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First race down and to go with that, the first kicking too.

At last the weather has broken. The sun’s here, the rain’s eased off (for the time being at least) and it’s criterium season in Australia.

Dave’s race day supporters cheer him on.

I’ve been over here a good few weeks now and on pretty much every Sunday that I’ve planned to race, the heavens have opened up and made the roads a slippery, greasy mess and with that the racing had been put on the back burner.

But this Sunday, Mr sunshine treated me to a great day to tackle the first race of my Australian racing season.

Now, I’ll get the excuses in early like any good cyclist. I haven’t raced for close to 3 months and then I’d only done a few time trials and a single crit down at Blackpool in the UK. I’ll blame it on a shoddy season due to operations and what not.

But on the upside, I’d put a nice lot of mile’s, sorry kilometres in since I’d arrived in Oz (even rainy km’s).

From where I’m staying up in the backpackers at Emerald (yes I still haven’t been offered accommodation by you locals) it was a 30 km hilly ride along the main road to Glenvale where the crit was to start.

On getting there I knew it was going to be a good event, not because of the amount of riders lingering around but just down to the fact that some bright spark had the clever idea of rocking up in a van equipped with a full on coffee machine. Now there’s a business venture that the Dragons Den people would be interested in. Coffee and cycling go hand in hand, there’s one hell of a coffee cycling culture around Melbourne but that’s another story or blog as the case would be.

On to the racing. Racing started at 8.30am with the kids heading out, followed by 2 grades at a time heading out doing an hour of the circuit plus 3 laps.

The circuit was a rapid lap around about a 1 km block. 4 left hand turns, a slight rise on the home straight, with that rise it then headed downhill until after you turned the first left out of the home straight. This made this part of the circuit pretty rapid. The following corner after this slight down hill ended up my favourite corner, yeah I have favourite corners! You got a problem with that? Others include corner number 8 on Alp d’huez especially when the Dutch are camping out there, the right hander at the bottom of the Koppenberg in Flanders and that right hand turn in to my drive  back home after a long wet ride in the lakes.

Back to that left hander at Glenvale – A real fun left hander to dive in to, you could get up some nice speed and get that good feeling that you’re carving the road up.

The roads were kept nice and clear of traffic, even though they were open to other users. The organisers did a great job here, in the whole race I only had to avoid one car and that was a hearse, but they are not the nippiest of motors on the road and to tell the truth it was about 50 minutes in to the race and I thought it had turned up for me.

So going on the fact that me telling you I was expecting the hearse to be there for me really tells you how I felt in the race. Yes, dead is correct and no, not dead good! Well not quite dead but you Australians were doing a good job at trying to kill me off. I was hanging on in there at time.

An average speed of 44km h-1, an average heart rate of 188 and a max of 203 for a first venture out this was one hell of a wake up call.

I won’t bore you with a race round up, who attacked when, who brought who back and all that, as it gets boring unless you know the people. So all I’ll say is that it was fast, stayed pretty rapid, I had a bit of a dig in a few places, lost a few wheels, fought for others and finished somewhere in what was the bunch. I was happy with the efforts I made and the way the race went for me. After all it was my first in, oh, must be a good 4 months (see what I did there, exaggerated from the truth to make myself look better).

I didn’t set the race alight or have any real big input, but then again I never have excelled at crits, they’re not my cup of tea really, but I loved it. It was great to get that acrid taste in the back of your mouth when going hard and that feeling at the start when you think “oh hell, I’m in for a good hour of pain”. The thrill of mixing it up in the bunch and I’ll add here that you Australians were pretty safe in the bunch too.

No major sketchy moments to write home about, I think there was one crash in all the groups. Not a bad day for St John and his ambulance people.  You are all pretty good bike handlers, I guess that Saturday hell ride along the beach road has it benefits!

The atmosphere at this first race is something that I hope is going to continue at other races, people were accommodating open and friendly. I didn’t spot or come across any of that elitism or people not having time for others who are in lower grades that I’ve seen in other places around the globe from time to time.

All in all, it was a really well organised morning of racing. From what I gathered, the lower grades have marshals at the front and back of the bunch, keeping things nice and safe. I guess these are guys from higher grades happy to do the odd weekend of ride marshalling to encourage and eventually grow the sport. This I haven’t seen before, but it sure is a good idea.

Next race is on Tuesday. Again organized by the Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club. This time though on a motor racing circuit. Lets hope this is closed to cars!

I’ve put together one of my videos for you to see the action:

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