I have one word for the 2104 Goldfields Cyclassic...TOUGH.
I returned from from the 2013 event, absolutely exhausted and elated, committed to a better performance this year. Joined by Richard Stokes, we left home at 4.30am Saturday morning to catch the charter flight with a hundred other cyclists. A 50 minute flight and short bus trip saw us at the Kalgoorlie Recreational Centre, assembling our bikes that had been trucked earlier. Here we met with Greg Pengelly, riding C grade, and representing Major Sponsor, Minara Resources.
The Goldfields Cyclassic, in its 86th year, runs a 2 day handicap format, with lower grades departing before the elite grades. We were greeted with relatively mild weather and sun, but I would have preferred the chill of the previous year as it came with a generous southerly tail-wind. In 2014 we would contend with headwinds both days.
Utilising my experience from 2013, I ensured I started at the front of the D Grade start, to prevent being separated by an early break. Without the tail-wind, I was not confident that D grade could repeat its 2013 success of getting line honours over the A Grade field. The mild headwind was not too tough, but I felt the lead D grade riders pushed the pace way too early and dropped at least 25 D grade riders very early. Better to ride a bit slower and keep a field together I thought, but I wasn't prepared to miss the break. We settled into a roll through and I gauged my effort, resting about every 3rd turn to make sure I was there at the end.
The race within a race was for the prize money on offer for line honour sprint points. With a 30 minute head start on us, the E grade riders were likely to take the first sprint points. On the 2nd sprint point I found myself very well positioned 500m out from a sprint point. I burst out of the saddle and took off, and at 450m I realised I was actually a middle aged recreational rider, with no sprint ability, and shuffled back where I belonged.
At around 60km of the 130km first day, we were reeled in by a big C Grade field trying to find its way past us. About half got past us before the D -pace started to match them and we blended for a massive field. Mid-field, I felt I was being pulled by a road-train, actually able to back off the effort a bit. it must have been about 10-15km working like this, I wanted to ease a bit, thinking there was at least 30 behind me, but there was only one, and once I drifted 5 metres off, that was the end of my day with the lead group.
Soon the B grade field flew past and I was able to hang on for a kilometre, then later the A graders who I held for 100 metres. For the rest of the ride I worked with B, C, and D stragglers, and at times alone. Thinking I was 10km from the finish, and desperate for a nature break, I opted to stop. This decision would see me drop out of my goal, a top 10 D grade spot, as 2 D graders passed me. Shortly after I got going again, there was the '5km to finish' sign. Bad call on my part.
Arriving in the one-pub town of Menzies 17 minutes behind the winner, we were cheered by a small crowd. I turned to cheer Richard in, but I don't think he either heard me, or liked me for encouraging him to enter. Greg had faired best of all coming 3mins behind the winner. I checked into the run-down but welcome Menzies Hotel for a hot shower. I suspect, due to something I ate, I came down with a nausea for the rest of the trip, that would make it hard to eat and re-fuel, or to socialise. Unable to enjoy the much-anticipated evening feast in the local hall, I retreated to a secluded side of the open fireplace at the Menzies Hotel bar, with the added misery of hearing my beloved Richmond on the TV getting hammered again.
Joined later by Richard, we watched an impressive fireworks display in the evening.
The next morning, tired, sore and nauseous, I attempted some breakfast, before returning for another hours sleep. My only consolation was the evident aches and pains on everyone for the day 2, 103km race from Menzies to Leonora. With a stiffer head and cross-wind, my goal was to hang onto to the lead group for 50-60km and see how I go. My relief that the faster D grade riders (from Day 1) had been elevated to C grade was very short-lived, as a bigger group of relegated C grade riders joined us and immediately pushed the pace to drop half D field inside 3km of the start. Knowing I was energy depleted, I refused to roll through, and told them they were going too fast. Soon riders were dropping off the back at regular intervals. I sat on the tail of this lead group for about 40km, with a moderate heart rate, but no muscle strength to pull a turn, for fear of being spat off.
Probably cursed by the others, my front tube exploded, taking the tyre of the rim in the process. The spares vehicle was immediately behind me, but in my delirium I proceeded to change my tyre, rather than simply grab a neutral spare. In that time, Richard's 2nd D group went by. Back on the road I teamed up with a C and D rider, comfortable to work at a slower pace for the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, like a rubber band snapping, I lost all energy at the 53km mark, and could not even pedal slowly. I was left to wait for the Sag wagon, an inglorious end if not for the need to sleep. We picked up stragglers along the way, including a dazed woman with a large gash to chin and knee after crossing wheels with another rider. It was concerning she was left alone by the other rider.
Arriving in town late, I missed the festivities of the Leonora Golden Gift Road (running) race. Both Greg and Richard performed exceptionally well on their 2nd day efforts. Presentations were held for the large variety of prize categories before we headed home on our charter flight.
With 86 years experience, the Goldfields Cyclassic is absolutely seamlessly organised and conducted. The handicapped format over 2 days makes it tougher than than road race I've ever been in as you are either being chased or chasing the entire time. With 3 grades being represented in top 30 positions on both days, the handicapper could not be faulted. It may sound mad, but I think I'll do it again.
Full results can be found here here