QK: Well done on what you achieved at the Elite Cycling Nationals. Although you are officially recorded as a DNF for the road race you must be pretty proud of the how you rode the race.
Talk us through how the race unfolded for you.
BG: Yes I pretty much did what I planned to do – follow good wheels and essentially be a “non-threat” up the road so I could avoid some of the massive pelo attacks that would inevitably occur with such a strong and large field. Kind of macro scale sandbagging approach!
So once the flag dropped on Prebensen Drive I was right on the back soft pedalling at 50kph. I followed Aaron Gate and Brad Evans forward before the turn up Puketitiri Road which put me in a good position to slip across to the break with Ollie Jones ,just over the top of the climb. It was a good move with Sam Dodds, Michael Vink, Taylor Gunman, Ollie, Alexander Ray, me and perhaps one other. We were riding well, and in a normal race this move would have stuck, but we were caught about 7km later.
I consciously decided not to go in any more moves for at least 10 minutes so I could recover, as that little effort had certainly cost me a bit. The pelo kept chasing and the next move was four guys including Brad Evans who attacked at the bottom of the Apley Road climb. I was right on his wheel, but let him go, choosing to preserve, and then the pelo sat up big time. I was a bit annoyed as at that point it would have definitely been best to be up the road ticking over steady power. The pace increased over the KOM at 31km and stayed high on the second rural lap.
Approximately 50km in, when on Dartmoor Road for the second time, I noticed George Bennett just in front of me on the left of the pelo getting ready to attack. He launched, and Sam Horgan also reacted and I followed. It was perfect timing, attacking hard but not touching the wind. There were already a few guys off the front, who we caught quickly and then 7-8 of us started lapping out really hard. George Bennett was taking control, encouraging us and motivating us saying things like “If we are clear at the top of the hill (the next KOM at 58km) we will f%&$ing win the race!” in a surprisingly deep and strong voice for a little guy.
I was well and truly over my head with this group, so only did 3 or 4 turns at the front. We were quickly into the Apley Road climb, and caught the front four (the Brad Evans group) on the first pitch. I was on the limit just holding onto these guys and the race was certainly lighting up. I knew it was hurting me, but it had the potential to work out if the pelo did let us go/couldn’t pull us back, as I would be able to swing on the back the whole way into town and through the initial city laps. Yes a huge advantage potentially to be gained.
As it was we were caught by Shane Archibald and Joe Cooper before the KOM, and the rest of the pelo just after the KOM. At this point, having only raced 60km, I wasn’t in such good shape, and definitely had to sit in the pelo and conserve for the remainder. There are two further climbs on Seaview Road in the rural circuit that I sandbagged and only just made it over. Hard, hard efforts!
Coming into Napier through Bay View was really fast and I had a pretty easy ride on the back of the peloton, just moving forward before hitting the city circuit.
The city circuit was brutal, as it was only one lane except on the uphill sections, where you don’t really need the space anyway. The field was probably still over 80 riders at this stage, so it got really strung out, even at 4 abreast. I was in the last quarter of the pelo for most of the 2.5 city laps I survived for, as I was unable to move up on the climbs, and due to the circuit, also unable to move up through other parts of the course.
At the back, problems compounded, as the front guys were hitting it on the flat while I was still climbing. The ensuing surges after every climb meant high sustained power over the top and along bits of road that would otherwise allow a bit of recovery. I needed to be in the first 20 riders on a circuit like this, but lost position on Hospital Hill each time, so things just got worse and worse. On the third time up it, I popped off the back.
I kept chasing for 5 or 6 minutes, hoping that my strong descending skills would bring me back, but it was futile. At this point, most guys just get off the bike, but I wanted to see if I could finish, or at the very least get a solid training ride in, and it is a pretty cool circuit to be riding on! I caught another guy and rode with him for a few laps and then he quit and I did a few more laps by myself, reaching 143km distance before being removed by the commissaries.
I had done about 35km by myself at that point, and just rolled around to the finish line in time to see Jason Christie win the sprint. The field was in tatters, really impressive to see so many strong riders totally in the box!
QK: You managed to get yourself into a couple of early breaks. Both of these breaks included riders that had the potential to go all the way to the line and it would be foolish to ignore them but conversely that is possibly why they didn’t successfully stick. Hindsight is always a valuable thing, what would you change about your tactics if you rode this race again?
BG: I was in good moves, and, as you have identified, they were futile. If I were to do this race again, perhaps I should forget about all the break options and just ride pelo, and then stay forward in those first 20 riders once in the city. I’m really not sure, as normally that is a tactic that gets you nowhere! I’ll take advice on this!
QK: Being in the right position at the right time to join these breaks shows you were riding well (physically as a well as tactically) but it also required you to burn a few matches that influenced things later in the race for you. How stretched were you on the ride back into town through Bayview and up over the first few laps of the City Circuit?
BG: Bayview was fine due to light winds, however things got pretty messy in the city though!
QK: With the weekend of racing at the Elite Nationals you have no doubt gained a valuable amount of experience. What are the biggest lessons you learned about yourself and about racing?
BG: That I can time trial pretty well, and that I’m also not an international pro!! (Although I already knew that) Yeah, basically if you are well over your head, things are probably not going to work out. When I first started club racing in 2012 and 2013, I would regularly get dropped by C Graders and B Graders and roll in by myself, absolutely exhausted. It seemed like an impossible thing to stay with them, but I kept persevering and the first race where I didn’t get dropped by the pelo was a huge boost. I guess to make it at the next level I just need more exposure, more training and to refine all aspects of my riding. Considering my age and stage, its unlikely this old boy will be making that step though!!
QK: You are due to ride the New Zealand Cycle Classic next week with Team Tank Guy/Bikebox. What are your goals for this event?
BG: I’ll just see what the team wants to do. We haven’t discussed anything yet, and its my first Cycle Classic, so I’ll just approach it with an open mind and go with the flow. Its nice to be up on a jersey, or stage, but it doesn’t worry me who we are riding for. Just want to get out there and be a strong unit and have some fun.
QK: All the best for next week.
BG: Thanks Ray.
Read my Power Analysis of Brett’s Road Race here: