Monday, November 14, 2011

Connect East Ride for Home - Team time trial

4:45am and I was awake before my alarm just waiting for the minutes to tick away. Eventually the time came to get up and the adrenaline was racing through my body as I leapt to my feet. Now, I am not a morning person, but for the first time in an age I was walking around with a smile on my face before the sun was up. The Hanover Connect East Ride for Home was the drawcard; a 75km team time trial on a closed Eastlink.

Perfect surfaces and perfect conditions with not a breath of wind and mild temperatures would greet the rides, but for now I had to go through my checklist to ensure I had everything. Riding jacket, contact lenses, phone and camera. Yep, all packed and ready as I drove out east at ridiculous o’clock. What? Confused by no riding gear, let alone a bike on my checklist?......nope, unfortunately for me I was not riding today; I was team photographer for the Transurban Torpedos which included a few of the LAID Cycling family.

So my day was a multi sport even. Run, snap, run, navigate, drive, rethink, drive, walk, run snap, then back home and download. After pre ride pictures and capturing the start, my day of challenges began as I rolled up to points on the ride only to find out that the juggernaut that were the Torpedo’s had already past. The pace was fast and furious and I needed to adjust my plan, eventually catching up with the team on the return journey at Thompsons Road near Cranbourne. The day of a photographer is far less exciting than that of the cyclist so I will spare you the details. A cyclist’s day however is far more exciting and LAID’s own Mark Maiolo will take you into the eyes of the cyclists on the 75km journey.


 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre says of time trialling: "It is simple - first you have to learn how to suffer, then you just turn the pedals".

As simple as it may be, it is most definitely not easy - it's a challenging pursuit of your physical and mental stamina, and a test of your ability to balance performance and endurance. Surround yourself with nine other similarly-suited compatriots, and you've got yourself a maelstrom of spinning carbon, all hurtling together towards one common goal.

The 2011 Hanover ConnectEast Ride for Home is a unique experience in Melbourne, (if not Australia) - a freeway is shut down to traffic to allow cyclists to ride it's 75km length, including the traversal of two tunnels plunging beneath Ringwood's Mullum Mullum creek and it's resident platypuses and koalas, who would be blissfully oblivious of the heaving and panting of thousands of riders slogging it out to raise money for Hanover's homeless support services.

The Transurban Torpedoes were entered into the Team Challenge, and faced up against 42 other teams. After an amazing fundraising drive, we managed to raise $5100 for the cause, and placed us third on the starting grid as one of the top fundraisers - a huge effort before the starting gun was even fired. We approached the starting line full of anticipation and nerves, and a sly grin after the emcee thanked us for closing the road (even though it is owned by a competitor) - side note: kudos to the Transurban marketing team.

We were sent on our way and crossed the starting mat - game on! 

David Duieb took off, vying for the first turn at the front as we all started to find our pace and position within the group.  We quickly formed a single pace line head to tail behind him as he heaved and panted up the first rise and onto the freeway proper.  90 seconds later, as David struggled with the fast pace he tried to set, he pulled off to allow the diesel locomotives of Heath Allen, Peter Osborne, Serge Krepak and Nigel Kimber to tow us along. As our legs warmed up and our confidence grew, so did our pace and we were soon charging along at 40+km/hr with a wonderful tailwind, racing towards the Frankston turnaround point. There was not much banter as everyone was in the zone, regulating their efforts and following the wheel infront, trying to save every ounce of power for the long haul. Fellow LAID Cycling team member Serge Krepak kept the mood high, encouraging each rider on as they rolled off from their turn up the front, exhausted but eager to get us home as quick as possible.

The turnaround point arrived sooner than expected which boosted our confidence. We were on target to achieve a supersonic time and charged along into the headwind with the slight uphill return leg. A cat-and-mouse game formed as we raced alongside the two Flemington Institue of Sport teams, and I must say we Torpedoes easily outclassed them in style, formation, and ravishing good looks. The rotating turns at the front became shorter as extra energy was required to push into the wind, and slowly the efforts began taking their toll (pun intended).

Onward we forged as our team of ten became eight, and then seven as we neared the daunting tunnels and efforts began expiring. Special mention goes to Brian Senghpa for his ability to power on while reliving his breakfast for the second time - the Jens Voigt hard man award goes to you! The tunnels approached and our top speeds were reached as we hurtled towards the bottom-most point of the Mullum Mullum tunnel and had to climb up the other side. Heath Allen, Peter Osborne and Mark Maiolo all latched on to Nigel Kimber's wheel as we climbed to the turnaround point and then let gravity take over again as we entered the Melba tunnel and the final stretch of the race. Four became three as Peter popped, Heath zoomed past on the descent, and Nigel and Mark regrouped with him on the climb to the finish line.

The stopwatches stopped the clock at a touch over two hours for the first finishers, and the team's time was captured on the sixth finisher Mark Byrne's time of 2h03'38 - an amazing time which beat last year's result by well over ten minutes - well done team!

A recovery banana and bottle of water allowed us to remenisce on the effort, and congratulate everyone for working so well as a team. The official results are out and we have finished amongst the middle of the field - not a bad effort considering the pointy end of the field hosted Australian time trial champions and a plethora of dedicated time trial steeds!

After the event a finisher said "To be honets I'm feeling a little sad knowing that this amazing race will not be on for another 12 months; although on the other hand this allows me 12 months to train to beat the two hour mark next year."

A special mention must go to Teresa Thai for her relentless efforts in organising the Transurban Torpedoes team - everything from fundraising and corporate communications, to the design of the team jersey - although you weren't riding with us, we wouldn't have been able to make a single pedal stroke without your work - thanks!

The last massive and most important thanks must go to all of who who donated money to us and a fantastic cause. All funds go to Hanover who help break the cycle of homelessness.

Some pictures by Ivan Dennis of the event follow:





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