Professional cyclists and amateurs alike dream of winning the Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic, the most prestigious race in Australia plus the second longest running UCI race in the world (since 1895). Tom Robinson from Genesys Pro Cycling placed third at this years Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic and commented, "The last five kilometers were probably the hardest I’ve had on a bike".
In the 261 kilometre race on October 16, the 212 strong field faced tough riding conditions with head and cross winds of up to 60km hour spreading the field over a distance of 60km with only 93 riders finishing. Rhys Pollock of team Drapac took the line honors after 7 hours, 49 minutes and 40 seconds closely followed by Mark O’Brien (Team RACE Fenton Green) and with Thomas Robinson placing third.
RC spoke with the 20 year old Tasmanian rider Tom Robinson for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) about the team tactics and how the race unfolded on the day.
BNA: The Melbourne to Warrnamobool Classic has seen attacks right from the starting line, when did the attacks start this year?
Robinson: The attacks didn’t really start until we passed Geelong. The Cross and headwinds were doing the damage to the peleton early on.
BNA: Did any team start to reel them in or were they let go as riders looking for the sprint prize money.
Robinson: After the 80km mark the road became a little bit more straight forward. Drapac had been riding hard in the cross wind to try and establish a small group, but the race continued into a headwind. It was from around this point that most of the teams had a man in the break and were happy to give the break some time.
BNA: Are there lots of nerves in the first few kilometers?
Robinson: I think compared to other races that I have done this year, there was not as much nervous energy in the bunch, but I think that’s because a lot of the tour stages are much shorter. That makes it more important to be at the front. A race like Warrnambool you don’t have to many nerves about the race your more concerned about having enough left in the tank when the major attacks happen late in the race.
BNA: What were your team tactics at the beginning of the race?
Robinson: Our tactics were to have a rider in all the moves that went up the road. But also we didn’t want to race to hard early on so we played bit of a following tactic. For the first 2hrs we all just let the other s race against each other as we sat back and kept out of the wind.
BNA: There were some big continental teams in the pack were they at the front setting the tempo?
Robinson: Yes Drapac rode on the front in the crosswinds in attempt to blow the peleton apart early on. But once the break went up the road they had about 9 minutes at one point so that concerned a lot of teams.
BNA: The feed zones are always chaotic, with riders swerving to get to their team feeder; did your team have any set plans for the feed zones, who was going to get the musettes?
Robinson: We had our feeders set up at the end of the feed zone this allowed us to stay attentive but also stay at the front. We spaced ourselves out in the bunch but we had about 4 feeders so we had plently of opportunities to get our musettes.
BNA: What was the tempo like for the first 100kms? Did the peloton get split?
Robinson: The tempo was really high from the start and that was because of the conditions on the road. Riders saw this a an opportunity to split the field by riding in the gutter. It caused splits every time but the field rejoined because the road went back into a headwind.
BNA: It’s tough to gauge the difficulty of a climb looking at its profile, how tough were the climbs this year?
Robinson: The Climbs at the 190km mark were very tough, they set up the rest of the race. They were long power climbs and a lot of riders were hitting them hard from the bottom.
BNA: Anyone attack on the climbs which surprised the group?
Robinson: No not at all, we had Joel Pearson just up the rode as we hit the climb at the 190km mark and some of the riders tried to get across at the bottom. By the time we reached the top there were only about 6 rider that got across to the front of 7.
BNA: How many were left in the lead group after 150kms?
Robinson: The field was down to about 60 to 70 riders. It was at around this point that we knew a lot of our rivals had done a lot early on and we started to make a lot of attacks from this point.
BNA: At the 25km to the finish had the pace started to lift? Were you all working together at this point?
Robinson: The pace between Mark, Rhys and myself was really consistent we had to control the effort as we rode the last 70km together into a block head wind.
BNA: Did you have to get out of the saddle to chase down wheels?
Robinson: Mark O’Brien started to attack 15km out from the finish. He knew that he was not able win in a sprint so he had to win solo.
BNA: Tell us about the crowds along the course?.
Robinson: The atmosphere through the little towns were amazing. It was surprising to see the people on the sides of the road that looked as though they had waited all day for the race.
BNA: Out of 212 riders only 93 completed the race, how tough were the conditions out on the course?
Robinson: Yeah really hard but that’s what made for a good race. I think the guys that were able to save the most energy were the ones that finished at the front of the race. Its always important to conserve in a race over that distance but when you throw tough conditions in there as well it becomes the most important thing out on the road.
BNA: Can you take us through the final 5 kilometers, how you were feeling, did you have any tactics?
Robinson: The last five kilometers were probably the hardest I’ve had on a bike. The legs were beginning to cramp and the softness in my pedaling began to disappear. I was just hoping to hold on until the last kilometre and that would be when I felt I could have won. But unfortunately Mark and Rhys just had that little bit more in the tank
BNA: Now the final kilometer, were you holding onto the wheel, did you have anything left in your legs after 261kms?
Robinson: No nothing left I just wanted to get off the bike. I was actually sitting about 80m off the back of Mark and Rhys and they weren’t getting any further away and I wasn’t get any closer. I felt like I was doing about 20kph.
Thank you for taking time to speak with us, we wish you continued success in cycling. Team Website: www.genesysprocycling.com.au