The John Lieswyn Diary 2001

50th Herald Sun Tour (2.4)

Victoria, Australia, October 18-28, 2001

The stages

Stage 1 - October 18: Melbourne Criterium, 31.5 km (30 laps)

Nature threw me a curve ball. It was cool, windy and lightly sprinkling rain just before the start. So I let my tires down to rain pressure, about 80 psi. As soon as we started the sun came out and it stayed dry the whole race. Ah well.

David Pell starts things off for Australia Post with a solo attack. The rest of the team (Greg Henderson of New Zealand and usual suspects Dave McCook, Eric Wohlberg and myself) swarm the front to try and control the peloton. A bit useless as it's early, but there's an outside chance that we can allow one or two opponents to go across to David. No dice, all back together.

Now four riders go down in a last corner crash. Next time around they're still being scraped off the pavement, then the pace is all on again. Breakaway of four, we are missing it. I'll go for it, soft tires or not. It feels as if I'm pedaling in water as it takes a full lap to bridge the gap to the leaders. Phew, I'm on. What? You want me to pull? No way. These guys are letting off the gas. Now McCook has bridged up. I look back and the whole field is there. Eric comes by saying "we've got three up here" and I'm like, three up where?

Eric makes the next split of seven. It's high powered with McGee, McKenzie, Milostic all in it. The gap seesaws, 5 to 10 seconds. Seven laps to go. Third corner and guys are getting loose. I'm covering my brakes as four guys stack it in the last corner. Pinched into the barriers, I come to a stop rubber side down and try to pick my way through the carnage. Most of the peloton has gone by on the inside and I can't decide whether to try and take a "free lap" if they're still available or go ahead and try to latch onto the back of the field.

I take the latter alternative, but now there's not much chance of getting to the front. These guys are going way too slow in the corners, so anywhere but the front means that you have to ride on and off the throttle. Much harder than keeping the speed through the corners. Eric attacks the break, and I'm watching from half a straightaway back. Seems like he might pull it off after finishing second last year to Vogels.

The rest of the break is looking at each other. Anyone who makes a big effort to go after Eric will be relegating themselves to last in the break. But McGee seems to be sacrificing for compatriot McKenzie, and going into the penultimate turn the latter has caught Eric, who holds on for second.

Results

Stage 2 - October 19: Gembrook Criterium, 36 km

Click for larger image
The finish of stage 2
Photo: © Shane Stanley

Gorgeous scenery on the drive to Gembrook. Local schools have been let out to watch despite the variable weather.

Every twenty minutes another cold shower drenches everything, then the sun breaks out. World and personal events motivate me to prayer at a Catholic church located at the start line. An espresso is next, then a few warmup laps on the course.

Woo-hoo this is tailor made for me. It's all up and down for 1200 meters, virtually no flat. From the starting pistol Robbie McEwen (Domo) does his now patented early attack, and Eric and I have it covered. Round lap seven, a five man breakaway has formed, and I've fired across to it. Haselbacher (euro riding for team Ballarat here), Stephan Barthe (USPS), a Pole for MROZ is there too.

I pull equally with these guys until another MROZ makes it across the widening gap to the field. Forget this, I'm just pipping through on my turns now. MROZ won the GC last year and will win again this year if everyone else helps tow them around. Now I'm thinking that if I take out the stage win I could end up in yellow thanks to the time bonus. So I start sitting back, trying not to collect intermediate sprint time bonuses. I don't want the jersey at this point.

We are lapping guys like crazy. Last night we discussed a rule in the tech manual that specified no cooperation from lapped riders. So while I lapped Dave a couple times he didn't help me. Meanwhile Henk Vogels was taking laps off and then pulling the chase group along at top speed. Despite the clearly written rule, the officials would side with Henk on this.

At 1 ½ laps to go, MROZ attacks. No hesitation, I'm on him by the finish line, 1 to go. Bam, the other MROZ guy goes, and the first one whose wheel I'm still following takes the rest of us to the curb. Two other guys get by on the other side and go after him. We're all together at the bottom of the hill, ½ lap to go. I lead it out going into the last corner, figuring to get the optimal position on the left fence for the sprint, since the wind is from the right. 200 meters to go, and I'm going for it. I'm hard to the left and looking over my right shoulder for challengers. Nobody coming.

