Australian Cyclist

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Tour of Geelong

I am not a climber. I am about 20kg too heavy to be a climber. I can time trial and have been known to sprint well, which meant I had a decent chance in two of the three stages of the Tour of Geelong. But my biggest achievement in the three-day Tour might have been hauling my backside up the hills with the lead group in the road race at Anakie. This was very uncharacteristic and surprised a few people – myself included. It might appear that I won the Tour following a blistering time trial but I actually won it in the road race. Or maybe I should say I didn’t lose the Tour in the road race.

The tactic for other teams, which has worked so far this season, is ‘drop Beck on the hills’. I had a 53 second buffer after the opening stage, a 28.2km time trial from Gnarwarre to Ceres, but we all knew that my lead would easily be relinquished on just one of the several climbs in the Brisbane Ranges. I have been in the leaders jersey previously this season at the Tour of Canberra in May, but the mountains – specifically Mt McDonald – brought me unstuck. Last year in Anakie I survived only 30km with the bunch and completed about half a lap solo before the next group caught me. I placed 25th from 30 finishers and 17 minutes behind winner Jo Hogan – though there were 24 DNFs in that race so I recall being chuffed at simply finishing in challenging conditions.

My coach decided that we should race for the climber in our team and forget about defending the jersey. I agreed. I had contemplated telling my parents not to bother trekking out to Anakie to waste three hours watching me grovel over the line solo somewhere toward the back of the field. This weekend was all about positive thinking. Affirmations included “I can climb” and then when I started to get excited at the prospect of staying in yellow, the slogan turned to “Don’t count your chickens”. I needed to stay upright and race smart.

Conditions were close to perfect all weekend, which meant with little wind on Saturday, I was able to chase back on to the lead group after being dropped on several of the climbs. My Team Suzuki teammates had done a great job on the front to reel in a breakaway on the first lap. We reassessed during the second lap when my teammates confessed they were not feeling the goods. We all moved into survival mode. As usual, I knew that I needed to be towards the front or on the front for the descents to give myself a bit of a head start on the climbs. On the final climb before the finish my legs were failing me. My body was giving up but my head was still strong. How devastating to get dropped now after working so hard to stay in contention. Both quads were screaming at me and the only thing that would relieve the cramping was to climb seated. So I climbed in the saddle on a 12 per cent berg. I slipped back a little but was still with the main group at the KOM. This is not supposed to happen.

So that was my race done. I stayed at the back of the pack for the sweeping descent into Anakie, did not contest the sprint, and safely crossed the line in 9th having only lost six seconds on GC after time bonuses were calculated. One year ago I was stoked to get a top-10 finish in the criterium in Geelong. I was equally excited when I placed 12th in the time-trial. This year I had a 47 second lead going into the final stage, a 36km criterium in Eastern Gardens. I loved this course in 2010, one power climb and a long, fast finish straight. On the Sunday morning a teammate messaged to say that the course would be raced in reverse and finish uphill. Not really my strength.

It felt good to be in yellow. About half an hour before the race something had a little nibble on the back of my neck. I have loved reading the media reports that focused on my ‘overcoming adversity’ story. A bee stung me. This is not the first time this has happened. Only three months ago at a handicap race in Cootamundra a bee flew down my jersey and stung me square on the chest. I had a slight allergic reaction and decided to race that day, without complications. I guess it was lucky that I had that previous experience and knew I had to get the stinger out and ice on it pronto. Thanks to teammate Laura Meadley for her bravery in removing the stinger. The criterium was fairly uneventful. I did what I needed to do and sealed my first Tour win.

I had such fantastic support throughout the weekend including my coach, teammates and parents. Last year I was super excited when friend Joe Lewis gave me his bottle of champagne after placing third in stage three of the mens Tour of Geelong. This year I finished with three bottles of my own and got to experience the struggle of popping a cork on the podium. Hopefully I will get a bit more practice at that in the coming years.

Thanks to friend Jarrod Partridge for documenting my Tour win. You can view his full gallery at jxpphotography

Rebecca Wiasak