2015 Cunningham Classic race reports – Saturday 1st August

Several Bikeline Racing members raced in the 2015 Cunningham Classic last Saturday. The Cunningham Classic presented by Kangaroo Point CC is regarded as one of Australia’s toughest road races and this year proved no exception. Riders generally have a love/hate relationship with this race for good reason. The race distance is just shy of 100km, for everyone bar Elite A, from Gatton to Warwick including a slight rise in the middle. Conditions on the day were near perfect – not too hot and not too cold, “goldilocks weather” I reckon. The dreaded crosswinds after the Heifer Creek climb were also absent which made for great racing conditions.

The photos below are thanks to our awesome club photographer Suzy from Fixdgear Photography.

Here’s some race reports from those who participated:

Richard MacAvoy & Trent West:

A clear, bright but brisk morning greeted Trent West and I at the start line of Men’s Masters A. The first hour of racing was aggressive while many riders tried to force an early break. However the peloton was in no mood to let a big group go. A few kilometres before the KOM a small group of three finally squeezed off the front and went clear. The peloton kept a solid tempo up the hill and the trent_richspeed was fast on the decent before settling through the feed station. A concerted chase quickly materialised and for the next 40km Trent and I could be seen at the head of the group, in an effort to keep the momentum high. Coming into the finally kilometres the break was still a small sight up the road and it became evident that we would be sprinting for the minor places. With Trent locked on my rear wheel I navigated through the final, dropping him off close to the front with 300 metres to go. Trent came in 5th (ish) in the ferocious bunch gallop, placing him about 8th overall. Not exactly the result we were looking for but a solid day and a great race which will see me lining up next year to give it another crack.

Louis Pijpers:

Having recently spent a few weeks in overseas riding the road bike a lot I decided to try my hand at this years Cunningham Classic in Men’s Elite C. All week I had been thinking I might be ‘sandbagging’ in Elite C but within 20 minutes of the race start I was more than happy to not have stepped up a grading.

Louis_gramsyA couple of kilometres from the KOM I was sitting second wheel behind fellow mountain biker Matt Dodd. I thought a car was coming past so I went to shoulder check and was surprised to see that it wasn’t a car but more like a 8-man Wattbomb going off! Already on the limit I decided to just try a constant effort up the climb rather than going too hard and blowing up. It worked and I ended up 5th at the KOM mark and still in some shape to hold onto the attack on the backside of the climb.

The pace didn’t let up for the remainder of Heifer Creek descent and the transition to the feed zone at Pilton Hill. Shortly after the feed zone the soon-to-be Most Aggressive rider started a solid solo breakaway which sparked a crew of about 8 riders taking turns to hunt him down for the next 20 or so kilometres. I felt pretty good at this point as we caught the one man breakaway and we were joined by another 5 riders upon approaching the final 15 kilometres.

The group punched along and surged hard as we turned left under the first bridge. As a first time “Cunningham-er” I thought this must be the final straight and my legs were caving! Looked further up the road and couldn’t see where the finish would be to just tried to hold on and try pedal out some tight leg muscles. Passed under a second bridge, turned left and it was on! I knew the final straight was about 700m so decided to just find a wheel and hold on for dear life. I worked alright for the first few kicks until a couple of hundred metres from the line and the sprint was on big time. My legs weren’t having a bar of the sprint party so I pretty much kept pedalling as well as I could to tough for 7th, which I was pretty stoked about!

It was a great race and I am sure to be back next year. Big thanks to all the Bikeline Racing volunteers and host club Kangaroo Point Cycling Club for putting on such a great event!

Laura Brazier:

The weather could not have been any better, unless…well, a big tailwind would have been nice! Anyway we set off from Gatton and all worked together for the first little bit. The pace was pretty good, and it was fun. Then we started going uphill and then you saw the strong ones on the front. Rachel Cullen and I tried to work together to make it easier on ourselves and to keep the lead in view. Sometimes the lead was us. The group pretty much stayed together until the Pilton Hill. At that point Jessica and Julie Rappo broke from the front, chased by me and Rachel, when she caught me.laura

By the time we were on the New England Hwy I was struggling. I was still doing turns on the front but they were getting less and shorter! I dropped behind Rachel and was soon caught by the KPCC girls, but was dropped by them by the time we reached the turnoff into Allora. I did the trip from Allora to Warwick by myself so it was slow and hard. I was just too stubborn to give up and I did manage a bit of a sprint at the end, and Glenn Trussell said I was still smiling. I don’t remember! I think Jessica Hoskin from the Sunshine Coast CC won with Julie Rappo second. Rachel Cullen got first unplaced D grader and I got second unplaced D grader.
It is the hardest thing I have ever done, I think. I simply had nothing left when I had finished. I just slumped down, someone kindly asked if I needed the ambulance, so I must have looked like I’d had it. Kate Kelly-Duke also finished the race by herself, and rode by herself for further than me which is a tough thing to do.

Richard Watson:

The bunch kept a relatively steady but brisk pace for the roll out to Ma Ma Creek, and I was careful to keep my nose out of the wind but stay near to the front. Once the lumpy bits started there was a little more action and just after the cutting at about the 30km mark I got away with 5 others when we hit it hard on some short hills. It’s such a great feeling to look back and see the follow car in behind. We rode well together but one guy had a mechanical, then the 2 stronger riders gapped us in the run up to the KOM.richard_cunningham
My group of 3 worked really well together–no one missed a turn for the next 60km! We worked hard to stay away from the bunch but did not catch the leaders. I failed to respond to a final surge just before the finish straight (had been cramping for a while) so rolled in for 5th place. Stuffed but happy. Average pace 35kph. Thanks to Rob Walker for the handup, and especially to Pedr Harvey for the transport and organisation.

