- Alex Malone
January 07, 2013, 0:17 GMT,
January 07, 2013, 0:17 GMT
Starting the year with no regrets
Well, if you've seen the results from the final stage of the Sun Tour my name will appear well below the top standings. That's ok, I thought I could do something on the final stage to Arthurs Seat but to be honest I was completely dead before we even reached the climb. The pace was on, unsurprisingly, from the gun.
We began the first of two ascents of the climb and I was immediately out of contention. My position was terrible, the bunch was strung out and I was battling at the back of the bunch. I don't think I would have been able to follow the quick guys for long anyway. The effort of the first day were always going to catch up with me.
The first road stage was awesome and I would do exactly the same given the chance again. I don't mind bumping and fighting for wheels but the morale is never higher than when off the front. Knowing others are working hard behind to catch you is added incentive.
I entered the tour with a bit of uncertainty but I used that to my advantage. I wanted my day in the sun and I got it. The general classification didn't work out but that's ok, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It was suggested my New Year's resolution should be "no regrets". I like the sound of that.
It was fantastic to return to the Sun Tour after an initial experience in 2010 - when Bradley Wiggins won the title. I travelled in a media car for my first 'journo' assignment but I was there primarily to watch and learn. I would have rather been racing in the horrendous winds experienced that week. A number of years on and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to race one of Australia's most iconic stage races.
Finally, huge thanks to all my family, friends and fellow riders for their kind words of support throughout the race. It really means a lot. My Sataylst-Giant squad gave me everything and I'll be sure to repay those efforts throughout the year. It's only January, bring on the rest of the season. Cheers, Alex.
- Alex Malone
January 05, 2013, 22:51 GMT,
January 05, 2013, 23:00 GMT
Looking for a huge ride on Arthurs Seat
There were a lot of riders and teams that missed out on Stage 1 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and that meant the second stage would not be easy. Backing up after a long day in the breakaway would be coupled with the additional desire of the peloton to gain back lost time.
The parcours was tougher than the opening day, the wind was still blowing but the temperature had dropped a little - my Garmin read a comfortable 41 degrees Celsius at the start.
Rolling out of Mitchelton Winery it was apparent that another breakaway could steal the day. Small roads and crosswinds for the opening kilometres could have proved make-or-break. I stayed at the front and despite following a number of early moves, it all came back together.
The conditions were tough and so staying up the front was the safest place to be but also required using a lot of energy. Perhaps I was too nervous in my attempts to stay out of trouble because I averaged over 380Watts for the first 70km. The legs felt good and while I got tailed off in the final part of the big climb midway through the stage, there was a group just behind me. No stress; back it off and catch back on the descent.
A number of breakaways were away all day however, the Huon Salmon-Genesys team were strong enough to contain them. Even with three Australian National Team riders off the front (Nathan Haas, Jay McCarthy and Simon Clarke) the gap never got out of control.
Coming into the final finishing circuit, there were plenty of riders unaware of what was to come. There were two riders away passing through the finish-line who still had more than a minute gap.
It wouldn't be a race in Victoria if we didn't encounter at least one wooden, 'pick-a-plank' bridge and there were two of them. Race organisers covered the normally dangerous bridges with rubber mats but one rider still crashed. Enter panic mode as we encountered the bridges well outside the 3km-to-go mark. We chased back to the front however, the fall caused chaos.
About 30 of us finished just behind stage winner Luke Davison and second-place Will Walker but it appears organisers gave the same time to everyone who entered the circuit with the main group. I kept my top-ten overall spot but dropped to seventh.
A huge feed back at the hotel to replenish the near 4,000 calories burned and hopefully I can pull out a huge ride tomorrow on Arthurs Seat. It's going to be a big task to stay up there but my Satalyst-Giant team are fully committed to supporting me. It's been a great tour so far and I'll be gunning to end it on a high.
- Alex Malone
January 04, 2013, 21:15 GMT,
January 04, 2013, 21:14 GMT
Earning the title of Most Aggressive rider on Stage 1
January is a funny time of the year in Australia. The weather is generally very good, at least in Sydney, which means the motivation for training is not hampered by too many rainy mornings. However, if you are not racing the National Championships there is little reason to train hard. Enter the revised dates for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and there's every reason to get up and do what needs to be done.
I entered the tour anxious of how I would perform against the international field. Considering the limited road racing around the Christmas and New Year period, most of the peloton are in a similar position. The European professionals are also planning bigger things for the season so it was no surprise the local teams would be coming into the race well prepared.
Stage 1 was just under 150km and featured one serious climb, Mount Macedon which was about 5.5km long to be encountered in the opening hour. With an expected top of 45 degrees Celsius the start time was moved forward.
I've always been of the opinion that if you are unsure about your condition: attack. The race begun with strong cross winds, which would continue throughout the stage and I made sure to follow anything that looked promising.
Eventually a group of 11 got away, including last year's overall winner Nathan Haas. We came into the climb nearly five minutes on the bunch. Great. If I get dropped I'll ride tempo and rejoin the bunch. Thankfully that didn't happen but once over the climb the group stopped working.
Mike Northey (New Zealand National Team), who most recently won the Tour of Southland decided he didn't want to be caught. Along with Calvin Watson (Jayco-VIS-Apollo) the three of us took off. With more than a 100km to go it would be a huge task to stay away but when you're unsure how you are really going, it's best to stay out there for as long as possible.
It wasn't long before a number of others joined us and with seven willing riders, our gap stretched to six minutes. With an hour of racing to go, it looked like we could stay away. Coming toward the final climb it was the young Josh Atkins (New Zealand National Team) - who will ride for the Omega Pharma-QuickStep Development team this year - who split the group of six.
Eventual winner and new yellow jersey wearer Aaron Donnelly (Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers) jumped across along with Watson. It was a bad moment for me and unfortunately those three were not waiting for the trailing trio. Brock Roberts (Target-Trek), Bradley Linfield (Degani Bakery Cafe World Tour Academy) and myself battled to keep it going.
We tried to close the gap but the extra effort required was too much. Those three challenged for the win while the three of us managed to hold off what was left of the bunch. Toward the end Roberts decided to take a wrong turn, nearly taking Linfield with him and so with Roberts gone the two of us sprinted into the Bendigo velodrome. My lack of track experience saw Linfield easily beat me to the line but I was rewarded with Most Aggressive for the stage.
Another upshot to the day is the huge leap in the general classification. After completely misjudging the prologue yesterday it's nice to move up into the top-ten. After a swim in the hotel pool, massage and some food it's time to recover for tomorrow. It'll be another hot one so hopefully that plays into my favour.
- Alex Malone's Sun Tour diary
Join Cyclingnews Production Editor Alex Malone as he tackles the 60th edition of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, riding for the Satalyst Giant Racing Team.