Sitting in the car at 220 meters to go, it’s rocking in the wind and it’s a ute, the rain is side ways, the sky is grey then blue and sunny, then grey and raining again, it so continues on and on. This is what greeted us for the Shipwreck Coast classic in beautiful seaside Warrnambool. The day before, the the second oldest UCI race in the world the Melbourne to Warrnambool had been run and won, a trifecta for team Budget fork lifts. I had been following the commentary via twitter, Annabelle Drew once a professional cyclist who raced multipal Giro donna’s had tweeted about Warrnambool being one of the windest cities in Australia, she would know having spent a lot of time there being married to Jamie Drew a Warrnabool boy, and also a dual winner of the Big Race (almost 3 wins, finishing second to Gerro one year)! My home town also can be very windy and as such ride direction would often be picked on the wind direction, sometimes the ride out would be below 20kph and return at 50 or so. On race day, these almost all handicaps, you very quickly learnt how to suck a wheel and form an echelon, if you didnt you could be left in the middle of no where fighting to stay on the road, maintain forward motion and trying to make it to the finish before every one packed up and went home.
The Men raced before us at Shipwreck, the commentary reporting that 60 or so riders had abandoned the race, some tied legs from the day before no doubt, but it was also clear the weather was playing it’s part. When at the start line to collect numbers I captured a fluke photo of the Mens winner on my phone (see below) , it’s also a fluke capture of some blue sky, all the com’s in their bright yellow rain jackets tell the story though!
We rolled out for our 128km race, the same as the Mens, pretty much an out and back with a square attached if that makes sense. The first hill out of town saw the pressure go on and ultimately this was the precursor for the EB (early break) that would be the race! The wind direction forced the bunch into the gutter and over some hard kms as riders fought to hold onto wheels not to mention the road (a few didn’t and there was some bush bashing) a firm spilt was formed and the break! It was the strongest wind I’d been in for a long time and I was thankful for my two full bidons, sure that extra weight was the only thing that kept me on on the ground, I didn’t even have race wheels in, I had to call on all my wheel sucking lessons from years gone by that was for sure! The move effectively shut down the race, having almost all the dominate teams in it, consisting of Nicole Whitburn (Pensar) Jessica Mundy (VIS) Kristy Glover (TTR) Shannon Malseed (Holden) and Emily Roper (Suzuki). It was a big day for those girls in the break to stay away, but a big day for everyone purely due to the conditions. In the final Nicole came out on top of her younger rivals to take the win, Jessica taking 2nd and Kristy 3rd.
I can confirm that Warrnambools windy city status is spot on, I now understand why it’s called “Shipwreck” coast classic although I think “Riderwrecked” could work also, and as for next years edition of the race I will be bulking up a little in preparation!
There are some great photo’s of the race at Peloton cafe especially as the bunch headed down the Great Ocean road (click here) to see.