Just like Orica-GreenEDGE, who had both the first guy to finish and the last three on the road in stage 9 of the Giro, 3fidi had its ups and downs in A Grade at the 2014 edition of the ACTVets Gunning Tour.
While other riders chat frivolously, Craig exhibits total focus and commitment on the start line. (Photos courtesy of James Meredith)
The highs came early for the tandem team of Ash and Don (aka Double Trouble), who took out the 4km time trial Prologue by a massive 7 seconds. As the course was mainly downhill, we expected to do well, but perhaps not quite so well. Steve came in 7th out of 13, 12 seconds adrift of the tandem, and Craig was another 12 seconds back. So it began.
Double Trouble expected to get soundly dropped on the climbs of the 50 kilometres of Stage 1, and so it came to pass. We were already chasing by the early slopes of Cullerin, but held onto our dream and kept on pushing. To the surprise of the bunch, we got back on a bit before the turnaround at Breadalbane. We knew they were surprised because someone asked “How the hell did you get back on?”
We got gapped again on the return climb, but slunk back onto the rear of the bunch past the sprint prime. At the start of the long descent back to the line we saw our chance and took it, attacking and dropping the bunch before they knew we were even back on. Oh crap! thought bubbles started to pop up above their heads as they realised we had a long long descent almost all the way to the line to work with.
We made hay while the sun shone and pedaled furiously to the line, gapping the next rider by 18 seconds and some of the bunch (including Steve) by 30 to 40 seconds. We also won a handy 5 second time bonus. Our average speed was 39.1 km/h for the 50kms.
At the end of the Prologue and Stage 1, Double Trouble led Graeme Allbon by 29 seconds. Steve was in 7th at 42 seconds, and Craig in 10th at 1:01.
Ash and Don gloat about the size of their lead at the start of Stage 2.
30 seconds over 100 kilometres is not much in a Vets race, and in reality Stage 2 was wide open. Double Trouble feared the bunch would be vengeful (we have been beaten by a few minutes in 100km A grade races before). The attacks started early. We got dropped, as expected, and just hung in there time trialling it. Again we got back onto the bunch, and held on back up to the second sprint prime.
There we attempted our downhill attack again, but the bunch was having none of it today, and Steve (cough, cough – teamwork?) “aided” the bunch in chasing us down several times. So we gave that up and kept riding hard as we could.
The next time up Cullerin we got seriously dropped in a flurry of attacks, and it was a hard, hard grind to get back onto the bunch. On the way out to Breadalbane we picked up Craig, and here some real 3fidi teamwork began, with Craig and Double Trouble taking turns into the wind on the last leg back to the finish line, the bunch a depressingly long way up the road.
Things got quite grim and Ash’s manners were the first casualty, as he continued to bark “Faster!”, “As fast as you can!!” at Craig while he kindly paced us up all the climbs.
“At least you could say ‘please'”, remarked a somewhat hurt Craig at one point.
Craig looks at himself in the rear window and asks what he’s doing with his life that he should be domestique-ing for a tandem.
But this breach of etiquette was forgiven when we both got back onto the bunch over the top of Cullerin. Couldn’t believe we’d made it back on again! This was largely courtesy of some serious bickering in the bunch, who had inexplicably sat up with Mark Harris and opportunist extraordinaire Christope Barbaret up the road on a breakaway.
Not hampered by any need to strategise, we dug in and did all we could to tow the bunch back on to the escapees. In the end Marc and Christophe had too big a gap on us – but we did, incredibly, manage to keep in touch with the bunch up the second last rise and all the way to the line. This was just enough to hang on to 3rd.
Christophe had gapped Marc by 22 seconds in the final sprint. With Marc’s time bonuses, he ended up a mere half second behind Christophe. Unluckiest man on the day! It was 22 seconds back to the tandem in 3rd, and another 7 to Brendan Byatt in 4th.
Didn’t imagine the tandem would ever crack the A grade podium.
As for Steve, well, he was the most marked man in the whole race and couldn’t sneeze without people covering him. His ranking slid to 8th after Stage 2. Other habitual podium-botherers Charlie Nicoll and Brendan Byatt were also victims of this race’s weird and brutal dynamics. Craig, having sacrificed himself to domestique for Double Trouble, finished in 11th at 1:33. Pretty commendable considering strong riders like Paul Scherl completely threw in the towel.
The tale of the tape.
To return to the apt comparison with Orica-GreenEDGE in Stage 9 of the Giro, if Ash and Don were the Ween dawgs of Gunning, then Steve and Craig were Bling and Durbo. Discuss.