Mar 26, 2012

Rapha Gentlemen's Race - Melbourne 2012

Over the weekend the Wolf Goat Pack had the privilege of taking part in the Rapha Gentlemen's Race - Melbourne 2012.

Goat Pack Regional President Todd was invited by his good friends at Rapha Australia to captain-up and submit a team to take part in the race. Against better judgement, Todd assembled a crack (crap?) team made up of the best (only) riders the Goat Pack had to offer.

Captain Todd, only man brave enough to run a Baum with Enve 45s

The Rapha Gentlemen's Race calls for teams of six with at least one female rider. With the Goat Pack usually being somewhat of a sausage-fest this presented quite a problem for us five fellas. Luckily for us Captain Todd actually talks to the 'ladies' and managed to rustle up quite a handy rider in Emma Weir. I'd like to think it was the lure of riding with the Goat Pack that drew Em in, but more likely she had nothing better to do on the day or Captain Todd slipped Em some cash on the side.

The Route

Rapha put together a challenging 135 kilometre course that began in the Victorian town of Lang Lang, headed out south through the hilly rural areas of Loch and Krowera, on to a checkpoint at the coastal town of Inverloch. The return leg was slightly longer and took a different route back via Bena and Poowong before finishing up back where we started in Lang Lang.

Being that the Rapha Gentlemen's Race is inspired by the Rapha Continental style of riding, the course also included three sections of unmade gravel road and 1,260m of elevation gained... not to mention a heap of wind, rain and the all too frequent smell of cow poo.

The Ride

The shenanigans started early for Team Velo Liberte. We were called to the start line for our 7.18 departure, yet somehow along the way we misplaced Captain Todd our and mobile team mechanic (Ethan). Todd's whereabouts were never confirmed, we later found out Ethan was sitting in the warmth of his car thinking we had another half an hour up our sleeve before heading off.

Andrew from Rapha Australia called us through and questioned where the rest of our team had gone. Todd had race notes so I had no idea where to go, embarrassingly I asked "which way?", to which Andrew promptly responded "left, then up the street to the pink arrow".

Once finally together and out on the damp road we quickly caught up to one of the two teams that had subsequently passed us while we worked out our start line jitters. Despite us rolling turns and doing our fair share of the work for our combined group, I was a little taken aback when a rider from the other team began suggesting we should be disqualified for sitting in on another group. Obviously he was focusing more on the 'Race' than the 'Gentlemenly' aspect of the event.

On the gas!

Old mate got his wish for us to leave a few minutes later when after only eight kilometres the mechanical gremlins showed up and attacked Em's rear derailleur. We pulled over and Ethan set about using his 'magic hands' to fix the problem and get us back on our way.

About 20 kilometres in the climbing proper started. We chugged away and tried to eat into the miles as we hit the first of three gravel sections. This wasn't the first time I had taken a high end carbon fibre bike off road, but it was the first time I had done it deliberately.

Through the gravel, over the hill and it was another slightly longer stop to try and repair Em's gears. Moving again it was on to the second gravel section and through the decents on to the windy flats that would take us to the Inverloch checkpoint.

Etho tackling the gremlins

More fun for us at Inverloch where Team Velo Liberte missed the coffee-van checkpoint. Had it been a classic Rapha H-Van we would have been right as rain, but as luck would have it we rolled straight passed the van that was hidden in plain sight. About a kilometre up the road Eth smelled a rat a called out to another team who confirmed that we had in fact missed the checkpoint.

Making our way back to the checkpoint (where we should have been all along) it was time for a quick coffee and something to nibble-on over a chat with riders from the RIDE, Bicycle Gallery and Rapha Continental teams who had caught up to us over the first leg of the race.

Coffee stop

With some rest in the legs and the weather improving we saddled-up and headed for home. Strangest sight of the day came just out of Inverloch when I looked across and saw what appeared to be a large dead bug splattered on one of Todd's Super Record levers. On closer inspection it turned out to be the inside contents of a meat pie consumed back at the checkpoint. I still not sure I understand how the lever ended up being coated in pie?

70 kilometre mark and the team was making quite good pace into the headwind on the Korumburra Inverloch Rd. Captain Todd and I were doing a big turn at the front when all of a sudden I felt a 'pop' and sharp pain in my right knee. Almost immediately I lost the ability to power through as the pedal strokes became more and more uncomfortable.

We were swiftly caught and passed by the other teams as we headed for the hills. Unable to keep a decent pace I called for the team to "leave me and save yourselves", but for some unknown reason they decided to stick around and hang with me anyway. We slowly limped our way through the hills in and around Bena and Poowong before eventually making it to the decent that would take us home.

About 20 kilometres from the end we hit the final gravel section. The initial benefit of the ground now being quite dry was quickly dispersed by the poor condition of the road. Negotiating larger gravel rocks and deep ruts was quite challenging for us roadies and at 15 kilometres from the finish The Ninja had our one and only flat for the day. A pretty good effort I thought given the terrain our team of six covered. I did hear a story of one team that had six punctures on the return leg from Inverloch back to Lang Lang.

Reaching the end of the last gravel section, we turned left on to Westernport Road for a 10 kilometre run on to the finish line in Lang Lang.

Emma, spent the day showing us how it's done

Unfortunately in the end our little hiccup at the start, mechanical issues, flat tyre, missed Inverloch checkpoint and injured knee cost us dearly, with Team Velo Liberte rolling across the line in last place (albeit in very good spirits).

A massive thanks to Andrew from Rapha Australia for arranging such a challenging course and awesome event. It was a such a great day and can't wait to have another crack at it next year.

Rapha edition BMC Race Machine

Just killing time

The old girl got me through another event
Rapha's version of a tramp stamp
Finishing up with a few beers at the Lang Lang local