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.