2016 Tour of Margaret River Stage 3 – Race Report (thanks to Marten)

A common goal, a plan, mutual respect, individual skills, leadership, communication, decision-making under pressure, hard work, and sacrifice. The essential qualities of a good team, and a recipe for success. SWCC Racing executed the plan today and the satisfaction of being part of a spectacular win on the final stage of the Satalyst Tour of Margaret River, in front of all the supporters, families, and Tour personnel was immensely gratifying. Nick Lawler sealed the win with a perfectly timed sprint, beating former National Criterium Champion Anthony (AJ) Giacoppo as well as the rest of a very strong 2nd Division field. Here’s how it worked out …

A glorious day greeted us, bright sun and a gentle SSE breeze. The boys were up for it and keen to continue to climb the Division 2 GC standings after a good TTT, and some quality riding in the Nannup stage. We needed a win, but it would be a big ask with several top riders identified in the field, and some strong teams. We had to mark Geraldton (with AJ clearly not interested in any “guest rider” etiquette after yesterdays stage), as well as Division 2 leaders FGHTCLB CC, our mates the Avantiplus Uberquads, Squadra RTR and Arbitrage Masters who would all also provide some stiff competition. Lots to play for. Who said TOMR was a social ride – this was going to be balls out racing.

And so it proved. We rolled gingerly over the neutral gravel section of the Leeuwin Estate airfield and out onto Redgate Road. SWCC were at the front and immediately there was an attack. Feeling fresh after having a free ride (of sorts…) yesterday, Marten picked up the flag and went after the small bunch that formed off the front. Seconds later there was a loud noise from the right side hedge and a kangaroo came busting through! Sadly the peloton behind had no time to react and two riders from the Northern Beaches team went down hard.

We turned onto Bussell Highway and it was game on – the peloton surged and attacked time after time, and Marten followed the plan – marking the moves, following wheels, sitting on – and copping considerable abuse for doing so as breaks tried to form. However the large following peloton was always at the advantage on the open road and it was clear that any break would struggle to get away. After 20km of solid sprint intervals, Marten sat back to recover and handed over patrolling duties at the front to Iain. Jaiden also moved forward leaving Plan A (Nick) and Plan B (Grant) to sit back and enjoy the fireworks up front – something which Grant was happy to do, but Nick always keen to try and get involved, maybe not so much. The right turn onto Chapman road was prematurely anticipated by one RTR rider who blatantly disregarded the road rules to come to the front – he was pinged very quickly by the attentive commissaries behind.

We moved onto Caves road and things settled down a bit, but it was by no means easy riding. Time for some Bindi and a bite to eat. With teams continually trying to move riders up to the front around the outside, and riders coming up the rather rough and irregular left-side, there were numerous yells and touches of wheels and bumps etc. With around 20km to go, Grant and Nick had a little chat in the bunch to establish the planned pecking order – Grant would work to lead out Nick in the sprint.

Soon after, there was a bit of a dig up the hill through the Boranup Karri Forest, and with the peloton strung right out, Grant and Nick moved up into the top 10 places of the bunch. Jaiden was still patrolling at the front doing an absolute mountain of work marking moves and chasing plenty of dangerous attacks. Nick was spotted conducting manoeuvres – waving his arms and barking orders – “go there” “follow him” “watch number xx”. A solitary FGHTCLB CC rider clipped off the front with around 10km to go and opened a dangerous gap quite quickly. We were happy this time to leave the chasing to the other teams anticipating he would be brought back with ease when the hammer was dropped. Nick was on Grant’s wheel, resting, watching, and supporting with Marten not far back either. Game on!

The uphill drag at 2.6kms to go was quickly reached with the FGHTCLB CC rider still remarkably clinging onto his advantage. With the chase starting to stall, Grant decided it was his turn to put his nose in the wind and bring it all back. Over the rise and slightly downhill, it was now all back together and there was a mighty surge, all teams recognising the last chance to stay in the mix and position their designated sprinter. With a closed road to play with teams started claiming the right side, moving forward in squads. SWCC were now slightly swamped but the slightly uphill last km, as well as a few hard days in the legs of everyone meant that gaps were quite easy to find in the sprint. After spending the past 3min with his HR above 190bpm, including a 30sec ‘leadout’ picking gaps through the field with a HR average of 203(!!), Grant got the call from Nick to bugger off out of his way and Nick launched his sprint.

With still 300-odd metres to go and slightly uphill, it was a monster effort as Nick surged forward into clear road. It was a drag race, AJ coming through fast, Arbitrage and Avanti fading… Nick crossed the line and threw both arms in the air – a WIN – and to top things off, Marten came from absolutely nowhere to claim 5th, with Jaiden 9th, Grant 13th-ish and Iain 18th-ish all crossing the line celebrating also. All of our riders in the top 20 out of 60-ish starters! Had we done enough to take the team GC in our Division?? FGHTCLB CC were not up in the top few placings so it looked like we had them covered, but did AJ end up taking 2nd or 3rd?? Unfortunately the photo confirmed him pipping Mikey from the Avantiplus Uberquads on the line to give him 2nd on the stage, and as a result, the Geraldton team clung onto the advantage by a solitary point…

It was just awesome, to be part of the team and to execute the plan against some high quality riders. SWCC gained a lot of respect from the way we rode, active and aggressive, and all in the mix. Right through the 3 stages we gave our all, and got the reward. It was a shame we missed out on the overall win for 2nd Division after placing countbacks for Stage 2. However we were very satisfied, considering Geraldton took the win largely due to the efforts of their Elite Pro rider.

Many thanks to the South West Cycle Club and especially the legendary Robbie Commons for all of his support, and to Grant for managing the team. Also thanks to all the teams sponsors – Bindi Nutrition (who once again were working flat out at the conclusion of the stage), Sokhyte (producing quality socks of which Matt Keenan is clearly a fan), and Full of Beanz Coffee. Congrats to Brendon Morrison and all of the Tour of Margaret River crew for once again making it all happen and bringing such a quality event to our beautiful part of the world.