Mt. Gambier 100 Mile Classic

The Mt. Gambier 100 Mile Classic went something like this –
Steggles: “Mate, want to do a 160km handicap in Mt. Gambier next Saturday?”
Me: “What, how far?”
Steggles: “160km. Troy is in. Craig is hoping to go. Shiny will try and get there too.”
Me: “Yeah sweet mate.”

And with that, we were on. By the time we all congregated at our THB HQ in Port Fairy on the Friday evening, excitement levels were off the charts. Steggles was very happy with the groups we’d been assigned for the race with the only exception being John Watkinson, who was placed in the group BEHIND Steggles, Shiny and Splinter at 16 mins! Steggles et. al. would start in the 26 min group. It was going to be a hard man’s endeavour…

I was placed in the 36 min group with Craig and Greigy who I had the pleasure of meeting at the ToSW. As soon as we moved off from the start line the rolling turns were on and they were oh-so-smooth. We very quickly settled into a rhythm with our group of 11 working perfectly together. Smooth turns, no surging and good speed. For the first 60km hardly a word was spoken save for Greigy always making sure he called me through and a few “good work mate” asides to Craigy as well.

I made sure to remember what Steggles had said – save your energy, roll over as soft as you can and try to encourage everybody to keep working. Turns out that what he says is right.
There was some wind on the 100km loop out of Mt Gambier, all of a cross head, block head and cross tail. The group rolled the directions as required and it all stayed together very nicely indeed. We could see at the turnaround point that we were gaining on Laurie’s 48 min group and that the 26 min group behind us seemed to be relatively static. You could sense that people in our group were starting to wonder if getting to the line first might indeed be possible. Steggles had said the night before that he thought we might be a chance. Turns out we fell short by 5km…

As the ride wore on and people started to fade ever so slightly, you noticed a few people sitting on here and there, initially briefly, but then gradually for longer periods of time. The first casualty was gone on Mile Hill Rd Climb, even though the group wisely rode it at just under tempo so as to ensure we all got over the crest together. Once at the top, and on the descent into the forest before Glencoe, the rolling turns were back on and we were working together again. I mentioned to Greigy that some blokes were starting to sit on, to which he replied “What can you do mate? Just gotta keep riding”. True.

And so it was through the second feed zone where we merged with Laurie’s group, eased up for a couple of minutes to drink and eat, before getting back on the roll. There were still 8-9 blokes from our group working as we passed Mt Gambier to start the “last” 60km…By this point I was starting to notice the slightest little ‘knicks’ in my calves and the inside of my quads. In the back of my mind I knew these would come back with interest at the end of the race, but there was nothing to do other than keep the pressure on. There were some sporadic attempts to split the group apart on the road out to Port MacDonnell which caused reactions and some effort to reel them back in. Craig chased a decent gap and I got straight onto his wheel and we got the group back together.

We continued to work to the 130km mark (the turn-around point at Port MacDonnell) where we had another opportunity to gauge the distance to the groups behind us. While the gap appeared manageable, at the tail end you started to notice some very quick looking scratch racers and attendant damage in the form of remnants of riders that had lost touch. They were coming, and at a ferocious pace.

By now, almost 4 hours in, the group was starting to struggle to keep working together. There was a clear demarcation between the guys who could work and who were prepared to work, and those who were sitting on. As Greigy had said earlier, “What can you do?”. Again, some attacks were made, but the group was strong enough to always come back together. Or were the attacks too feeble due to fatigue? Either way, we still thought we were in with a chance. I noted to one rider that if we kept the roll going we’d have this thing stitched up.

After an attack up one of the final hills, at 6km to go I turned to look over my shoulder to see a group of 5 very quick looking riders chewing into our lead. They had seemingly come from nowhere. And when they got to us at 5km to go I understood why – they were blitzing it. I could not believe the rate at which they had caught, and then passed, us. With great effort, Craig said “come on Pete!” and he lunged at the back of the scratch boys. That was enough to get me to make the effort to get on. Unfortunately for Craig, it was cramp time, and he had to manage himself to the end; a spectacular end to what was a cracking and consistent effort. Greigy was also right in it up to his eyeballs to that point and I look in awe at his ability and effort.

Everyone took something out of the day. Our legs were smashed and I don’t think any of us left anything in the tank by the end. For me it shows that even the best guys sometimes have days where it doesn’t come together for one reason or another. I was really sorry for Shiny that the day didn’t work out for him because we all know what he’s capable of. I understood his frustration having felt the same after my first day at the ToSW but, as Greigy says, “just get that s*** out of your head and focus on today’s race”. Shiny will hit the next race hard.

This is a great group and we’re lucky to have Steggles pulling it all together. One person’s result is a shared one and the group is responsible for the successes we have. We train and push and support one another and that’s a great thing. There’s a magic pudding in there somewhere and we all have an opportunity to contribute in some way or another.

I loved the time away with Craig, Steggles, Splinter and Shiny – plenty of good chat and mateship. If you haven’t done a big race away then I strongly suggest you give it a try because there is plenty to be learned regardless of your result.

– Peter Chester aka Chesty Bonds

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It took me a while to turn my mind to these types of races but when you’re ready, and when you do, there’s no coming back

darren lever