By Mark Sampson
Photos: Fame & Spear
It comes that time of year where the team starts to look towards our mountain bike and gravel racing cousins for some advice as we tackle the infamous Copper Coast Cup. Eager to carry the momentum of our previous successes, we were more than ready for yet another crack at the dirt roads.
Saturday – Wallaroo Gravel Stage
For Saturday’s Gravel Stage, the winds were forecast to be up to 40kmh, so everyone was on edge. In previous years, a breakaway forms from the drop of the flag, but doesn’t usually get any further than the first gravel sector around 45km in. This year was different; In the chaos of people trying to keep their team trains organised, Rylan managed to sneak off the front, much to everyone’s surprise as only a few people were even aware that he was up the road. This helped the boys tremendously as it removed any obligation to work in the early stages of the race. Although there were many riders who tried their luck in forming another breakaway, Team Tonsley Village controlled the pace on the front setting a consistent tempo. As the rest of the team did their best to ride together, a stray rock from the side of the road flatted Jason’s tire. Due to the current situation of the race, Jason was unable to regain contact with the group and his race was ended early.
With only a few kilometres to the first gravel sector, the peloton started to pick up pace. You could sense the nervousness within the group as teams were vying to get their main man to a safe position. However, with everyone trying to get to the front, in a strong cross-tail wind, high speeds and crashes are inevitable. During one of the attacks by current series leader Jarrod Drizners in hopes of splitting the peloton, a small touch of wheels at speed brought a couple of riders down, including Dan and Liam. The crash left Dan with a broken bike and Liam with a broken arm. This more than unfortunate mishap meant we had to reshuffle roles. With 3 of the 7 riders we had out of the race, and Rylan somewhere up the road oblivious to what was going on in the bunch, it was up to Myself and Iven to protect Tristan and give him the best possible lead into the finish.
We lead Iven and Tristan into the first gravel sector, keeping them both in good position and out of trouble. Amidst the commotion, a small breakaway containing Team Inform’s Jarrod Drizners and Team Tonsley Village’s Justin Gassner slipped up the road. Unfortunately for Tristan, the disorganisation of the front group meant that that breakaway will eventually ride to the finish, only catching Rylan at the second gravel sector.
Despite Iven’s valiant effort to bring back the race to the team’s favour, it wasn’t to be. Tristan crossed the line in a very respectable 3rd place, winning the bunch gallop, just 5 seconds off the leaders.
Sunday – Moonta Criterium
Unfortunately, due to Rylan’s previous efforts and a recurring injury, he was unable to start in Sundays Criterium around Moonta, and with Jason needing to leave early because of work commitments and Liam and Dan battered and bruised, it was up to Tristan, Iven, and Myself to try and end on a high.
The pace was on from the start. Attacks were flying left, right, and centre. Iven and I had one job; protect Tristan and make sure he gets to the finish in good position and as fresh as possible. Towards the last few laps of the race, it was clear that it was going to come down to a bunch sprint. The boys did their best to keep Tristan in a competitive position, but in one of the most hectic and cut-throat finales, Tristan had to settle for 7th on the day.
Despite the team’s misfortune over the weekend, there were some positives to takeaway. With Tristan’s consistent riding and the squad’s teamwork, Tristan moves up the rankings in the overall Super Series standings. Fingers crossed that we find the result we’ve been looking for the next round of the Cycling South Australia’s Super Series, held in an extended version of the traditional Victoria Park circuit.