Tour of Bright – A Grade Stage 3
By Rylan Dowdell
Stage 3 of the Tour of Bright is traditionally is the most keenly anticipated stage of the Tour, and this year was no different. We woke up to horrendous weather that was threatening to force the shortening of the decisive climb of Mt Hotham. Thankfully, the race organisers crossed their fingers and made the call to keep the finish of the race at the Hotham Alpine Resort.Coming into Stage 3, we had Sebastian Presley sitting in 10th on GC after his strong Stage 1 TT and a solid performance by the whole team during Stage 2 that saw Seb finish the stage in 7th. Our aim was to deliver Seb and myself to the base of Hotham with the best legs possible for the 28km climb, and hope that I could assist Seb during the climb to the top of Hotham. By the time the stage had started, the rain and lightning had disappeared and on the start line, Ethan and I were more worried about finding some sunblock!
After a brief neutral rollout, a small breakaway raced up the road with Dave accidentally finding himself in the break of the day. With Dave away and marking the break, it took the pressure off us and we were able to relax and ride together in the bunch. The ride to the base of Mount Hotham is relatively straightforward (52 out of 55 kilometres of the stage are on the Great Alpine Road) but the battle for position along that road was on. Everyone wanted to be close to the front with their main rider safely tucked in behind them out of the wind. Not all of us were able to hit the climb in perfect position, however, Seb hit the climb in a good position near the front. A few kilometres into the climb the bunch started to shrink as we started to reel in the breakaway. Dave was saving his energy and waiting for us to catch, and as soon as we did, he rode at the front of the bunch for as long as he could, lifting the pace and stringing out the bunch. Riders were beginning fatigue to this show of power, as Seb and Ethan followed Dave closely behind. I was not positioned well at this moment and had to cover a few gaps after riders struggling to match the ‘Randall fury’ slip away into the abyss off the back of a disintegrating bunch. As Dave gave his last effort, Ethan continued the pace into the steepest section of Mt Hotham, known as ‘The Meg’. A bunch of around 40 riders remained after a furious 300 odd meters at 12+% – Seb was still sitting pretty around the front and I was near the rear of the bunch. On the uphill drag after The Meg, the pace was high and proved too much for me to survive and I, unfortunately, had to wave Seb goodbye and good luck. From this point on Seb was now our last rider in the race for glory at the top, and after putting in a solid effort and only getting gapped near the top Seb managed to finish just outside top 20 in 21st place. Unfortunately, this dropped him out of the top 10 overall but still finished in a solid 13th place for the tour. This concludes the year’s Victorian Road Series for us and our focus now turns to National Road Championships in January and the new year of racing, with new riders and sponsors all to be announced soon.
I’d like to personally take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, including Butterfields, Appselec, Peak Super, Rojomoma Red Art, Nalini, Brentnalls, O’Connor Harvesting, Pedalit, Suomy and Science in Sport, for this year, on behalf of the whole team. We are so grateful for your support and could never achieve what we have this year without it. Stay tuned for next year!