2016 Collie Donnybrook Race Report—Grant Eikelboom
I was feeling pretty happy with my form leading into Collie Donnybrook this year – I had a month off work watching the Tour and racking up plenty of km’s through July, and then a couple of easier weeks back at work leading into the race which I thought might make for a nicely timed taper. Sussing out the handicapping prior to the race, I found myself in the small 10min group, with Marten and Leon only 2min ahead in a very strong looking 12min group which also included Jamie, Soeren and Mick from Busselton. Right from the gun, it was clear that the majority of our 10min group (consisting of maybe 10 riders at most), were quite content to wait for the large 9min group to catch us and then work together from there. Sure enough, this group caught us well inside the first 10km and the majority of us started rolling together. From about Lowden onwards, we had the 12min group in our sights, but it took until just after the turn at Donnybrook for us to finally catch the next group up the road – which by this time was actually everyone ahead of us, resulting in a leading group probably 100 strong heading back towards Mumballup. Without anyone ahead to chase down the pace was not really on in this big bunch (even with a cross-tailwind) with only a handful of guys riding the front – I certainly had no intention of going to drive the group with so many strong guys content to just sit in. Given this, I was fairly sure the whole race would come back together at some point before the finish, and I was confident I had the legs to hold onto the faster groups as they came past. Unfortunately this happened a bit earlier than I was anticipating… I knew from last year that my positioning in Mumby had to be spot-on as there is precious little room to pass and make up position on the first hill up towards Glen Mervyn Dam. I had been sitting pretty up in the first 15 or so positions of our bunch alongside Marten, Brent and Iain, but the scratch bunch (which had now picked up everyone before them), pushed past about 5km before we hit Mumby. Once they started coming through, so did everyone else behind me… with a bunch now easily 150 strong it was chaos with guys crossing double white lines and taking all sorts of risks to move up in the bunch and ride the coat tails of the scratch guys. Around the corner onto the hill, and I was probably 80 or more riders back and pretty frustrated. Sure enough, onto the hill and the road was blocked with nowhere for me to go as I watched the front of the race disappear, and for a split second, I mentally threw in the towel and planned to just sit in a group to the finish. A small gap opened and I took it, working through the initial traffic and eventually finding some open(ish) road. Cresting the first hill with a couple of other guys, I could see a group of about 10 guys at the head of the race, and a group of about 30 just behind them, with me the next on the road about 20-30sec behind this group. I had hopes of trying to catch onto this larger group in front of me, but knowing now that they were going full gas to catch the 10 in front, I never stood a chance. I ended up in a loose group of maybe 15 or 20 guys who were largely happy with the situation and not interested in chasing back the group ahead of us. I had a little fun up Heartbreak Hill and Lyalls Hill which resulted in myself, Soeren and two other guys (those of us who were actually trying to chase) getting away from our group, but then a few of those we had just left behind suddenly decided they wanted to work after all, and caught us back on the long gentle downhill leading into Collie. I did a bit of a sprint and came in towards the front of our group – the 3rd group on the road after the two leaders who contested the win, and then a group of about 35 (which we ended up somewhere between 1:30 and 2min behind). After a few of the guys ahead of me ended up DQ’d (there were 26 in total for the day), my official placing was an anonymous 34th. Despite still being pissed off about my positioning error – the same error for the 2nd year running – I was happy I had good legs on the day, which at least shows me that my training, race prep, and nutrition strategy (thanks Bindi!!) was pretty close to the mark. Thanks again to the Collie Cycle Club and the small army of volunteers for yet another great Collie-Donnybrook, and congratulations to all winners, place-getters, and also to those for whom finishing is an achievement in itself.