This morning I did my first WA road race and it was a good one. :-)
Coming into the race I was pretty apprehensive. I've been training pretty consistently, and have done a fair bit of work down at Corin recently (it's one of Canberra's longest climbs and is great preparation for Tour of Bright, so when the program says "include a long climb like Corin", it would appear that I like to include more than 1 of them...). It had been "suggested" that I should step up and race WA for this race, which I thought was a compliment in itself, but I still wasn't convinced. It didn't help that I had a rotten hills session on Thursday where I just couldn't seem to get myself moving, which hadn't done wonders for my confidence. But the WA course was a bit longer than WB (54km v 25km), which I thought would be better training for the Tour of Bright, so I bit the bullet and registered for WA.
The one advantage for me in riding WA was that it was combined with MC. Pretty much all the guys that I train with in the V-Maxx squad are MC, so at least it meant I'd have some friends on the road. And I was lucky enough that my bestest training buddy Brad decided that he'd ride for me (as my Super Domestique!). In consultation with Jason Mahoney from Argonaut, we decided that Brad's job was basically to protect me for the first 40km (which was undulating) before we hit the climb (approx 13.5km), making sure I didn't get spat off in the event of a rapid accelleration, and to generally protect me in the bunch. My job was to stay with the bunch until the climb and then get some practice in racing up a climb with a group.
The combined MC / WA was quite large, with approx 25-30 riders in it (definitely the biggest bunch I'd ever ridden in), although there was only 1 other WA rider. It was a little disconcerting heading off at a rate of knots with that many people around me but it didn't take long until some sort of rhythm had formed and the ride was relatively smooth. I felt pretty comfortable heading out towards Tidbinbilla (with my heartrate largely in recovery - E1), although I was conscious of the fact that it was mostly downhill, so knew I'd have to work a bit harder on the return journey.
The bunch was pretty much still together coming into the first turn, and someone within the bunch yelled out to neutralise around the turn so that everyone could regroup. I wasn't opposed to this as I was in the middle of the bunch at this point and don't have the world's best turning circle (understatement of the century!), so it was nice to see the bunch sit up and wait until everyone had pretty much regrouped before getting back down the business of racing. Unfortunately the other WA rider dropped off at around this point so we didn't get to spend much time racing together.
The return journey was a little surgey, and there was one hairy moment when the fellow in front of Brad touched his brakes for some unknown reason, and Brad nearly ran up the back of him, with me nearly running up the back of Brad. But we all stayed upright, and just watched a bit more carefully from then on in. I must say it was nice being looked after by Brad and some of the other VCC riders - I basically had Brad in front of me, constantly checking over his shoulder to make sure I was still with him / OK, and Chris behind me, giving me instruction on where to sit within the bunch. I could get used to that! :-)
But we all knew that the race would get interesting once we hit the climb up to Corin. And as predicted, as soon as we turned the corner into Corin, the pace picked up a fair bit. Brad jumped on the front and pushed the pace, hoping to shed a few riders fairly early to make it easier for me and another VCC rider. This worked pretty well, but another rider attacked straight off the back of that on a fairly solid uphill section, and I didn't have the legs to go with this attack. So I just kept plugging away up the hills, and it didn't take long until a group of 5 of us had formed and started climbing together. I had a bit of fun practicing some race climbing tactics at this point, and we even managed to pick up a few riders from the earlier attack. We stayed together until about the halfway mark of the climb, before I went clear of the group and kept going solo. I found it a fair bit easier to work on my own at this point, as the gradient was a lot more consistent and I could just get myself into my own climbing style.
At long last, we hit Billy Billy Creek, which marks the last big hill that forms part of the Corin climb. I'd been making up ground on the rider in front, and tried pretty hard up this section to reel him in, but it wasn't to be. Another rider caught up with me just past the crest of the Billy Billy Creek section, which was great as it meant I could get a bit of a draft on the flatter / undulating sections before the uphill finish, before overtaking him again towards the end.
And then it was over. I was pretty relieved to have finished, as Corin is always a pretty tough climb. I ended up coming 1st in WA, and 5th overall in MC, which is far better than I expected I'd do. I suspect that's largely because of how well I was looked after by my fellow VCC riders, so I hope they know how grateful I really am for their support. And I even managed a PB up Corin too, but that was just gravy!
So all in all, I'm pretty stoked with today's race. It's a good mark of how far my training has come in the past 13 weeks, but it's also a little bit auspicious for me in way as the Corin Classic was the last race I did last year before I got hit by a car and then had my extended period off the bike. So I kind of feel like today's race was a sign that all of the horrible-ness that came with getting hit by a car is now well and truly behind me, and I'm now fully prepared to get on with the job of riding my bike to the best of my abilities. Bring on the next few weeks of training!