Mt. Gambier 100 Mile - 2019 - by Sue Phillips
As most of you know, a group from Hurtbox went over to Mount Gambier recently to compete in the Mount Gambier Classic. This year, for the second year running, there was a Women’s Classic of 112km run concurrently with the men’s Classic 100 miles (166km) race. So this is a rather lengthy, but (hopefully somewhat interesting) race report.
As one of the more recent additions to the Hurtbox family, I was sufficiently enthused by Steggles’ description of the event and thought it would be a fun race to attempt. It was my fourth race (and second handicap race) following on from some excessive enthusiasm after competing in the HCC Hanging Rock women's handicap race in February.
Lisa, Natalie and I travelled over together, accompanied by my partner, Lee, who was Soigneur for the weekend.
It's about a 5.5 hr drive but we broke it up by leaving after work on Thursday, enjoyed dinner in Ballarat and stayed overnight in Hamilton which meant only a short 1.5 hr drive on Friday morning. Accommodation in Mount Gambier is plentiful and with a range of price options depending on your budget and requirements.
The weather was kind, with cool mornings (8-10 degrees) but warming up quickly to about 18 degrees by early afternoon. So for our Friday pre-race ride and the actual race on Saturday we could dispense with arm warmers, jackets etc which our helpful soigneur was happy to take back to our accommodation for us.
The course was 112 km of lovely countryside, pretty flat and fast as we headed out to Millicent and back, battling a modest but annoying head wind. At about 72 km we hit the only significant hill on the course. I'm absolutely not a climber but it didn't destroy me as it topped out at about 140m of elevation over about 4 km of rollers with some false flats to ease the legs. The longer downhill section afterwards was very welcome to recover and make some good gains if you can. More rolling back towards Mount Gambier with gentle undulations and much more protection from the wind amongst the trees.
The finish into the town centre was super exciting, serving up a completely closed downhill road, lined with spectators - there to enjoy the thrill of seeing us speeding under the finish barrier with complete abandon. It's a fast course, challenging but with something for everyone (including two sprint sections that secured wine for the winners).
We were fortunate because all six of the Hurtbox women were off in the same start group (Limit) which gave us a 10 minute head start on the next women’s group and 40 minutes on the cream of Australian women’s cycling (Nettie Edmondson, Macy Stewart, Amy Cure, Ash Ankudinoff and Georgia Baker). There were also quite a few recognisable and very successful NRS/VRS riders in the other start groups. Michelle Easton and Deb Lindstrom deserve huge recognition, not just for their first and second placings, respectively. But, also for driving our group, organising us and pushing the group to work together at a faster pace than many of us have ever managed over that distance. We quickly understood just what the pace needed to be, to have any chance and Michelle and Deb were the only women in our group who didn’t miss a single turn. Our recent coaching sessions that focussed on swapping turns and wind direction also truly paid off as we thought about how to optimise ourselves. The overall teamwork meant that we held off scratch and the other chasing groups.
I also can't speak highly enough of the police escorts, marshalls and site teams who were so welcoming. Apparently, the huge police presence to manage traffic, escort the handicap groups and road closures is used by the SA police as a warm up for the TDU in January.
While there were a few parts of the road that were "dead" (such as you often find in country areas), most of the roads had pretty good smooth surfaces and were all in good condition... few potholes or broken surfaces to avoid.
I'd also like to particularly acknowledge and thank the sponsors of the Women's race - Moreland Holdings who are local logging contractors. It was pretty cool having a logging truck as the lead out vehicle!!
As a final note, it was a thrill to meet Annette Edmondson and Macey Stewart who raced off scratch in a stellar group of women who represent absolute Australian women cycling royalty! They were so very gracious and warm despite my slightly starry-eyed fan moment :)
Anyway, sorry for the long post but there were so many things to celebrate from this weekend and I'd love to see more of us make the journey next year and help this become a major fixture for women on the calendar.