No one even responded they just let him go. I didn't try and go with him because I knew that I wasn't going to be able to hang on for that long. As soon as we hit the bottom of the climb our group split up and because I had already move up before the climb I was in the front group. 

At about 1 km to go Scratch caught and went flying past us. As they came past riders from my group tried to go with them but I knew that I was better off riding my own rhythm. This worked as I managed to go back past a lot of the people that were in my group in the last 500 m before the finish.

I ended up getting 23rd out of every one and I finished 4th out of the people that started in my group. I was happy with this as it was a senior race with 104 starters. Furthermore it was the longest race I have ever done (by 50 km) so it's good to know I can do it in the lead up to the important races over the next few weeks. 

Full Results:

GPS Link:

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:
On Saturday the plan was to do around 60 km by first helping out at the junior race and then racing the senior time trial in the afternoon. So at 12 o'clock I went down and we rode 10 km out along Plunkets road as a group and then split up into smaller groups to race back in. The group I was coaching/ helping was to ride to the 'palm trees' which are two random palm trees on the side of the road. The group of three riders were working together well until the turn around. Coming up to the turn around I went to the front for two reasons, the first was so I could ride past each rider and let them know where we were turning around and secondly so I could control the speed so they didn't go too fast and crash.

Even though we were going really slow and everyone new where we were turning one kid still managed to crash. For some unknown reason he didn't brake as hard as everyone else and ran into the rider in front of him. This meant that even though he crashed we were going so slow he didn't get hurt and got up straight away. No one else came off but the person he ran into's bike was a bit worse for wear. The derailleur hanger bent and a few spokes on the wheel snapped. The good thing was that no one was hurt so all we had to do was call someone to pick up the kid with the broken bike and then ride back.

When we got back to the start I waited for Dad to bring down my time trial bike and rollers so I could start my warm up for the 18 km senior time trial. Usually for a club race I wouldn't bother warming up because a club time trial isn't serious enough but I decided to test the warm up I saw in one of the Greenedge videos on youtube. I was also testing a new time trial helmet and racing my time trial bike for the second time (the other time was at Wangaratta). 

Usually the start to a time trial is boring but this was different. The rider who was to start before me (you start at 1 minute intervals) missed his start time and only realised that he was 20 seconds late when the starter started frantically waving his hands for him to hurry up and get to the start. After watching the worst ever start to a time trial I tried to do it a bit better. The aim was to get up to speed quickly and the get my heart rate up where I wanted it to be which is between 88%  and 90% of my maximum heart rate. This heart rate is a bit higher than what I would usually try and hold in a time trial but most of the time I have too much energy left by the finish so I wanted to try and push myself a bit harder than usual. I managed to do this well until I went over Billies hill which was 12 km into the race. Normally in a time trial I start to lose focus on the downhill bit of the course because you go faster down the hill and then I sort of forget to keep pushing hard. But this time it was different I saw two riders in the distance and decided to try and catch them before the finish. The first riders was easy to catch as he had gone too hard on the uphill part of the course and didn't have any energy left. The second rider was not so easy though, he had started the race 2 minutes ahead of me and by the time I got to the top of the hill he was about 500-700 meters in front of me (I'm not too good at judging distance). Even though by the end of the race I didn't catch him I was not very far off  which was good for my overal time because it allowed me to push myself harder trying to catch him.
The blue line represents HR. Compared to previous time trials it has a lot less dips in it which means I didn't lose concentration and slow down as much.
My time was 27:09 which is an average speed of 40.2 kph. I was happy with that because one of my friends who usually beats me was trying to average 40 kph and I though I would get no where near it. 
Full Results: link:

On Sunday I had to ride around 100 km which takes around 3-4 hours depending on how hilly the ride is. 3-4 hours of riding a bike by myself sounded a bit boring and the people I ride with most of the time were away racing in Ararat. So I decide to see if two of my friends I hadn't ridden with in a while wanted to go for a ride. They both wanted to go for a ride so the plan was to meet in Albury at 10 am then ride a lap around Bellbridge. When I left it was 8 ºC and the most it got to was 12 ºC so it was a good opportunity to try my new jacket and gloves which were very good, the jacket was perfect the whole way and the glove were a little cold at the start but good after I warmed up a bit. 
The new Pearl Izumi Jacket
The new BBB gloves
When I got to where we were meeting there was a problem. There was only one person when there was meant to be two, one rider got out of bed a bit late and didn't have his bike ready so told us to go on without him. He didn't miss much in the terms of good views though, all we could see was fog the whole way. After doing the lap around Bellbridge we headed back into Albury to get a coffe/ milkshake (I had the milkshake, coffee is disgusting!). After the drinks we decided we weren't quite satisfied so we ordered some banana bread the looked pretty good. After 15 minutes of waiting we went in to see what was happening, the lady serving said it would be ready soon so we went and sat down again. The worst bit about this was that as we sat down we saw her put it in the toaster/ grill thing and then she brought it out 5 minutes later. It took 20 minutes to toast a bit of bread. 20 minutes. Some times being a cyclist is hard, especially when after I finished the bread I rode home and saw that there was a place just down the road that had an open fire place.

GPS link:
The ride ended up being 99.4 km. The red line is where we went
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On Saturday riding related activities started somewhere you wouldn't expect me to be. The brewery shop. The reason I was there was not because I'm making my own home brew alcohol , but because I'm making my own home brew Powerade (the recipe to make the Powerade can be found here).