Click for larger image
Haselbacher was non-plussed...
Photo: © Shane Stanley

100 meters to go and I feel Haselbacher trying to come up on my left. No room there buddy. I've won, but Haselbacher tries to fight me after the finish. Ignoring him, I go clean up. Haselbacher puts in a protest with the officials, who deny it.

Sore loser, he gets up on the podium and says I've ridden irregularly. The crowd doesn't agree and boos him.

Unfortunately they give me the yellow jersey.

Results

Stage 3 130km road race.

Stomach upset. Nervousness, or ate something bad?

Whatever, I'm not too excited about this afternoon's 130km stage. Off the line, McEwen attacks (surprise surprise). I go with him and we aren't caught until the top of the first hill, just before a long descent. For half an hour we've got everything covered. We are shedding rainjackets, Eric and Pell are at the back dumping excess clothes when another move goes. I have Dave there but it is growing too large. I jump on the next guy to go, Vogels. He looks over his shoulder, sees me there, and sits up. The break slides away and we've only got Dave.

Eric finally comes back to the front, and I suggest that we still have a chance to get it back if we throw all four of us on the front. I know that then we'd be really on the defensive, so I concede when he says we need to play the hand we are dealt. Now Dave has dropped out of the break. Apparently he looked back from the tail of the break and saw a guy in a red uniform trying to bridge up. He figured it was me and dropped back for this rider. It wasn't, and Dave was now tailed off the move.

Great, now everyone is looking at us to pull. We don't, and the break gets 16 minutes. You simply cannot miss a move in the Sun Tour, with teams of five being far too small to control this race for 12 days.

In the last 40kms the peloton splits again, and I'm so frustrated by the way everyone keeps sitting up in front of me when they see the yellow jersey on their wheel. I'm really knackered from the morning crit. Everyone who was in the break in the crit is around me, also suffering at the back of the peloton. There is only one chance for me, and that is if my team would stay around me and pull me along in the crosswinds.

But every time someone chucks us all in the gutter, my teammates ride individually and finally I'm left alone in the peloton. 8 riders in the break, finishing 7 minutes ahead of a small group with our Greg, and 12 minutes up on a group of 20 that has our David Pell. That group had contained Eric and Dave, but they drove that split so hard that they got dropped on the final climb.

I'm not impressed with myself nor with them. Cliches like "easy come, easy go" do not assuage the disappointment.

On the upside, I'm a few points out of the sprint and criterium overall jerseys, and having lost 23 minutes means that I'm not a threat and that should improve my chances to win stages.

Results

Stage 4 Criterium

The Sun Tour is in high gear now. Up at 7am, big breakfast cooked by our staff, sort through the laundry, stretch, some time to track heart rate files, type on the laptop, then pack for the drive to the start.

Cup of coffee, race a criterium, have lunch, change uniform, start a road race. Done at 4:30, ride or drive to motel. Clean up, massage, dinner, lights out at 9pm.

Today's criterium is flat and fast, only the last corner is at all a challenge. There's a concrete median strip that forces the group into single file. Eric takes on the first move for us, and they've got 10 seconds quickly. There is a fierce chase however. The big break of the day has Vogels, McKenzie (both Jayco) our David Pell, and me. Swingin'. I get taken off the back when I try to sit out a pull. So the guy who has opened the gap and I are nearly caught by the field before I belatedly jump past him and make a huge effort to rejoin the break. I get there, but it takes 2 laps to recover.

I didn't score a single sprint point while young Nathan Clarke racks them up. That category is shaping up without me. Mroz and another euro team set up a 60kph 2 lap chase and brought us back from what seemed like the winning margin. Field sprint is pretty inevitable. I'm wearing the green/white "most aggressive" jersey so riders continually jump between myself and McCook (usually team riders in a line "train" aren't messed with).

