Stage 3 Suntour
It was the case of a little bit of groundhog day at the Suntour today with final few km's of the stage identical to that of stage 3. Today we not only finished in negambie but also kicked the stage off there so was a novel day of riding out of the accommodation to the start and also back there after the finish, very very convenient. On paper the stage seemed to most likely come down to a field sprint and our Korda mentha national were more than happy with this and decided to again put our support behind of man of Steele Von Hoff! The tricky part of the stage was Nasty 6km climb midway through the stage which threatened to break the field apart but fortunately we had what I felt was a good plan to ensure we can steele a chance at the bunch gallop.
The stage kicked off ideally with a manageable sized group of 6 riders skipping up the road inside the first 5km. Fortunately a couple of the other teams UHC and MTN also wanted a field sprint and decided to do the early work so our boys could chill out in the peleton before step one of our plan was called upon. The pace was like the day before for the first part of the race, not hard but not solid enough that you were never comfortable. Steele was very confident as usual and made sure we all knew he was keen for the sprint. It's always nice as a team when your sprinter shows this enthusiasm for the bunch gallop battle as latter in the stage when you working your backside of chasing down the breakaway it's always more motivating doing it for a motivated leader. So as we rolled toward the base of the potentially race changing climb the gang sprung into action.
The plan for the long climb was to simply get steele over it as fresh as possible and in a position to ensure a bunch sprint eventuates. We were prepared for the group to be split by the climbers but we wanted to ensure we were close enough and fresh enough at the top to ride Steele back to the front of the bike race. To do this the plan was pretty simple, I would employ my "safety car" technique. It's a pretty simple approach and hopefully works just the same way as in a car race. Set a safe tempo at the front to get through a potentially dangerous section of the race. In this case a dangerous section was the fear of Steele being left behind by attacks on the climb and not being able to return to the front for a crack at a sprint finish. My role was simple, ride on the front at a pace that steele could comfortably handle but also at a pace that made any potential attackers think twice about doing it. My their was that I would ride a t pace until people stopped talking within the group which usually means people are having to work at least a little hard. Also if they did attack we would be at a pace that meant they had to ride very hard to get any sort of a gap, hopefully if they did ride that hard they would be buggered from getting the gap and not be able to hold the attack the 60km to the finish. So onto the front I went and starting feeling for this safety car tempo to tap out. Another factor is by me being able To ride my pace means that I won't be tired at the top and will have plenty of juice in the tank to ride on the from and help keep the race under control to the finish. As I started setting the tempo Lachlan was my eyes on Steele to help set the pace. Initially on the steeper Ramps we had to back it off a little but once steele was through the hard middle section of the climb he really showed his class as a leader getting himself right up on my wheel to dictate the pace fro. Right behind me for the final 3km of the climb. No teams attacked fortunately, doubtful it was a result of our tactics but that doesn't really matter, if they had we were read for it and as we crested the top of the climb the break was In check, peleton was intact and most importantly Steele was feeling great! First step done.
Once down of the climb the was par began, slowly winding in the days breakaway on the final flat 50km run into negambie. The gap was at a manageable 2min so it meant that we just had to keep a steady pressure on the pace as up front the breakaway would be sat ring to feel 100km on the attack in there legs. Our korda mentha boys really rode like a solid unit on the run into town sensing how the chase was going and helping out where required. At 25km to go the gap went out 30seconds or so and Laughlin and Gus showed there class by instantly coming to the front and rippin out two monster turns to rip that advantage straight back of the break and at 20km it was again a manageable 1min time gap. That little quick thinking by the guys really impressed me actually. From there it was just text boom bringing the race back together. Was now on the front with just Simon Clarke to help me as we had run out of Helpers from UHC and MTN and with 4km to go we had everything back together. From there I slid back into the group to ensure steele was where he needed to be and he was glued to caleb ewan wheel, perfect! Nick Schultz had done his job perfectly and ensured steele had the wheel he wanted and was also there to ge him out of trouble if required. With all under control with steele I went back to the front and ripped out a couple more turns until we were inside the final km. As the peleton rocketed into the uturn with 400m Steele was perfectly poised for a great result on calebs wheel. Unfortunately for Steele again his lucked out a bit on the corner with his line and lost some valuable. Showing his class and excellent summer of form he kicked hard to drag himself onto the podium in 3rd place and a great result. Today there were no regrets, we did all we planned and everyone including Steele were happy with the teams effort on the day and the result. Evan after just 2 days together as a composite team we were really riding as a unit and that's something that is really exciting to see and enjoyable to be apart off. Bring on arthurs seat!!
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