As I write my latest blog with pain all through my body from my latest bike race experience in the Blayney to Bathurst 110km event organised by Cycling NSW one quote I heard recently comes to mind that is ‘To be able to suffer in cycling is the key to success’.
The race in its 7th year of existence is one of the highlights on the NSW cycling calendar and with well over 2000 cyclists participating the sheer weight of numbers suggests many keen cyclists have this as their individual target race for the year. I was riding with my club Sydney Uni Velo and it was great to see an array of clubs represented from around the state and really made it a carnival atmosphere.
After a perfect autumn day on the Saturday for the Hill Climb Championships and Criteriums the next day proved to be the opposite as the first and last time I saw the sun was leaving getting on the bus to be transported to the start line in Blayney and from there on it was a mixture of rain and wind along with very low temperatures throughout the day.
The race started off in 5 waves according to your anticipated average speed for the race as I started off in the 30-35km wave that proved to be accurate as I averaged 30km for the day that was not too bad with faced with the poor riding conditions. To give you an indication of the elite riders they were reported to be averaging 50km/h for the first half of the race with an overall average speed of 40+km/h that is quite brilliant over such a distance.
The first part of my plan was to get into a group that were going at a managable pace and together with some of my club mates we were able to average 35km/h for the first 40km in what was a fast part of the course. Then we turned 90 degrees and faced a small climb before hitting massive headwinds that would split the large peleton we were in and it was every man and women for themselves as you either ended up riding by yourself or catching onto a small group to battle on with.
It was a mixture of both for me and I must say riding by myself for around 15km was very draining as you have no protection on your own and can be a real battle both physically and mentally to get through a tough stage like the one I faced. But battle on I did as the rain got heavier and visibility was decreasing you just hope for relief somewhere and for me it came with a massive peleton coming through that I was able to hitch on the back to be dragged through the next 10km.
With 25km to go the King of the Mountain (KOM) stage arrived that was a grinding 5km hill climb that to be honest did not look much of a challenge on arrival but soon after hitting the climb I noticed that my legs were really starting to hurt and I was scratching around for the lowest gear possible to get me up the hill. At times it felt I was hardly moving as I passed a few cyclists that were forced off their bikes due to cramping and it really was a matter of getting through this stage anyway you could to survive.
After reaching the top with 20km to go it was very welcoming to be greeted with a water station to top up and re-fuel for the descent back down into Bathurst and with some riders reaching speeds of 80km/h this was when you could really make up some lost time over the journey. So down the mountain I went and just praying that my aching body could hang on and survive as soon after the descent I latched onto another small group to ride through the next 10km with before I decided to step up the pace to stay on track to achieve the time I was aiming for.
With 4km to go I needed to ride under 10 minutes to hit my time goal and again I decided to hit the hammer down to reach the finish line. As I got up out of the saddle to put on a sprint I felt a sensational shockwave go through my body as I realised both of my quads cramped up at the same time as my legs went into a spasm where I could not pedal any longer and was forced to crash over to the side of the road as I tried to stretch out both cramps so I could continue on.
After losing 3 minutes I knew on this occasion my ideal time would not be achieved and it was just a matter of rolling through the next few kilometers to the finish line. Passing round a sharp bend there were two cyclists who had just had a heavy crash and were both flat on their back with cuts and scratches that to me summed up what a brutal day this was together with what was reported later that 40 cyclists had crashed at the 60km mark with around 20 riders having to retire from the race.
Heading up the last incline and praying the my cramps would not return I managed to get through and roll over the finish line to the relief that my pain and suffering had finished and I could celebrate a great achievement with all other riders who had completed the course.
Overall this was a fantastic event and experience and the organisers did a great job over the entire weekend. The sport of cycling is such a great challenge for oneself and no matter what ability of rider or fitness level you are at there is always a test for each cyclist in an event like Blayney to Bathurst and no doubt I’ll be back like so many others will be next year.
Riders pushed to their limits
Photos from B2B