I didn't understand what was going on until after the race when Dave reminded me of the jersey. At 3 to go the guy in front of me went over the 4th corner median. In a millisecond, without thinking, I was also hopping the median. With a shot of adrenaline I stayed engaged in the battle. It was full on at 60kph down the backstretch at half a lap to go, and I couldn't bring Dave up to the top 3. He didn't come around me in the sprint in order to allow me maximum points in the criterium overall, so I finished 5th.

Results

Stage 5 Road Race 130km

Sunny! What a difference a day makes. The gloves are off.

The peloton shatters again and again as every time we slow up, someone else "throws it in the ditch" (drops the hammer on the left side of the road, wind from the right, nobody can get a draft so everyone struggles to hold the wheel ahead of them, "in the gutter")

This goes on for what seems like an hour until the entire bunch slows up and blocks the entire road. There are cries for mercy, and panting riders look at each other warily. A few take advantage of the respite by stopping for a leak. When the tap is reopened, a move finally takes hold and it's a dozen guys.

David Pell is in there for us. The yellow jersey has one of his Mroz guys in there to patrol the break (sit on the back of it). Nevertheless Mroz and second placed Peter Wrolich's team Gerolsteiner don't give the break much rope and they're setting an uncomfortably hard tempo. With 35kms remaining, the break at just 1 minute, and just before the course changes from flat to hilly, Mroz backs it way down. They do this so their guys have a chance to recover before the hills.

Vogels attacks to cross the minute gap and goes out of sight ahead. The scenery is unbelievable, rolling green pastures and patchy forests, streams and ocean vistas. I've steeled myself for the kind of climb that I bonked on yesterday in the waning kilometers, but todays climbs are both easier and I'm well fueled. At one point we rip along a waterfront, make a tight left, and then a tightly banked right straight into a steep hill. What a rollercoaster. It is on this hill that Pell gets dropped by the leaders when his chain won't downshift, and on this hill that Vogels breaks his chain and is overtaken by the peloton before repairs are made.

The final climb is approached from a fast descent and curve over a pick-a-plank wooden bridge. It's now 4 minutes to the leaders, and the peloton is pretty calm approaching the finish with the top 10 placings up the road.

Results

Stage 6 Mt. Hotham 181 km

No double stage today. On awakening I ask Pell how his legs are. I can't tell if he's serious when he responds "great, not sore".

I slept fitfully, stretching sore muscles all night long. 20 minutes to the start. I'm in a café that has an internet connection, uploading my report and scanning cyclingnews.com for the latest from elsewhere in our little world. Email junkie.

Quick, gather up the helmet, diskette, pay the lady, and off to the start line. Out of the blocks and it's full on, amateur racer style. (Pro races usually start off quick, a break is established, the peloton slows for a few hours, and then the race is blazing fast at the end.) Up and over the Cat.4 first climb out of town, the first break is caught and attacks are going left, right, and center. I'm at redline.

The first time my HR drops to 150 I'm looking for a hole in the bunch to fire out of but by the time I get a clear line there is a move going away with Eric, David Pell, former winner Alessandro Pozzi (Kia/Active for Life) the tour leader Remigius Lupeikis (Mroz/Echuca-Moama), and Steve Cunningham (AH Plant). Deals have obviously been made overnight as straight away three teams line up on the front including Gerolsteiner. A short leash of less than 2 minutes is being kept on the break. Greg and I agree to pummel David if he awakens tomorrow saying "yeh, me legs are fine".

We're at an uncomfortable pace, not full-on gutterball but fast enough to take a toll over the long haul. There is a 20 man crash at the back, caused by a stray dog. Several severe casualties include unlucky Stephane Barthe (USPS) who has to receive emergency sutures right there on the road by the race doctor. News pictures showed his bike, it was completely destroyed.

