Monday, November 11, 2013

Tour of Margaret River 2013

The comments from Facebook say it all.

Just back from the TOMR. A fantastic long weekend of racing….against some of the best riders in WA” Tim James

“Graham and I had a wonderful time. Loved being part of a fantastic club” Fiona Purdie.

“Great Weekend of racing, socialising and laughing had by all NBCC members in Margaret River….made me proud to be a member of NBCC” Richard Stokes.

“A really great weekend and what a great bunch of people. It was a great pleasure to support you all and will do it again at the drop of a hat” Rowland Holden.

“Would love to have another team next year for others who have not raced before” Edward Rose.

“Thanks to you all for a great weekend away” Stuart Marr

“I think we proved it possible to be competitive without taking it too seriously” Andy Brown

Each and every NBCC rider approached the racing with a great attitude, gave it their all and came away with a smile.” Greg Pengelly

“It was a great team and we achieved what we set out to do! Finish!” Toni Kerr

“Fab bunch of people, haven’t laughed that much in…forever” Rachel Hippolyte

“Give it a go next year, you won’t be disappointed” Mick Dowling

“Pass the ping pong ball”  Andy Otter

NBC had its first foray at the Tour of Margaret River, with 2 men’s teams, one mixed and one women’s team. The accommodation for most members was the Shed, located at Margaret River Venison Farm.  The deer cleverly kept their distance for the weekend.

Friday morning was spent on a reconnaissance ride to the Start/finish area and the route for stage 1, interrupted by a caffeine stop in Cowaramup.  After several failed attempts to herd NBC members to one spot for registrations we still managed to register everyone. Back at the Shed there was a sudden hive of activity as bikes were prepared, numbers pinned to Jerseys and transponders attached to bikes. With little pre-training, teams were left to devise their own team tactics.

The wisest strategy was a warm up practice lap, as team tactics quickly disintegrated, and quick re-thinks resulted in us looking more like we knew what were doing by the start of the Stage 1 Team Time Trial.  Pre-race, we thought it wisest to finish with the slowest rider in each team, to ensure we would all be competitive when were seeded into categories for the remaining 3 races. Once the Team Time Trial started however, everyone’s competitive nature kicked in and everyone pushed for the best possible time. Even when team members hung back to support a rider, they were politely (and impolitely) told to push on without them.

We anxiously watched as live results of times came through. With only 23 seconds separating our top 2 teams over the 25km course, The Espressos and Macchiatos finished 26th and 30th and qualified for Category 2. The Ladies team (Affogatos), who previously asserted they were not in it to race, finished 54th.  The mixed team, in which Rachel Hippolyte spent most of her time looking over her shoulder wondering why the men couldn't keep up, finished 49th  for a Category 4 placement.  The feature of the racing was the huge and loud cheer squad for NBC. It was absolutely uplifting to hear and see the support from the lime green team.

With racing over for the day, it was time for the more serious business of socialising. I made a reasoned Presidential decree to re-gather at the Shed and go to the aptly named, Cheeky Monkey Brewery. By the time I got back to the Shed, everyone had scattered to the 3 winds…the fourth being the Cheeky Monkey.  Somehow it all worked out and we ended up at the Settlers Tavern in Margaret River. Busy, for good reason, with prompt, and really good hearty, food and beer. Grateful to our Skippers, we made it back to the Shed. While some turned in early, others kicked on to the early hours, with varying definitions of bedclothes.

Saturday morning came too early for many as we prepared for two races for the day. The first was a 2-lap 32.6km ‘lumpy’ course. In category 2, Stephen McNeilly, who never appears to be sprinting, came from 5 bike lengths behind at the 200-metre mark to WIN! An incredibly proud moment for everyone. (He may have got a few man-hugs). Tim James was well placed also but hemmed in to finish 9th. Lewis Purcell, Andy Brown, Richard Langston, Ricky Andrews, Martin Lear, Greg Pengelly, Marthinus Kemp and Connor Beardsmore all finished in the pack with an average speed of 40.9kmph.

The Ladies team, having never raced before, soon got caught up in the atmosphere. While a breakaway formed they held their own in the peloton.  In the mixed team, the ‘lumpy bits’ sorted out most of the boys before the finish. In her first ever group race and with a basic instruction of ‘stay near the front and out of trouble’ Rachel Hippolyte finished 15th in a bunch finish. Not bad considering Jack Bobridge and Phil Anderson took 1st and 2nd.

The 3rd stage was on a tighter, flatter 8 lap, 30km course. The Ladies again pushed for their Personal Bests, with Riana Rose, Wilna Kemp and Fiona Purdie working together and Toni Kerr, Kym Carr and Julia Pangbourn in a second group.

The mixed team fared better on their flatter third stage, Rachel finishing 14th, Mick Dowling 20th, Stuart Marr 24th.  Richard Stokes after an initial breakaway for a photo opportunity for the NBC kit, dropped off. Andy Otter did his utmost to draft Chris Howard, only to find that he was down by 5 minutes due to a puncture.

The 2 men’s teams really raised the bar in their race. In a pack finish, only stretched out by the wisdom of Anthony Giacoppo, Stephen McNeilly got on the podium again for third. Connor Beardsmore placed 7th, Tim James 10th, Lewis Purcell 14th, Andy Brown 18th, Ricky Andrews 23rd, Marthinus Kemp 26th.  It was a real highlight for us when Anthony Giacoppo visited our marquee after the race.

After all the emotions, exertions and deprived sleep, we opted for a 5pm dinner at the Settlers Tavern again. A much more restrained evening was had, and everyone was tucked away in bed by 9.30pm.

We awoke Sunday morning with a renewed vigor and purpose. After a lot of wheel swapping and mysterious spontaneous punctures, we lined up for the final 75km road race along the picturesque Caves Road.  A winery was an appropriate and scenic start point for the race. It was a hard and hot day on the road, particularly if you got dropped from the peloton. It was a huge personal achievement just to finish the race, particlalry with a 2.5km hill climb finish.

The club was incredibly proud when Ricky Andrews took 2nd place on a very tough finish. Stephen McNeilly, with a dodgy Di2, finished 5th, Lewis Purcell 12th, Greg Pengelly 16th, Connor Beardsmore 25th, Martin Lear 29th. Riana Rose rose up through the women’s category to finish 31st.  Rachel Hippolyte finished 18th in Category 4, and Stuart Marr defied gravity to finish 25th in category 4.

 Rachel Hippolyte, competing in her first races, rubbed shoulders with Phil Anderson and finished 3rd overall in the Women’s Green Jersey Category.  With a 1st, 3rd and 5th, Stephen McNeilly was consistently the best category 2 rider in the Tour.  Ricky Andrews and Connor Beardsmore performed on heavy bikes with compact cranks. They are both raw, young talent whom I’m sure gained invaluable experience from the weekend’s racing (as did we all).  It's a joy to watch as they start to realize just how damn good they are.

The standout performances in the Tour of Margaret River was that by the support crew, led by Rowland Holden (driving all over the region to source the best recovery foods, and transport bikes and bodies), Edward Rose (including offering orange juice as incentives whilst wielding a GoPro on a stick), Graham Purdie and Bruce Carr. A special thank you to Brendon and Kathryn Morrison and family for making our social club so welcome at the Tour Margaret River. If we haven’t permanently blocked the plumbing I am hoping we will get invited again.

What is impossible to convey in words is the club spirit of each and every person who attended. Everyone pitched in to make it a fun, social weekend.  Everyone, support crew included, deserves to be up on the podium.


Chris Howard