Toohers places at the Masters Games Cycling Event

Dear All, as most of you were aware I was racing in the Masters games last Friday in the mens 40-44 years cycling road race over 70+km. Here is how the day unfolded.

Started well with all the team meeting at the designated spot at the designated time and everyone was in good spirits and pumped for the event. A quick check of the equipment however revealed that two of the team did not have proper riding licenses so a quick detour to Homebush was required before heading out to the track at Eastern Creek. Shouldn’t be a problem as we still have plenty of time.

Get to Homebush and the boys line up………….45min later they re-emerge looking pretty sheepish, after queuing for an eternity they were told licenses are no longer issued at Homebush and you have to get them at the track at Eastern Creek. Oh well, no problem still have plenty of time. Hop on the motorway and 20 min later we arrive at the track and find a sweet parking spot less than 100m from the competitors’ entrance. Things were looking good!

Hop out of the car and take in the atmosphere, there are cyclists and equipment everywhere, people unloading bags of equipment and we have a bit of a giggle with what the other competitors are unloading, multiple bikes, various wheel sets, stationary trainers, absurd looking space age helmets, some even had portable massage tables complete with masseurs! We think it best to leave our bikes where they are a have a look around first, after all we still have plenty of time.

Inside the track it quickly become apparent that the poseurs who we spied in the car park are not in the minority, people are getting rubbed down, some are taking track temperature measurements while others are pointing to maps and working out the contours. It starts to dawn on the team and I that we are in fact the minority and the prospect of coming last is now a very distinct possibility. Everyone is very serious, time to get the bikes and get suited up.

After getting the bikes we collected our numbers and timing equipment and lined up for the bike inspection. Nerves are rising and the butterflies are present. The officials inspect the teams bikes and passes them all except mine. “That bike is not UCI compliant and the rider cannot race, next competitor….” I replied “are you taking the piss?” “No he says you cannot ride that thing, that is the end of it”. I couldn’t believe it, all the training, fees and day off and I had been disqualified before the race even started! Furious I ask what are my options and they said you could appeal to the Commissioner which I did. At first it looked like I could race provided I started well after the main pack which was now okay by me. Unfortunately the head commissioner overruled this and said I couldn’t race on my bike period.

Feeling absolutely gutted one of the team mates suggested I approach one of the other competitors and ask to borrow a bike, which I did by way of the PA announcer and within minutes a guy came up and offered his training bike saying it isn’t much but I was welcome to it, he then looked at my bike and the following silence said it all. His training bike was a full carbon racing set up complete with all the bells and whistles, a little on the small side but I couldn’t believe my luck. With 15min tot the start I had to get changed and get back though the bike inspection process.

With a lot of help from team mates and the officials the bike was set up with numbers and timing equipment and sent off for bike inspection. This time there were no problems ……… with the bike at least, but now my helmet wasn’t compliant. I was just about to let loose when one of officials indicated to just go through and he would tick it off, grateful I just ran the bike through the starting point just as the gate closed.

With 5min before the start I was at the back of the pack adjusting the seat height to fit and putting in the water bottles, next thing I know another official has come up and said you can’t race with a visor so in a fit of rage I took off the helmet and ripped off the visor thinking “can anything else go wrong?” The answer is yes, one of the riders notices one of team mates tyres and says you can’t ride on those, there is no tread and the inner liner is showing. Sure enough the rider is right and you see the tube coming through in spots and a puncture is probable. Too late to do anything now we will just have to hope nothing goes wrong and he doesn’t fall taking all of us with him.

While contemplating this possibility the race starts and the pack moves off at an astonishing pace and I am still standing beside my bike, I can’t believe how fast they are moving away so I jump on and quickly realize I can’t click into the pedals and have to stop and make another adjustment. I now look up and the peleton is completely out of sight the only people I can see are my team mates and one other back marker……not the best of starts, still it is a long race and plenty of time to catch them. With pedals adjusted I get on the bike and try to pedal off but I don’t move, I can’t turn the cranks over, I am locked in going nowhere and about to fall right at the start line in front of the officials and the entire stadium. The problem is the bike is in the highest gear and I don’t know how to down shift so I am flicking all the switches trying to get to an easier gear and just when I am about to topple over, the chain moves and I am off avoiding disaster……..for the time being.

I put my head down and ride into a fierce head wind in an attempt to catch my team mates, when I catch them I tell them not to wait for me as it looks like I am going to struggle big time on this borrowed bike. They reply that they are not in fact waiting for me as this is as fast as they can go and inform me we are currently riding at 38km per hour (well above our limit) and the peleton is still pulling away as though we were standing still. We quickly realize that out of the 125 riders in our age group we look like taking out spots 123, 124 and 125th. Which is pretty much what happened only I didn’t come last because my team mate punctured on lap 6 (as earlier predicted) and had to retire.

The peleton passed me on lap 5 and although it had thinned out a little it still had 60 riders in it and I decided I would make it 61, the only problem was when I tried to tack onto the tail I had totally underestimated the speed it was travelling and despite my best efforts I could not join the pack for even a few meters let alone a lap or two. In the end I effectively rode the entire distance solo but I did finish despite all the set backs and was happy with my time of 2 hours 22 min which is just shy of a 30kmph average and in line with my best expectations. On lap 8 the guy who lent me the bike rang my mobile and asked where I was, he couldn’t believe I was still racing let alone I had answered the phone.

All in all it was still a great day and I am glad I entered and finished. I have never been so outgunned in a sporting performance in my life and it was a humbling experience but a good none the less.

Mark

PS Came in 67th and the last to be given a place, all the rest pulled out or missed the cut off time.