The Australian Masters Games were offering a tandem category in the ITT and Road Race this year so Don and I decided to go down and have a go. Steve fancied his chances in the 40-45 category, so he came down to have a punt and share the driving. Since we don’t let Don drive. The races were held in Meredith, a cute little town between Geelong and Ballarat. We opted to stay in Ballarat, which was totally the right choice, given what we saw of Geelong on the way in to pick up our competitor accreditation. Fugly I believe is the word. Ballarat on the other hand is really stunning. The blocks of fine 19th century buildings that make up most of the city centre are pretty much intact. The town has been colonised to a modest extent by Melbourne foodies, and the dining and coffee options were awesome. The good food is helped along by the fact that it’s housed in historic pubs and old commercial and government buildings. Had one of the best pizzas and best bits of pork belly I’ve ever encountered. Not at the same time, mind.
Day one was the Time Trial. Unfortunately Don and I had the tandem category to ourselves in this event, so our objective was to post a respectable time and not trash my dodgy calf for the next day’s road race. On a fairly flat course with a vicious crosswind we managed to average 38.8km/h. Mission accomplished. We were however amazed at how many fit old bastards on TT bikes bettered our time. Steve was a minute and change faster than us, going at a blistering 40.6 km/h. With stiff competition mounted on TT bikes this was only good enough for 4th.
Due to contractual obligations with Lotto-Belisol we weren’t able to sport 3fidi kit, although I did fly the flag subtly in the form of the aero booties.
Then it was back to Ballarat to refuel on pizza, followed by respectably good Vietnamese food for dinner, and a movie (Rush – highly recommended) at the town’s charming old cinema. Rockstar parks were achieved outside of all of these venues. We had been careful to stock the fridge of our cabin at the caravan park with Belgian, Polish and Czech beers on the first afternoon, and these proved a valuable aid to pre-race carb loading.
Day 2 was the road race, at the same venue. The format was something like an 8km segment out to a 16km loop, repeated 4 times, then back along the same 8km segment. There was only one other tandem entry, so the organisers had decided to put us with category 5, 50-55 years old. We knew from the previous day there were some strong guys in this category, so set ourselves the task of trying to cover any attacks and keep up with the leaders. We were racing in our own tandem category, but had the added fun of being able to join their race. We did a fair bit of work on the front, since we had nothing to lose, and the guys were happy to sit in behind us when we had the advantage on the flats and descents. This meant we didn’t have to keep covering all the little attacks, which really takes it out of you on the tandem, since it’s slower to get up to speed than a single bike. By Canberra standards the course was flat. There was one descent into a creek crossing followed by a climb of a few hundred metres at about 6%, and that was about it. We were afraid of getting dropped there, but with the momentum we built up on the descent and the tailwind at that point, we easily climbed this pinch with the bunch.
At the start of the last circuit, there was a vicious attack that caught us still coming around the corner at the back. Three guys got away there – the strongest of the bunch. We chased them for half a lap, with a bit of help from ACT Vets’ Dom Rideaux, and a couple of other riders, eventually catching them. All this action was pretty exciting, added to by the fact that there were lead and follow cars behind each bunch. A breakaway from Category 1&2 came through us at one stage, and we had to go right to the edge of the narrow road as the speeding cars came through fore and aft of the riders. We then caught up to a bunch of dropped riders from cat 3&4, passed them, and finally got back on to the leaders of our bunch. They sat up a bit, and the stragglers from the other category joined us. At the start of the descent into the creek crossing the last time, we decided that matters were confused enough, and launched a blistering downhill tandem attack that no one managed to get onto. Not sure how hard the bunch chased, but we managed to get away up the other side. Once we were onto the home stretch we had a howling tailwind, and motored home in fine style without sighting the bunch again. Behind us, four riders (including Dom) got away from the rest. Dom got dropped a couple of km shy of the finish to come home in 4th. The others sprinted it out at the line, with honours going to a guy with an awesome curly blond mullet who Mike tells me goes by the moniker “The Flying Postman”. He actually is a postman.
Up the road in Category 3&4, Steve had the strong guys well and truly pegged when he got a nasty slash in the tubular on the front. He stopped and managed to get it to inflate with the aerosol latex, then actually got back onto the bunch … only to feel the tyre going down again. He stopped again and re-inflated, and still managed to bring it home in 6th place. After initial disappointment, he was pretty happy with still placing so highly given the two stops. And to give credit where it’s due, he was pretty stoic about the whole flat thing in general, not mentioning it again. Nah, just kidding. We heard about it all the way back to Canberra 😉
Don and I ended up getting two gold medals a piece. I did approach the podium wearing a 3fidi cap, but was told that “We don’t wear those on the podium” by a race official. True. Steve, on the other hand, came home empty handed. However we were extremely sensitive about mentioning this, or wearing our medals about ostentatiously once back in Ballarat or in the car on the way home. You’re welcome, Steve.
So, AMG is in Adelaide next year. Who’s up for a road trip? Will it be another Golden Shower for Ash and Don? Will Steve crack the podium? Only time will tell.