By: Peter Bennett
The UCI-UWCT qualifying race in Perth was turned into a hybrid stage race this year, the first of which on Wednesday evening in Fremantle was watching the NRS criterium race in which our Superheros from DirectAsia-ANZA – Robocop, Alex Robertson and Dave Cox plus Vinnie Ang and Paulo Caputo all competed. It what looked like one painful lap after another the main pros in the race blew the amateurs away but then it was only a preview race for the Uncle’s UCI qualifier which started with a 18km time trial on Rottenest on Friday, then moved to two road races on Friday and Saturday. You needed a degree in mathematics from MIT to work out how to qualify for the finals in Slovenia so I won’t bore you with details here (not that I understood them)…suffice to say if you rode hard, you qualified.
Rottnest is a gorgeous island with beautiful sea views, undulating sand dunes rising majestically from the Southern Ocean and an almost daily stunning sunset. Its spotless dunes are kept spotless by a volunteer group cleverly called Spotless while there are all sorts of building and “fun” restrictions on the island. But for all its beauty, for me there simply were too many sand dunes, too much blue sky and not enough concrete. No casino. No Four Floors. Nothing. Yet I managed to resist the temptation to rip out all this and build a condo on it. Call it Quokkas Oceanhillsky View or something.
It is also a ridiculous place to hold a time trial. There was zero traffic apart from one errant golf buggy, clean road surfaces, winding, twisting, lumpy roads with breathtaking vistas on almost every corner – I mean where were the articulated trucks, the crazy bus drivers and the taxi drivers with a craving for lane switching without signals?
I couldn’t concentrate on the job in hand and without a truck to tailgate behind or an auntie to watch out for crossing the road without warning I trundled around in 30 minutes. The biggest danger on the road was the quokka – a sort of Darwinian weirdo that is a cross between a rat, a kangaroo and a koala on speed withdrawal. They just walk around doing not a lot except for getting in the way of bike riders so I bought with interest Mark Haller’s advice of “if you see one on the road, aim straight for it.” I’m still trying to figure out what would have happened next had I seen one during the TT given a quokka’s reaction speed. Meerkats they are not.
The competition for this world qualifier was a bunch of bronzed Aussies with bulging muscles from every crevice and assorted tattoos on every flat part of skin, riding on some seriously pimped up bikes. The guys were even worse. The NRS race later in the day had it right when it only allowed road bikes and no aerobars so I compared my time against theirs rather than the million dollar TT bikes I was up against. It was still shit.
Without the bling I was never really in the competition but what the heck. It was still a good day out. The proper road racing began the next day with 12 laps of Bold Park, seven of them with half an SBV and five with half of that plus about three-fifths of a backside of Faber. It was a gruelling, attritional race as it was last year, made harder when the Super Uncle’s category caught the Junior Uncle’s category making a peleton of around 80 riders at one point.
This exploded on lap 8 and the first time up the steep bit (that’s 0.5xSBV + 0.6xMFBS for the right brain readers, “the fecking hard bit” for the left brain readers). By the time the carnage was over and not before your hero had to chase back on because some brainless fecker lost a wheel, that 80 riders was reduced to about 50 and with each consequent lap we lost another 10%.
So it t’was that on the last lap and up the hill for the final time with about 30 Junior Uncles and Super Uncles together. Determined to stay with a pack that was attacking each other left and right, I hung on for my life but couldn’t close a gap myself this time and crested in last position. At least by that point I was seeing stars and dry retching while later, when I downloaded my data, I noticed I set a new maximum heart rate just at this point. At least I was trying. After 100km at speed and on hills I don’t train on, I finished two mins down on the bunch and in 12th place. I needed 10th for an auto spot in the finals in Slovenia in August so I’m crossing my fingers for a roll down.
On the Sunday we had something called a Grand Fondue, a little bit of a misleading title in my view as there wasn’t a slice of Swiss cheese in sight. Unless you count Robocop pining for the mountains, that is. Basically this meant 120 riders starting in one bunch and riding from Fremantle to somewhere I can’t remember in the Perth hills. The fun part of this ride was discussing with a yocal rider how it was more than just a coincidence that we didn’t hit a red light the entire way through the city bit and learning the police have some device that can override a red light when they want to. I didn’t know that. And why isn’t it on the black market for us to buy from some dodgy geezer in Kalang? Getting one of those would be huge fun.
Anyhoo, the jollity ended with a touch of wheels on a dull, flat, straight bit of road as it always does and a minor stack that happened right in front of me – I’m talking not even a bike length ahead of me here people yet I still stopped on time and stayed upright. How ‘bout that, eh? I pulled my front break lever so hard I managed to pull the cable through the calliper thingy, a point of note I suddenly remembered a few kilometres later while descending at 75kmph on a rough road that fell snake like through some woods. It was the same out-of-control adrenalin rush feeling I got when I did a bungy jump and I must admit I may have had a slight accident in my shorts.
And then the fun really ended as soon as we hit a 10km climb that had the same sort of gradient as Mandai Avenue the same direction as the Crazies do it. That meant all I had to do was say to myself ten times over “it’s just a Crazies ride, it’s just a Crazies ride”, a strategy that worked until episode five when some motherfecker attacked and the group blew to smithereens. We’ve all been in the dark place in what happened next: Alex R and I couldn’t get on the last wheel back to the bunch and spent five agonising kilometres watching the bunch inch away from us until it was just the other side of “too far”. Dave Cox made it, Vinnie Ang also did. Robocop punctured during this agonising period too and yet despite not passing Alex and I, managed to finish ahead of us.
How odd. This modern day Twilight Zone in the Perth Hills has never been fully explained.
After that it was kinda easier – we were caught by a larger bunch of about ten riders who had been delayed by a huge stack on a sweeping corner and rolled to the finish line 40kms later. Inevitably after three days, I felt at my best on the final climb up to Thetownwithaninstantlyforgettablename and finished in xx place, yy time behind the leaders. I’ve never looked up what xx and yy represent, I just know that (a) I didn’t win it; (b) my legs hurt afterward; (c) it was freezing by Singers standards; (d) it was a really fun cycling event and I’d recommend it to everyone. Do it next year. You’ll have a blast.