The Baw Baw Classic was the race that grabbed my attention and got me thinking about racing bikes.
I hadn’t even heard about it until two years ago when I read Les’ race report on it and it just amazed me that people where riding, let alone racing up this Mount. Then a year ago, again, Les’ report, other accounts and pictures got me thinking ‘I gota do that event’. Then about six months ago ‘do’ started turning into ‘Fuck I’d love to win that race’. So this race has pretty much consumed me for the past six months.
Before the Easter long weekend, I was feeling like I was under prepared even though I’d ridden it a few times with Shane Miller. Good Friday’s P.B (33.02) ride up Baw Baw with James Broadway started making me feel a little better. I’d also given Vesper a good nudge too on the way out. TE’s Sat KL pilgrim was next, with a below expected time up and a not so strong feeling day all up. Another trip out to Noojee solo nudging Vesper & Baw Baw with both a minute down on Fridays times had me feeling better. Then KL Monday with the BSC\Scott Team saw me P.B KL?!
I warmed up my week long nerve racking tapered legs on the rollers, then made my way to the start line with plenty of time to spare. I lined up at the front and calmed the nerves by chatting to James Broadway & Stuart Morgan.
The 1st 3kms would be under control as we made our way out of Warragul. Good thing I’m not a Sprinter as I didn’t read the race guide handed out at rego stating that the Sprint was now in Rokeby instead of Noojee as stated on all other Websites. This saw an early break of Tom Crebin & another rider dangle off the front to at least Jindivick with Tom winning the Sprint.
With the new extra part of the course (awesome roads too) done, Neerim Sth marked a few more breaks with finally two(?) getting away. At this point it felt like the Peleton went to sleep with my thoughts being backed up by the Commissaire, through his bull horn, stating that Masters 4+ were up our asses (not his words). I don’t think anyone wanted to work into the slight head wind, though I’ve got to say I remember seeing Wayne Chester (Warragul CC) doing a good chunk of work up front for the 1st half of the race. Not long after, Tom C does a sweep of the Peleton to see who’s willing to speed things up. The wick gets wound up with turns being done up the rise to the Neerim Nth turn off. I bomb the descent to the Yarra Junction turn off and wait till the front of the Peloton\splinter catches on and the pace is on till the disruption of the feed zone at Noojee. This is sort lived as Danny Kah takes to the front to lift the pace and turns are done to the base of Vesper’s. Still no sign of the break, the pace up Vesper’s starts to get wound up, then Danny Kah sinks the boot in and really drives. I jump on with Stuart Morgan behind thinking ‘this is too early, just sit (though it still felt like I was burning matches) and cover the move and see what happens’. With no help from me or Stuart, Danny gathers up two from the break with the KOM looming. I’m not going to challenge him for the line thinking that he will deservedly get the KOM, but there is still one rider ahead and I’m annoyed his work is not rewarded.
Again I bomb Vesper’s with Stuart & Danny not too far behind. We form a quick alliance and work honest turns to keep our lead. I can’t remember where or when but we collect a Footscray rider too who likes to sit in missing plenty of turns. As we make our way to Tanjil Bren I try to size up the other three riders. Danny tops the list; he’s small and looks strong when out front. He has my mind picturing a flashing neon sign floating above him with the words ‘DANGER STRONG CLIMBER’ for sure. Stuart’s next with his high cadence, known track record in the Tour of Bright, Summer Crits and the Masters National Road Race, is looking strong too. Footscray rider is the dark horse; is he missing turns to rest up big or is he just hanging on?
Tanjil Bren arrives and I ask a spectator to bin an unopened can of Red Bull I’m carrying as I toss it to him. I don’t feel like I need it and it’s time to purge unwanted weight. Thankfully we pass a group of riders before the right hand hairpin just out of Tanjil Bren as some of them take it too hot and as I hear screeching tyres from behind, I turn to see some heading into the bushes!
I love the next descent and the Commissaire’s car can’t drive fast enough to let me run it at the pace I want to on some of the twisting turnsJ Again I wait for the three riders to catch up at the bottom.
The turns keep rolling and somewhere along the way Danny announces “and then there were three” as Footscray rider pops. Just before the Toll Gate I purge any remaining fluid. It’s useless now as I’ve never be able to drink on this beast of a climb.
Bang, we are on the climb and I’m in my 27t riding my own tempo. It feels like we are all testing our legs to see how they will react. After a km or so I’m sensing Stuart but not Danny. I don’t dare to look around as I’m just concentrating on what my body is doing to measure the effort. I feel like I can hurt some more, so I do and start to get a gap on Stuart. I reckon the corner before Winch is steeper so I make sure I save some for it and Winch Corner, then apply more hurt to myself to stretch the gap to the false flat.
“Right, now there is only 3km to go” I tell myself and let it ALL out. I check on some of the corners but can’t spot the white Specialized helmet of Stuart amongst the riders behind from other grades. Finally ‘that rock’ that marks the easing of the gradient approaches and passes and I slightly ease off on the pedal to do up my jersey. I hear the guy hanging out of the Commissaire’s car yell ‘come on, your nearly there’ and pick the tempo up through the Village. I round the last right hander, check behind and drive for the line filled with emotion. Over the line I keep rolling down to the very end of the road in shock and keep the bike rolling back to the line. I can’t speak as I spot Ali and head toward her. People are talking to me but not much is sinking in. Ali hands me a Lucozade. Not long after Stuart turns up we shake hands and try to convey what had just happened. Then James, with more hand shaking and trading experiences.
I get changed and then it’s off to Kelly’s Café to wolf down some of those pancakes and Coffee before the Presentations. James & Kim had the same idea, so we joined them and talked about the race some more. I got one of their caps to wear on the Podium to show my appreciation for all the good food and times I’ve had there after rides up this great stretch of road.