Bike Bug – Aussie Pallets Cycling Team

Sam Miranda Road Race and Handicap – by Adam Murchie
Whilst last weekend was my official “comeback” race, this weekend’s Sam Miranda race was the real homecoming party. This was my first open race competing against predominately full time riders in over 12 weeks and it was going to be a real test of my form and an indication of where I am really at for the upcoming races. The Sam Miranda Race is part of the Victorian Road Series and comprises a lumpy 105km road stage on the Saturday with an 85km handicap on the Sunday. We fielded a strong outfit with myself, Ben Johnson (BJ), Aaron Salisbury (Az) and Adam Trewin (AT) all lining up for some fun. The race had strong representation with Drapac, Charter Mason, Target Trek, Venezio and a number of other NRS teams present. Our plan was to try and get Az over the hills and unleash him at the finish. The start was a dicey affair with no closed roads and 80 odd riders all trying to get to the front. The race found a natural balance after about 20kms when the attacks started flying and riders started going out the back. There was a bit of a concertina effect as the race continued to split and come back together for the next 20 kms as riders tried to get away in anticipation of the hills to come. Eventually, Will Walker and Floris Goesinnen (Drapac) got off the front with a Target Trek rider and started establishing a good gap. A bit of chasing ensued and we all sat in doing turns as necessary and conserving energy. As we hit the hills, BJ and I were up the front and able to go with the surges that went on the KOM’s. At this stage I was pleasantly surprised with the form but there was still plenty of racing to come. At the 55km mark we hit the Strada Nero, or black road. That might sound obvious save that it was not a road, but a 6km dirt climb with loose gravel, pot holes and a bit of moisture to boot! The race hit this climb hard and it soon split. AT and Az were hanging in but let go at the halfway mark whilst I was hanging tough. I saw my heart rate at 184 bpm and knew I was on the limit when Lapthorne attacked. I had to let go at this point but BJ was riding super well and got over the top with the leaders. I managed to only loose a few seconds and was able to rejoin on the descent. BJ informs me that this year the climb was done a full 45 seconds quicker than last year so I took some comfort in knowing that the hill was really done at speed. Aaron also managed to get back in and we told him to sit on whilst BJ and I worked turns to try and bring the break back. Unfortunately with many riders not interested, or incapable, of chasing we got the break back to about 1 min at one point only to have it blow out to 1.30 by the finish. At the 5km to go mark I went back and picked up Aaron and put him on the wheel of sprinter Shannon Johnston (Charter Mason). Az was well placed as the sprint opened up and I got a little swamped and we were looking good for a solid top 10 result. Unfortunately Az cramped in the sprint and had to sit up so I registered the best result in about 20th. Both Az and BJ finished with the bunch whilst AT was a few mins down. Will Walker won the stage in a strong ride after being off the front for about 70kms. Considering he had been crook AT put in a good ride but he paid for it as by the end of the day he could not talk and we jokingly asked him to send us text messages if he needed to ask us anything. After a brilliant Dineamic meal on the Saturday night and a bit of banter we lined up for the Handicap on the Sunday. BJ was off scratch whilst Az and I were off second scratch (4 mins). AT was a withdrawal unfortunately. I was super comfortable in the handicap and was  very happy with how I had recovered. Az was also cruising and we knew we would easily get over the climbs before scratch caught us. Even with a lot of guys sitting on (a joke I know) we were sitting on 47-50kmh and making good time. That is until we took a wrong turn and lost about 3 of our 4 minute advantage. There was some irony in this for me as I was originally off scratch and asked to be pushed out given my lack of racing but here I was swapping off turns with the scratch guys. At this point I made a decision to do hard turns to the climb, and then get over the climb as best I could, figuring this would serve me well for the upcoming races. Whilst it was uncomfortable, BJ and I were working solidly and by this time there were only about 7 guys working despite the scratch and 4 minute bunches merging. Over the climb the race split badly under the impetus of Darren Lapthorne and BJ and I got over in the lead group of 7. I was super happy with this as plenty of quality rider were now scrambling to get back on terms. Eventually things regrouped and at this time I decided to sit back and save the legs to treat the rest of the ride like a motorpace. Unfortunately Az didn’t make it over the climb so it was just BJ and I. He didn’t miss a beat all day and was riding super strong whilst I was trying to ride smart, get good kms in the legs and see out a solid weekend of racing. With 2kms to go I moved to the front and at the 1km to go mark BJ jumped off the front with a cheeky attack. For a second it looked as if they wouldn’t chase but soon after the sprint opened up in earnest. This time I managed to follow some good wheels and finished inside the top 10 in the scratch bunch sprint with BJ coming in just behind. The race was won by an outmarker with Shannon Johnston being Will Walker in the race for fastest time. All in all a great weekend of racing and the Team acquitted itself very well. More importantly, aside from the great racing and a good weekend away it is “money in the bank” for the upcoming races we are targeting. At a personal level I was stoked with my form. I was worried I might get a flogging but this has confirmed I am where I need to be and I am now looking forward to the upcoming races. Thanks to everyone who reads these little race insights and a huge vote of thanks to our sponsors who give us outstanding support and encouragement. Till next time…..
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