The pinnacle of the TKM cycling calendar. The Annual Road Champs.
And like all things TKM, everything is a competition. $2,500 was dropped on the Calcutta betting as to who would be the 2015 champions. Even the beds on offer at the cabin park were subjected to bidding, with the double-bed rooms fetching high prices with the 4-bunk bed room being the alternative if the wallet kept its cobwebs.
A reputation of being a brutal day in the saddle, 2015 was to be no different.
The Bendigo gold-fields was the canvas of choice and the Goose and King proceeded to paint a masterpiece.
A 3-stage race covering 180km and 2500 vertical, it included a TTT, the queen stage 2 including the climb of Mt Alexander.... Twice!!!
And that is only part of it. In true TKM tradition the day does not end there. In fact it has barely begun because when you throw 40 Kingsmen into a bar after the TKM Road Champs they will have some stories to tell and some partying to be had. Bendigo will never be the same again.
As always, the King knew what was best and was responsible for the setting of the handicaps. Controversy reigned and the sooking began but in the end The King was proven to know riders better than they knew themselves and the numbers were on the money. In the end the best man would win. Who that man was going to be was the mystery that was soon to be resolved.
With only 21 finishers from the original 38 starters it proved to be one of the toughest on record and it was a race of survival as much as it was speed.
The field included well known pro riders that have won some of the biggest races in Australia and the CV's were ones to be feared.
But when 38 Kingsmen put on their green jerseys your CV means shit.
In the end the best man will win.
As much as The King would love to tell you in his own words the tales of the battle that was the 2015 TKM Road Champs, the story is probably best told by those that rode themselves into the TKM history books…
First up, we’ll hear from the man who not only won the race, but also had the courage to buy himself in the Calcutta – one of the original members of TKM - the KID!
For me the TKMRR15 started 6 months ago. After getting injured just weeks away from attempting to run a sub 2:45 marathon, I needed another challenge and the bike was going to be the only place to do it. Initially I wanted to get better at Noize, but even when I was fit I didn’t have the power to get anywhere near the big boys. Other than a couple of weeks just after Christmas, Noize has been a struggle for me. I will never have the power of people like the King, Sherps and Boxer et al. So the road champs was my focus.
In the month leading up, training didn’t feel like it was going very well. I continued to struggle at Noize and in the hills, but I was getting the kms that I wanted most of the time (Yes, all is on Strava). Wednesday morning rides down to Patto River or extra laps of the Boulevard on a Monday should have been making me stronger, but it didn’t feel like it. My major head fart came just over a month before the champs when I was riding up in the hills with Sherps, Turtle, fly and a couple of others. I was horrible, no power and just killed by everyone. And with a two week holiday just around the corner I thought I was rubbish.
One more solid 200km ride just before I left and short rides and runs in Sri Lanka left me feeling fresh when I got back, even though I had been on the toilet for a couple of days in Sri Lanka. When the course started to come out and I saw all the hills I decided to finally purchase a wahoo Kicker, which I had been putting off. I set it up and started doing more hills. In the three weeks before the RR I did nearly 5000m of climbing on the kicker alone, with some collateral damage to the lounge room carpet. Concentrating on long hard climbs which would last from 45min to 2 ½ hours. It kicked (no pun intended) my form into another level and the week before the champs I set three PB’s up hills in the Nong’s as well as taking 5 minutes off my Wall time from 4 weeks before (again, it’s all on Strava).
My confidence was now up and I thought my handicap was ok. I decided to try and get myself and others in the Calcutta, $95 was going to be my highest bet, so when I bought myself for $93 I was relieved. In the week leading up, I just kept a low profile and kept doing a few more hills on the trainer. It was a gutsy move buying myself and the digs and crap I was given before the race was warranted, I’m not in the form of the King.
Looking at the course I thought it suited me well. My plan was to limit any losses on stage one, and help the others to the finish line, without killing myself. On the second stage I hoped that we would catch the group ahead before the main hills and then I wanted to ride hard on the first assent to break up the group and then attempt to hold off the better riders chasing behind for as long as possible.
Stage 1 went to plan for me. Chicken, Farms and Doma all rode well. Chicken looked so strong, on the flats and the hill. Everyone rode up the hill well, which was harder than I thought it would be. The second half started to hurt me a little, but Doma was close to blowing a gasket. Climbing up the last hill we could see both the groups in front and weren’t caught so I thought it was a good result. Second after handicaps was perfect.
Stage 2 was where all the action was going to happen. Our group of Scooter, Ghostie, Doma and Chicken started really well. Chicken and Scooter were killing it on the front. I certainly wasn’t feeling comfortable a number of times in the first 40 kms, thanks to these guys. Ghostie, Scooter and Doma started to show signs of getting tired and were even dropped on a small hill. I thought Ghostie was foxing and discussions were had between Chicken and I that we might have to watch him. However, Chicken was my major concern. He was strong and I knew that I still had to put 4 minutes into him at some time during the next stage and a half. Coming towards the first ascent of the hill we were starting catching the two groups in front of us, all in the space of 500m. When Chicken and Doma (who had his second wind and was riding very well) caught the two groups I was nearly dropped as the speed quickly went up to 55km/h. Things settled down quickly and no one was very keen to push the pace, there was probably 15 people in this group. By this time I started to cramp. I hardly ever cramp so just had a couple of gels in about 5 minutes and most of my water, hoping it would make me feel better.
