Melbourne to Warrnambool 2012×

The following race report is written from the perspective of Wes Cordingley, guest DS.

In its first National Road Series event as a team, Bike Gallery-Lexus of Blackburn fronted up to the "Warny", a poor cousin of European spring classics. It’s a monument, defined by cross winds, bad roads, inclement weather and a couple of selective climbs. It’s a race for hard men that everyone would love to win.

The following race report is written from the perspective of myself,  Director Sportif  (DS) and co-director, Dave Fisher. We spent the day in convoy following the race on our shiny new ninja-like, euro cool black Lexus CT hybrid, thanks to Lexus of Blackburn. It was to be the car’s first run as a team car, and it looked the part thanks to an amazing wrap job by fellow team member, Brett Kellett from Sign Torque.

Our team consisted of 7 riders, Daniel Strauss, Cam McDonald, Dan Wilkins, Matt Berg, Julian Fleurus, Leigh Clifford and Fergus Sully.

The pre-race briefing was 'interesting' to say the least, including some confusing and aggressive messages regarding feeding from the cars from a commissaire, which set the tone for some icy relationships between the collective group of DSs and commissaries for the day.

Under sunny skies, a peleton of 230 plus rolled out from Werribee . In the car, Fisher and I were probably more excited than the riders as race radio got into the full swing of things. Just two hundred metres into the race, one rider who did not look nearly fit enough to participate was dropped - make no mistake, the Warny is not a Gran Fondo. Then, only 10km in, race radio crackled - a crash!  This list of riders needing assistance was long. Among them, Fergus. He was riding near the front but had been caught up in the crash and was at the bottom of a human pile of NRS points. Lying directly on top of him was recent Scody cup winner Anthony Giacoppo, amongst others.  With a convoy of some 30 cars, it took some time to get to the crash site, and by then Fergus was already up and riding. He worked hard  and pulled some turns with other big hitters to get back to the lead group.

At this point, the cross winds through the zig-zag roads around the You Yangs, split the peleton into 8 distinct groups. Race radio was going berserk, a break had gone off the front, guys were getting spat out the back,  the crash had caused mayhem with guys desperate to get into the convoy and get paced back on and we were desperate to get to up to where the BG boys were. Most of the lads had made the selection. Daniel Strauss hit the deck on a gravelly corner, but chased solo through and got back on, bloodied and bruised. This was the Warny and there was still 200km to go. 

As we worked our way through the back of Geelong and on the long straight section towards the first feed at Inverleigh, we got the distressed hand signal in the air from Matt Berg for assistance. Berg had been caught up in a crash and was still suffering from a man-flu contracted earlier in the week. But, Berg is a hard-man, and he kept riding...

Approaching the first feed, our friends from Drapac brought up the touchy subject of feeding from cars. Despite some well articulated points, feeding was not allowed by the commissaires on the basis that not all riders had access to a team car. The view of the majority was that this was an NRS race where team cars are the norm.

Nevertheless, Fisher and I got the team safely through the first feed before the peloton was confronted with a typical head wind toward Lismore. The peloton sat up, and the
break went away.

This drop in pace allowed a rejuvenated Berg and Leigh Clifford to rejoin the lead group. Unfortunately Fergus had called it a day at the first feed suffering with a crunched back. He was disappointed at being caught up in something outside of his control, we have no doubt that Fergus is about to light things up over the next few months as races get more than a little hilly. You read it here.

The small break was out to 6 minutes, and race radio settled dowm, until the next crash. Our mate Nick Bensley (Stay True Racing ) looked like he had worn the worst of it. Also caught up in the crash was Berg. Today the Warny was not going to be his friend. We pulled over and for Berg that was it, the bike was ready to be thrown in the field, David Miller style. Bergs day was done and into the Lexus he got. We had a bit of a laugh when Berg called his better half, Jessy, telling her he was only an hour away and if she could pick him up. Try two and half Jessy! Back in Melbourne, Berg reported to us that he had sustained fractured wrist. Still, he came off better than current NRS leader, Luke Davison; who suffered a big greasy chain-ring tattoo on his Adonis-like calf.

We had been warned of the big selection that would take place once the race turned toward the coast from Lismore. Whilst we started to lose a few riders off the back, the wind was just simply not strong enough for the big teams to put it in the gutter and cause a split. The next challenge that confronted the boys was the Campy hills. To be more precise two extinct volcanoes. We still had three riders in the front group; Cam, Straussy and Wilko, who was having the ride of his life for his first Warny.

Race radio started to crackle again, things were splitting but Cam and Straussy had managed  to get themselves over the climbs in the lead group whilst Wilko was in the second group with some big hitters who were apparently quite partial to Wilko trading his Torq rhubarb and custard gels with them.

It was incredible how big a gap had opened in such a short period of time between the lead group and second group on the road.  On the run in to Warny, the car did not drop below 45k's an hour. Cam and Straussy were in there with the big boys and put themselves in a position to be at the pointy end of the results sheet. Straussy even tried a brazen attack up the last hill within one kilometre from the finish, but was eventually over powered by some very well organised NRS team sprint trains. Both Cam and Straussy had ridden a phenomenal race to finish 4th and 5th in B grade respectively.

In the car, Fisher and I were struggling to contain our excitement at the results that we had pulled off. Wilko came through to take 8th in B grade with Jules and Clifford rolling through soon thereafter. Just to finish this race is a super human effort and this was a super day for all of the team to celebrate. If there was a B grade teams classification we would have won that, but most impressive, we had managed to beat two of the registered NRS teams. We also won best looking team car, as voted by the kids lining the climb at Camperdown who now have some impressive Torq and Sram bottles to show to their mates as a momento.

Races and results like this however cannot be achieved without some massive behind the scenes support. A massive thank you from everyone riding to the following people:

Alain Fleures from Qi Energy Massage for his feeding and rubbing, Anna and Russell Sully, Dan Burt and Trent Clifford who worked tirelessly all day to get to each of the feed stations and distribute more than 50 odd bottles throughout the day and 100's of torq gels. Co-DS Dave Fisher who drove the Lexus with the precision of a formula 1 driver all day without a nature break.

Also, to our friends at Monza (Sram) and Torq for the supply of feedbags and bottles and high quality nutritional products and Lexus of Blackburn for the Hybrid CT200H and as always, all of our sponsors, Specialized, Enve, Horvat Financial Services, Advantage Point and Bycle for making our little team achieve big things. A special thanks also to our Bike Gallery friends for supporting us along the way.