As always with these big races the pace started out high until everyone’s nerves calmed down and then things settled in.  Within 10-15km there was a harmless looking attack of about 10 riders that went ahead.  Nothing to panic about since this type of thing always happens and there was still 240km to go.  Then about 12 more riders bridged across and started riding out of site.  Still, no big deal and nothing to fret about.  These early moves are usualy the guys looking for the sprint prime money and then they die off later.  I’ve been in breaks further into the race than this with some extremely strong riders pushing hard and we’ve still always been brought back.  Before we knew it this break away bunch had a formidable 12min gap.  Still none of the teams got up to the front and started chasing and everyone was riding tempo nice and relaxed. There were some big continental teams that didn’t have anyone up in the break.  Surely they were going to get up to the front and start closing the gap!

The feedzones are always chaos and it’s best to have a strategy with your feeder to make sure you keep out of trouble and get your musette.  My mate Leigh was my feed man and he wore his pimped out head-gear that I could see from miles away.  He stood at the end of the feedzone and I always breathed a huge sigh of relief once I spotted him.  Much of the chaos in the feedzone comes from riders swerving all over the place looking for their feeder.

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Leigh eating all the goodies in my musette. No wonder I bonked. Damn him!

Speaking of feedzones it’s usually considered to be bad form to attack in the feed area.  Feedzones are like a mini-Geneva. Neutral territory where truces are made.   Well there was nothing sacred in this year’s Warny as the pace persisted at 50km/hr through feedzone #2 and the front riders of our chasing bunch charged straight through missing their feed.  Fortunately I sensed something was happening, made my way close to the front, got my feed and still managed to hold on.  There’s a sixth sense you start to get when you race enough and you just have this feeling to know when to relax and when to react.   This naturally split the peloton into pieces and I was left up there with about 25 gun riders chasing hard to bring back the breakaway group.  It took me 15kms before the pace slowed enough for me to take my musette off my shoulder.  The chase was finally on!

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Photo by Jarrod Partridge

There was the nasty little surprise in Camperdown that I’ll never forget.  It’s always tough to gauge the difficulty of a climb by simply looking at the profile.  I knew this new addition to the course was coming but I had no idea that it would be this difficult.  Any hill can take a bite out of you when the pace is pushed hard enough and that’s precisely what happened.

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Attack on the Camperdown climb – Photo by Jarrod Partridge

A few of the boys attacked including House.  Lappers came from behind me at a blistering pace to join the move.   I was completely at my limit and these guys got about a minute gap on us in the 3km climb.  It’s unbelievable to see these pros shine and after 200km of hard racing.

This select group of 5 kept away (except for Lappers who dropped back to my group for whatever reason – he was still looking strong) and tried to bridge the massive gap to the leaders with no avail.  The leading bunch of 22 started to splinter as the Camperdown climb separated the boys from the men.  My chasing group (of about 40 at this point) started to reel in a few of the dropped breakaway riders who were clearly spent and couldn’t make it over the climb with the leaders.

At this point there was about 60km to go.  Let me tell you this was the longest 60km of my life.  My guts were churning after all the sugary foods and drink and I had done more work that my current physical condition was capable of.  I was just following wheels trying to get to the finish.

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Photo by Jarrod Partridge

At 25km to the finish many riders in my bunch started getting excited and felt the need to attack to secure a top 20 position.   I had nothing left in the tank to respond to these attacks and I didn’t really care what happened as long as I didn’t get left behind to ride back to Warrnambool alone!  This was enough motivation to get out of the saddle and chase wheels to keep in with the bunch for a free ride.

The pace really starts to ramp up as soon as the peloton approaches the Warrnambool city limits sign.  It’s a deceivingly long rolling straight into the town and there’s always a sprint finish no matter which group you roll in with.   It’s a slight descent before the road goes up to the finish line and a few riders always think they can get away at this point.   Timing is so crucial if you’re gonna win this sprint and I’m pretty sure I’d muck it up if I were in the lead group anyway.

I didn’t have the legs to partake in any type of sprint finish but rolled through the line in a 30-40 position (I think).  I never take much notice in results after the top 10 or 20 because they mean absolutely nothing.  I saw one guy who was in the break away group for 200km and he was relegated to the back of my bunch and he probably came in 50-70th.  The results never tell that part of the story.

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Sprint finish of my group - photo by Leigh Schilling

The Melbourne to Warrnambool can only be described as EPIC.  It’s the world’s second oldest running UCI race (behind Liege-Bastogne-Liege) and for a number of years it was the longest at about 299km’s.  Have a read about the race history here.  It’s fascinating!

Here are the top 10 finishers.  Most of these guys aren’t the Continental Pros and big hitters who you’d put your money on. They’re guys we see out at the local races, have full time jobs, support families and work extremely hard at their cycling passion.  Congratulations to everyone who took part.  Like I said – EPIC!

1. PEARSON, Joel – Time: 6.28.25.00
2. FURMSTON, Daniel
3. DECKER, Timothy
4. PILSON, Steven
5. STEVENSON, Trent
6. LEAPER, Tom
7. MURCHIE, Adam
8. KAH, Danny
9. BAINES, Ashely – Time: 6.28.32.00
10. DICKESON, William – Time: 6.28.39.00

Full results can be found here

Also, the results for the State Championships that were held on Sunday can be found here (let me tell you, this was a much harder race than the Warny!)

Here are some more random photos that Leigh Schilling took in-between handing me musettes and racing to the next feedzone.  Thanks heaps Leigh!

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Magnificent day for a jaunt from Melbourne to Warrnambool –  photo by Leigh Schilling

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The steed that got me from A to B (or technically from M to W)- photo by Leigh Schilling

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On my way…photo by Leigh Schilling

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Feedzone #2 where the carnage took place and the peloton split – photo by Leigh Schilling

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The crowds were nuts!  photo by Leigh Schilling