The Warnie is always a highlight of the year, a true bucket list item for every bike racer in the country. It’s old, it’s long (267km), its normally windy and it’s hard. It may not be Grafton hard, but it’s a race where you have to be mentally switched on, and fight for position from kilometre one until your race is over.
We went into the race with high hopes; Rylan’s 8th place in 2019 has raised the bar so anything outside of a top 5 would be a bit disappointing. We had strong options, Iven, Dave and Tristan are all on form. Jason’s race head makes him dangerous, Matt had the potential to surprise the whole field (including himself) and Will and Curtis both had the legs to impress.
A block headwind on the highway for the first 30km of the race meant that nothing was going anywhere, but in true NRS fashion, this didn’t stop anyone from trying to ride off. Unsurprisingly they were all unsuccessful. The next 20 km were relatively uneventful as riders continued to try and scramble into moves. Still, nothing was moving, but so far this is what we had figured might happen.
The next 40k would turn out to be our most eventful of the day, with our plans having a few spanners thrown in. It started with Will having his front wheel taken out, leaving him lying in the gutter with a few deep grazes and a cracked helmet. Fortunately no lasting damage, but enough to see him out of the race, and the team down a rider before the racing had started in earnest.
Fortunately, it appeared that things were back on track after this with Jason slipping into the first break of the day with three other riders. The quartet drifted out to 3 minutes before the peloton spluttered back to life and started yet another flurry of attacks that would see the break slowly get brought back in. Then things went a little crooked for us – with Iven getting a puncture which left him fighting back to the bunch on his own with a convoy barrage in place, before Dave would also hit the deck, with no injuries but a dislodged Di2 cable which would take minutes to rectify and prove too big a gap to overcome. Fortunately, the commotion from this crash enabled Iven to regain the convoy and get back to the bunch.
From then, Matt was active finding some moves which looked promising, before Iven, and then Tristan slipped into a move which eventually swelled to be about 35 riders with riders joining in dribs and drabs. A group of five muscled their way off the front of this bunch on one of the few KOMs of the day. With no numbers able to chase, we were left watching and hoping that another team would take it on themselves to bring the move back. This was not to be, and we got left wondering what could have been, with Iven and Tristan finishing 21st and 25th in the second bunch, a few minutes down on the winners.
Thanks to all who made this race possible, with a special shout out to Warren Bennett, Tatyana Procak and Sally Randall for taking care of the feed zones, and to Scott Morison (not the PM) for being mechanic for the day and putting up with a typically frustrated team manager for 7 hours in the car.