First of all, thanks everyone for your kind words about the first part in this three part blog series. I’m pleased people enjoyed reading it and I hope the information was useful to you in some way.
So to part two…and as promised, the focus here will be the Charles Coin Memorial & Mardi Bartlett Classic (which are run on the same course at Mulgowie). Let’s have a look at that course…
It’s 18.6 km long and no matter what way you look at it, it’s not a tough course. There are two key reasons for this. Firstly, the vast majority of the hills have a nice run in / run up, meaning you have a lot of momentum going up them. Secondly, the only hill that should cause you any trouble (right near the finish) has a significant downhill after it and then an extended fast and flat section where a group can chase back on (more about that hill later).
Like all courses though, the wind can be a big factor, so you need to be watchful of where it is blowing from and keep yourself out of it. Remember that if the wind is a cross wind, sitting behind someone won’t help you a lot. You need to be diagonally behind them, hiding from the breeze (of course choosing the correct side to be on, based on the wind direction).
Let’s talk about ‘that’ hill. It is about 400 metres long and the top of it is only 1 km or so from the finish line. You crest over the top, hit a big downhill, a slight flatten out, a left hand turn and then it is just a short run to the finish. For those of you who didn’t race last year, the finish has moved from the old spot which was a good 4 km or so after the hill. The two things we need to discuss about this hill are how to approach it in the middle of the race and then how to approach it at the very end (two very different things).
During the race, for the reasons discussed earlier (big extended fast and flat section after it where a group can chase back on), I actually don’t think it is a great place to attack and get away. It is however, a point each lap where selections will be made due to people getting dropped. So what I mean here is that a bunch of forty-five could lose a handful of people each lap. You don’t want to be one of those people! If you have good legs, don’t be afraid to have a go here and string the bunch out; especially if there are some good sprinters you would like to ‘remove’ before the end (especially on the last lap – more about that later). But as stated it is a hard spot to get away on because of what follows.
If you are in survival mode on the hills, then this particular rise is perfect for one of the oldest tricks in the book. It’s got a few different names; the ‘drift’ and the ‘slide’ are two I can think of. Here’s how it goes. The hill is 400 metres long. Let’s imagine you are in a bunch of forty-five people riding three abreast (strung out on the climb). The bunch will be fifteen bicycles long, so would be about 30 metres from first wheel to last (1.85 metres maximum per bike plus a little space in between). Let’s say the average speed for the hill is 24 km/h. It will take you pretty close to one minute to get up the hill. If you start the hill at the front (or very close to it) and let yourself drift back through the bunch, making sure that you are still on a wheel by the time you hit the top (albeit right near the back), you will only need 22.2 km/h to make it over the top, still in the bunch. You do that a few times and you are saving some serious energy biccies. This technique can be used on any hill in any race you do. Obviously it works best with a big bunch and shorter hills.
This particular hill gives the race one of the most unique finishes in Queensland cycling and there are many different ways to approach it. If you have AWESOME legs, you could potentially attack on it and win (especially if you are already in a small breakaway group). This requires a vicious attack to get an initial gap, powering up the hill, sprinting over the top and then full gas to the finish. Sound easy? You will recall that I said AWESOME legs. If you are a fast sprinter type, you can simply try your best to hold a wheel in about fifth or sixth spot over the hill, watch a flurry of failed attacks and people burning energy chasing those failed attacks, before ‘popping up’ just in time for the finish. As I mentioned earlier, in a reduced bunch or a breakway, there is still time to drop a sprinter or two here, who is trying to hide themselves away. If you don’t have the legs to attack and get away and if you are not a strong sprinter, there is still an opportunity for you. There will be (no doubt) at least one or two failed attacks on the last hill and over the other side. What you need to do is milk those attacks for all they are worth. Follow the wheels (I said follow, not do a turn and help out) and when those wheels are totally spent then BANG play your cards flat out (remember what I said in the first blog about being scared of going for the win?). That just might work…
If you happen to be racing in a large team on the day, there are a few things I would do on that finish. I would have at least two riders setting a strong tempo on the hill, right on the front. The pace needs to be fast enough to make sure that no one else will attack but not so fast that the tempo men can’t make it up the hill and / or sprinter type team mates are getting dropped. Those tempo men need to be replaced by someone else who can lead strongly over the top of the hill and down to the corner, again with the intent being a pace fast enough that no one else can attack. Then after the corner, it’s standard lead out stuff, with the quick folk on a wheel until the right moment. The whole intent of a team ‘owning’ a finish like that is to control things through the appropriate pace. As I have said, fast enough to prevent other attacks but slow enough that you are able to do the job. It’s a tricky balance but if you can get it right it can be very effective.
Good luck all! Unfortunately I will not be racing this event this year as I will be in Brisbane doing family stuff so I look forward to hearing all the race reports the following week.