Postcards from Melbourne IV

Before the start of the Men’s Time Trial this afternoon, we took the opportunity to ride the entire 15.9km Geelong Road Race circuit. I still suspect that while the peloton will be nervous on the fast, flat, potentially windy, 85km ride from Melbourne, the real racing won’t start until the riders reach Geelong.

Previously, I hadn’t fully appreciated the narrowness of the roads around the parks, along the river and through the suburbs. The remainder are relatively broad but the two testing climbs are on the narrower roads, so it will be imperative to remain well placed at the head of the peloton each time it approaches those climbs.

The first climb is Challambra Crescent at around 5.6km, with the second at 9.2km. The former is the steeper. While it’s only 1km in length, it averages 8% at the start, before seemingly cruelly dipping down before rearing up to 22% at the summit (13% av.). The crescent is a residential road which should be thronged with locals on race day.

Steep descents tend to follow steep ascents and this is no exception. Taylor Phinney managed 85km/hr. on this 2.5km descent yesterday. At the foot of the descent there’s a sharp S-bend leading to a narrow temporary, pontoon bridge. This is followed by the 700m ascent of Queens Park Road: shorter than the first, but equally punishing. There’s then just 6km along wide roads to the finish line, into a very strong headwind, not forgetting, of course, the last 150m cruel, kick-up before the line. Needless to say, anyone (solo or small group) hoping to escape will probably need to attack on the first hill. 

Reconnaissance over, we resumed our posts to watch the Men’s Time Trial. Few can forget Fabulous Fabian’s majestic and imperious victory last year and today he was hoping to become the first rider to win a fourth title in this discipline. Only the brave or foolhardy would have bet against him. Fortune sometimes favours the brave, but not today: it followed the form book. Nonetheless, it was a totally absorbing race with impressive times being posted by riders in the earlier groups, notably Mick Rogers who was also hoping to be the first man  to win 4 World titles in this discipline. He was sitting in the hot seat as the first riders from the last group rolled down the starting ramp.

While the ladies basked in sunshine yesterday afternoon, today the sun was hidden by thick clouds and rain looked a real possibility. The earlier stiff breeze disappeared favouring those in the final group.  Naturally, Fabulous Fabian was last out of the starting blocks preceded by one of Australia’s new heroes, Ritchie Porte, who went after last year’s silver medalist, Tony Martin.

Tony Martin

David Millar was posting the fastest split times forcing Fab to really push it on the descents where he reached speeds of over 100km/hr. almost coming to grief on the S-bend as he brushed up against the barrier. Remember what I said about luck? Tony Martin had a puncture and, thanks to his quick witted support team, was on his replacement bike within 10secs. (Remembering Dowsett yesterday, can they please give a few tips to the British squad.) Given that he still managed to finish in 3rd place, he’ll no doubt be buying them drinks this evening.

Silver for Millar

Millar was smoking, but not as much as Spartacus, who finished atop the podium, more than a minute ahead of Millar. Porte and Rogers were respectively 4th and 5th. This margin allowed Fab to waggle 4 fingers as he crossed the finishing line. I consider I’ve been fortunate to see all four wins in person.

The Terminator

(All photographs courtesy of my beloved)