From Guest Writer and TeamKP member Kieran Heinze.
When it was suggested that entering the Troy Bayliss Invitational would be a good way of benchmarking my current form, it seemed like sound advice. Having only a week before been re-graded from Elite C to Elite B/Masters A, it was with some trepidation that I signed up to the 128km invitational event open only to Elite A and Masters A riders.
The race would take in the breathtaking scenery of the Gold Coast hinterland, finishing with the relentless climb of O’Reilly’s and covering just short of 2000 vertical metres of climbing.
The trepidation subsided and was replaced with white-knuckled terror when the start list was released the day prior to the race and revealed a field consisting of around 50% National Road Series team-riders, including Team Budget Forklifts and EDI/Erdinger, and over 80% of entries were as teams. This race would reveal itself to be the toughest day in the saddle I’d ever had.
By Brisbane standards, a brisk morning presented with around 5°c at 8.00am on the start-line. Four TeamKP riders were lining up, Matthew Payne, Matthew Murray for Campos-Avalon, Adam Allen for Data #3 Cisco, and myself sporting the Green, White and Black of TeamKP.
The race was underway shortly after 8.00am, and the somewhat excitable peloton was spinning on the flat through the biting morning chill at 60.1km/h only a few kilometers into the race. Despite the bunch settling into the race as we headed out into the hinterland, I was at threshold after only 13km, and the average speed for the 30km section between Canungra and Beaudesert was 44.4km/h. Rough roads and pot-holed gravel sections liberated me of one of my water bottles at the 10km mark, and having never ridden in a convoy supported race, I gained a very quick education in how to feed from a car.
With no real climbs to speak of, the first 90km of the race saw around 1000m of climbing, consisting of short, fast, punchy climbs and quick descents. It was during a relentless series of these rollers at the 73km mark that I was dropped from the bunch, and this was the last time I saw the peloton, or the convoy, or my spares, or my water.
The next 55km would prove to be the hardest and loneliest I’ve had on a bike.
Following the right turn through Canungra, rolling through the deserted feed zone and passing the road sign ‘O’Reilly’s 35km’ indicated the start of an epic suffer-fest.
O’Reilly’s climb has two natural steps; from the bottom to the Alpaca farm averages only around 4.2% gradient, but with around 13km without respite, began to take it’s toll. Past the Alpaca farm, the temperature drops significantly, and some welcome respite comes in the form of a short descent before the final push to the top. Thick rainforest, poorly maintained and thin roads and some extremely steep pinches combined with a lack of hydration and insufficient glucose intake to give me one final little gift of horrible cramping for the last 8km. Crossing the finish line didn’t imbue within me a sense of elation or achievement, but provided me with nauseous aching, which seemed to permeate my soul. But, I did manage to finish and coming 39th out 52 finishers on my debut in Masters A in a field of that caliber, is enough for me.
KPCC posted some very competitive results, with Matt Payne finishing 16th in a time of 3:27:13, Adam Allen in 33rd with a time of 3:41:15, Matthew Murray in 37th with a time of 3:52:12, and me coming in at 3:57:59.
Had anyone asked just over twelve months ago when I was about to start my first ever race in Elite C, I would have flippantly said that competing alongside these riders was unattainable and finishing this race was unachievable. While I still have a long, long way to go before I’m finishing alongside the Matt Payne’s of the world, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single pedal stroke. Anyone who immerses themselves in grassroots racing at any level should be prepared to surprise themselves with what they can achieve.