It worked pretty quickly so I thought I better do some of the pace making as I had the lowest handicap for the whole group. Soon after hitting the front we had to make the turn onto the dirt. I couldn’t believe my luck, I felt like I was the first rider going into the Arenberg forest. I decided to ride a solid tempo to see what would happen to the guys behind. Only two others were around me, Stiggy and the Fly. I didn’t look behind until the very end of the section and then I couldn’t see anyone else even close. It was time to go. I caught back up to Stiggy on the lower hairpins and started to pull away. The climb was hard, I was nearly cramping the whole was up, but being in front kept me pushing (as much as I could). Stiggy was gone, but Fly was doing his normal buzzing around doing the climb very easy. Towards the top I couldn’t get out of the saddle without both of my calves cramping. I really slowed in the last km and the Fly caught up and passed me. Going over the top Cords and Wiz were able to give me a gel which I needed badly. I couldn’t pedal going over the top due to the cramps. I finished my water and tried to shake it out, but I thought my goose was cooked. Another climb, no food, no drink and cramps, I was stuffed. After a couple of minutes of rolling down the hill I started to feel a little better and knew I needed to start pushing down the hill. It was a good descent and I remembered that the turn was the first concrete bridge, thank god. Just 7 kms to go. The first person to come past was Stiggy at 1:30 minutes, I was looking for Chicken but didn’t see him, and my plan had worked! Now I just have to push and hold off the good guys. I pushed as hard as I could without cramping again, I certainly didn’t ride it as fast as I would have liked but I went as deep as I had in a long time. I needed food and water quick, I was really concerned about how tight my legs were, but only 28kms to go.
At the start of stage three, where I was late as I was having a nervous poo, knowing I had 7 minutes on Llama and 14 on Sherps I thought barring cramp I should be able to get the last stage done. To hold off cramping I had to maintain a high cadence and not push on the hills very much. All I was thinking about was L, R, L, R don’t fuck it up. Even with this I still thought I was going the wrong way at one time. As a lot of the stage was downhill and I was averaging in the low 40s I thought if Llama is good enough to catch me then he deserves it. In true form Llama was the last to wish me luck and said that I can get the rest done. At 21kms I was starting to get nervous, a little rise was really hurting, but Wiz came past and said that I still had about 5 minutes, so I could relax. The last climb was just about not cramping and coming into the finish was a feeling I will not forget in a while. It’s the first bike race I have ever won, and 6 months of training paying off, with 30 odd bottles of wine and $1000 in my back pocket. Better prize money than a Northern Combine, that’s for sure.
Again, thank you to everyone involved, Goose, Candy, King, Cracky and the volunteers and anyone else that I have missed. There were so many great rides out there on Saturday. Sherps, you are just an animal. Llama you know how to get the job done and rode very well. King sorry to beat you by 4 seconds, well not really. The scratch guys were amazing and so was everyone who finished, and even competed. Goosey, I think you did an awesome job with the course, it was hard, on very light traffic roads and never boring, you should be very happy. On to TKMRR16, bigger and better than ever.
Next up – a TKM Hall of Fame member, noted as being ‘The Real Deal’ by our resident Pro, The Smackie, and an absolute beast of a rider who was the quickest around the course for the day, from the Scratch group…. The SHERRPPPPAAAAA!
Imagine you are a small pacific island nation and somehow they want you to play in the soccer world cup. You have some things going for you (Sun, Dreadlocks, chicks with tight big booties), but you spend a lot of your time smoking joints and sniffing paint. When the groups are drawn in this fictional world cup, you get lumped with Germany, Brazil, Netherlands and the UK. You now are in what the press is calling the Group of Death and quickly you have to make a choice. Your choice is to get up before 8am and start training, or to continue putting bones through your nose with your mates.
4 weeks ago, I was this small pacific nation, I had been drawn to ride the TKM Road Champs with the most powerful group of bike riders TKM has produced. There would be four champions and me. The four champions’ list of achievements is as long as Smax’s …… arm. I knew what I had to compete with, the whole of the cycling world knew what I was up against…. consistent 25-hour training weeks, 20min power tests that could power PNG for a year, world records, Grafton to Inverell, countless victories on the 2015 summer crit circuit….
In my favour, I had knowledge and time. Knowledge, that I had been to 4 previous TKM Road Champs and suffered like a dog as the day went on, and the time to commit to 1 single race while the Champions were wasting their energy on the biggest races in the country. For 4 weeks I quietly trained and ate (didn’t eat) for the most special race in my cycling world.
As I prepared, the stages were created, as the stages were released the fatties complained, as the fatties complained the handicaps were extended, but when we started at 9am on the 18th of April, I was still standing on the start line with the Champs. On the start line the 5 of us were equals, and we worked as equals for over 80 kilometres. We powered through the first 2 hours of the day as one, we sat on 45km/h +, pulling 30 second turns. No one missed a beat, everyone was selfless. I was having doubts as we powered down hills swapping off turns at 70km/h, I was ready to call a truce as we hit the sketchy dirt road, I was ready to skip a turn when I choked on a gel that I accidently breathed in…. But the pull of the scratch group was too strong.
Over the first 80k, the champions set me up for one of my greatest days on a bike. As the group of champions fractured on the large climbs, the working men of TKM got me through the next 50k. The savage slopes of Mt Alexander were broken by words of encouragement from TKM’s greatest personalities. The pain from stage 2 was soothed by the banter at Harcourt’s café. And the worst pain I have ever experienced on a bike (stage 3) was worth it for a place on the podium at the TKM road champs.