David Swann:

The Cunningham Classic in Men’s Masters C1. The perfect race, nearly. The conditions were brilliant while I sat on my bike in Gatton, awaiting the start of C1 grade with 46 fellow cyclists. Once we got going I sat in the pack until the climb was approaching. Then I made my way towards the front in anticipation of the increase in speed. Last year I kicked way too early on the climb so after summoning some patience I sat in there, determined not to go on the front. We got to the last 1.2km section on the KOM and the man with the enormous quads made his move. I tried to jump on his wheel. We were climbing fast and suddenly had a gap on the others. He stretched the gap and I had to settle for 2nd over the KOM.swanny_louis
Very quickly a group of 12 riders came together and we were off the front on the descent. Through the feed station the speed kept increasing. I was spinning my legs off to keep in touch as the powerhouses forced the pace on the front of the group. I sat on the back for the next 40 odd kms, partly out of choice and partly because I had to save my legs. Coming into the last lefthand corner the front bunch were all still together so I made my way near the front, with a plan of following wheels until the last second jump for the line. A few seconds later I found myself kicking after an attack. I went around the rider and was on the front, too early but I was committed. I sprinted strongly and was nearing the finish line, picturing the podium in my mind. Nobody told me they had moved the finish line further up the road. I rode across last year’s finish line but didn’t have another kick in me. Five riders then went screaming past me just before I crossed the new line marked with black tape on a black road some 50 metres further on. Brilliant, another finish screwed up. Oh well, only 12 months to go until I can try again. Hopefully next year I will know where the race ends.

Michael Illing:

The race starts. We rolled out behind the neutral car just having a friendly chat until bam the flag drops and literally we went from 30 to 50 kilometres an hour, which feels pretty damn fast in a tightly packed bunch of cyclists. With the roar of carbon wheels slicing though the still crisp air there was no stopping this nitrous injected train. We were full gas, no one was letting the pace drop as we twisted and turned though the picturesque valleys just outside of Gatton. About 30kms in I started feeling the terrain point upwards and as I looked around at the trees zooming past I noticed that the pace wasn’t getting any slower, if michael_cunninghamanything it was heating up. With the KOM fast approaching the attacks started coming. Bam, one guy flew past but I didn’t worry thinking that the group would work to bring him back. Then bam, another guy goes. Damn, it is my turn to bring this one back so I got to the front, head down and drove my pedals as hard as I could to close the gap. As we wound our way up the mountain the group began to thin out. This was good, hopefully it would make the last couple of kilometres easier up the climb. As we approached the 1 kilometre to go KOM sign I noticed Tom Gough take the lead. I know this guy can climb, and really climb. I jumped straight on his wheel. As soon as the gradient hits the 10% mark he dropped the hammer and literally decimated the peloton. As I sat on his wheel holding on for dear life we hit the 200m to go mark. I prepared to make a sneaky jump on him but Bradley Soden smacked it from behind and got a good little gap on us before we knew what was going on. Bradley rolled over the KOM in 1st, with yours truly following not far behind in 2nd, and Tom Gough in 3rd.

After the KOM I was expecting the pace to slow up a bit, well hoping so. Then I could recover from those torturous efforts up the climb. Man was I wrong. It was full gas down the hill, I was pedalling my little heart out just to make sure I wasn’t going to be left behind. It was only 7 kilometres to the feed zone but a very fast 7 kms. Luckily everyone was feeling the last 50 odd kms in their legs so the pace slowed for the feed zone in order to take on board well-earned supplies. After the feed zone I was expecting the race to speed up again. And it sure did. With not much wind around the engines at the front really turned up the heat and got the train rolling.

The last 10ks felt like a different race. It seemed like my legs forgot what just happened in the last 85 kilometres and I was ready to let it rip. I got this nervous feeling felt throughout the peloton as everyone started preparing for the last battle for top spot on the podium. I was mid pack getting positioned to try and sneak up through the pack without doing any unneeded work. Then “CRUNCH, BANG, SNAP”, I was on the brakes with my rear wheel locked up, dodging flying bikes and bodies, as a good 6 or 7 riders in front fell down hard. I went into survival mode. I have no idea how I didn’t go down. As I slid to a halt, half on the road and half in the ditch, all I could smell was burnt rubber. I looked up and the remainder of the group were already 400m up the road. After a quick check that everyone was ok I jumped back on my bike and commenced my long time-trial back to the group. I pushed hard and dipped well into the red but was unable to catch the bunch and rolled in about a minute back.

So that’s my story about my first Cunningham Classic race. I can tell you for certain that I will be putting it in my race calendar from now on. Hats off to everyone who competed on the weekend and all of the organisers, you guys and gals did a great job. And a huge thanks to Pedr for all of his help. He not only drove us down to Gatton but he gave us some awesome course insight and some good strategies, got us ready, bottled us, and had food prepared at the finish line for us.

I will see you next year!!!

Compiled by Rob Walker