On Saturday I went down to help at the junior race. It was meant to be an easy roll with a few short efforts to get ready for the race the next day. For the first half of the ride it was easy as we were riding at a slow enough pace so even the youngest riders could keep up. This all changed when we got to the point where the race actually started. 

I thought that I would just be helping the juniors, as I was meant to be saving my legs fort the next day. But it turns out I was in the race. Clancy, Steve and I were chasing a bunch of younger riders but we somehow forgot about them and started attacking each other. As we came round a corner another rider who was late to the start joined in our group and we remembered that we were racing other people not just each other. We settled in to a good rhythm, but the damage was already done. We didn't stand a chance of catching any of the other groups so we were left to sprint it out between ourselves.

Not long after the race finished I was on my way to Castlemaine where I was staying the night with my coach (Geoff) and his son (Steve). 

On Sunday I woke up, had breakfast and made the short journey to Harcourt. I got to the start nice and early because this was the first time I had to get ready for a race by myself. I managed to stuff up one of the simplest things. I cable tied the transponder to the spokes of the wheel instead of the fork, not once but twice. After that I managed to not stuff up anything else and get to the start line on time.

My race was roughly 80 km and comprised of two laps of the small course then one lap of the big course.
The first lap felt easy as no one wanted to go on the front to early and therefore nothing much happened and I just tried to stay out of trouble and not touch the wind. On the second lap nothing much really happened either. The good riders forced the pace on a few of the hills, not enough to put me in difficulty, but enough to get rid of a few riders. I ended up getting dropped about 35 km into the race. This was because there was a 2 km hill at 4% followed by another hill that was 1.5 km long that was about the same steepness but flattened out near the top and went back up again. This is where I lost touch with the front group because the first hill raised my heart rate up to 189 bpm and then the pace was raised even more on the second hill and as it flattened out I let a small gap form and as it went up again I couldn't hang on.

But I hadn't given up yet. Two other riders got dropped at the same time as what I did so I tried to form a chase group with them. We were close to catching the main group but one of the riders in my group just seemed to give up and without him we couldn't catch the people in front. We slowly got further and further away from the front group until the other two riders told me it was time to give up on catching the front group. Without the others commitment it wasn't possible to catch the front group by myself so I had to listen to them and we settled into a rhythm to try and stay away from any riders coming from behind.

The other two riders had given up though, one of them even said "I'm lacking the motivation to even keep going". This meant a group from behind was catching us. They started to catch near one of the biggest hills in the race at 10 km to go. My aim was to get to the top of this hill before they caught me to make it easier to join in on the back of the group. This worked out well as only one rider caught me as I went over the top of the hill. I managed to get him and the other two riders that were in my group to start working together to make sure no other riders caught us. This worked because the four of us came towards the finish with no one insight behind us. 

As we came down the hill in to the finish I had to concentrate. I had to make sure I started my sprint at the right time, not too early but not too late. I timed it perfectly and won the sprint from my group. 

This meant that I got 8th place. I was happy with this as I was aiming for a top 10 finish.

Full results:

Link to the GPS file:
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The weekend of riding started on Friday night after school. One of my friends had just bought a new mountain bike and there are some tracks near my place I've been meaning to try for a while so we went and did two laps and ended up riding for an hour. 
On Saturday was one of the most unique races of the year. The Dirt Berg. The Dirt Berg is a 21.5 km  handicap with the last 8.4 km's being dirt. I started on scratch (the last group) 9 minutes behind the front group. The front groups were not the people to worry about though. The group 4 minutes ahead had many strong riders, Steve Damm (last years winner), Lisa Barry (team Bicycle Superstore), Charly McMillan, Clancy Lloyd and Liam McAllister. 

Our group's plan was to keep it together on the climbs and work hard as a group on the flat. We did the first bit well but I think a few people in the group struggled a bit so after the climb there was only a few people still rolling through. Because of this I decided to push the pace as soon as we hit the dirt to see who was actually struggling and who was just sitting on. This shook a few people off but not Liam McAllister (who we had previously caught). Liam attacked and I tried to close the gap quickly. In hindsight this was probably not the smartest thing to do. I would of been better of letting Liam go for a few reasons. Firstly he had been dropped from his group and we had caught him so therefore he wasn't so strong and secondly it would of forced other people to do more work. 
After closing the gap to Liam I decided to keep the pace up. This dropped Liam and left three of us trying to catch the remaining riders. Our group of three riders wasn't working too well though. It seemed like we were more worried about each other than catching the people in front.  At about 15.5 km into the race the attacks started. At around 4 km to go Andy Kaye put in a big attack and then after he was bought back Declan Gregory attacked as well. This all most finished me, after we caught Declan I was struggling to hang on the back. 

I knew that if Declan or Andy attacked again I wouldn't be able to go with them. So I decided to go to the front and try and keep the speed high enough to keep Declan and Andy from attacking. This worked until the last rise where one of them attacked and I couldn't hang on any longer.

This wasn't the end of the race though, even though there was only 500 meters left there was still another rider I had a chance of catching. So I kept going as hard as I could and caught him just before the line.

I was happy with this result because I kept up with much stronger riders right until the final climb. But I felt our group could of worked a bit harder before the dirt to try and catch a few more riders.

1st Stephen Damm (41:05)
2nd Robbie Storey (St Kilda CC)
3rd Rob Belsher
4th Zac Drury
5th Rohan Christmas
6th Andy Kaye (FT - 40:29)
7th Chris Little
8th Declan Gregory
9th Ryan Allen
10th Mark Dunlop
11th Adam Farrugia 


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