The early part of the race is absolutely beautiful, the best roads I've ever raced on. After one particularly awesome set of high speed banked curves, I let out a whoop and Dave flashes a thumbs up. This is what it's all about. Crisp spring wind at your back, sun washing over the green hills dotted with sheep, snowpack fed streams, and the whir of 140 human powered wheels all around. Elegant Poplar trees line the roads, planted to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the world wars. Those would be illegal in modern US roadbuilding code books (F.H.O., fixed hazardous objects).

The reverie is short lived as we begin the 80 kilometer steady slog up to the summit of the highest mountain in Victoria. The pace doesn't increase but the kilometers begin to take their toll. At the Omeo climb, domestiques are dropping off the front of the peloton while the break is detonating. Cunningham looks miserable as he's caught and dropped. Dane Jorgen Bo Peterson (Fakta/Malaysia Airlines) attacks hard and bridges the 1:20 gap to the break. Once there, he is the only one to follow when Eric attacks. Lupeikis looks in vain to David for help.

In the last 40kms the four remaining leaders are brought back, and all but Eric are eventually dropped by the fierce pace. Twice I can't match the accelerations and go out the back, but both times I claw my way back. Scott Sunderland (Fakta) is dancing on his pedals as he leaves us for dead and replaces Bo Peterson off the front.

I'm near redline in a 39x21 and can do no more than watch in disbelief as Piatek (Mroz) looks around, changes into the big ring, and accelerates away from us like a motorcycle. OK, then. Reminds me of Armstrong's demoralizing attacks. At the end it's 16 riders left going for 4th place. Tough as nails, Eric is the only member of the original break to hang on all day. Sunderland has won the most difficult stage of this year's Sun Tour after recovering from bronchitis and then intestinal problems plaguing him during the first few days. A superb performance.

My download showed over 1 hour spent at maximal heart rate zone 1. New record for me. One young French BigMat rider didn't start, the other quit the stage today, so they loaded up their stuff and hired a car to the airport. They didn't sign on for such hard racing. Tour organizer John Craven is furious. It's said that he cancelled their tickets so they are stuck footing the bill for return airfare.

Stage 7 - October 22: Yarrawonga - Echuca, 180.3 km

Another 180kms today, flat though. Winds are light, looks to be mostly cross tailwind all day. Should be able to cover the distance (110mi) in about 4 hours. Last year on this stage we defended Eric's yellow jersey for the entire distance, just four of us. This year the new tour leader after Mt. Hotham, Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner/Ballarat, Austria) has the help of three teams. Deals and alliances are critical when you are facing 1300kms of racing with teams of just 5 riders each.

We spent all day sitting in the gutter behind these three teams, who were keeping a short leash again on a 7 man break including Henk Vogels and our Dave McCook. After 150kms off the front, the break was down to under a minute with just 10kms to go. McEwen was looking edgy at the front of the peloton as if he might be thinking about a third stage win, but his team wasn't coming up to increase the speed being held by the leaders' teams. Vogels took the win with McCook second.

Lynn had the night off from cooking and Australia Post treated us to a superb dinner at a turn of the century hotel. I had the best salmon I've ever tasted, but when ten o'clock came round I was definitely ready for sleep and the "rest" day tommorrow in Bendigo.

Stage 8 - October 23: Bendigo Criterium, 28 km

It's raining, it's a 7pm start on a "hot dog" course. Both ends of the course have us traversing tram tracks, so the crew has laid down carpeting. Nobody wants to race on this ridiculous course at night in the wet. The officials have said the event will stand on its own, without points or time awarded toward any overall classification. On the parade/neutral first lap, we come to a stop and have a little rider meeting.

Scott Sunderland suggests one rider from each team stage ahead of the rest of the field and fight out the stage. We've got Greg Henderson up there while the rest of us are lapped and withdrawn in short order. Greg runs into the Aussie mafia and finds that every time he or any other non-Aussie attacks, they are chased relentlessly by the combine.

Stage 9 - October 24: Kangaroo Flat - Maryborough, 77.1 km

David Pell and I both made the 15 man break on a windy morning. I tried an attack while we were still in the trees and got away for about 15 minutes but when we got out into the plains the winds were too much and I went back to the break. This attack was good for two more "most aggressive" points (each point is $100). David Pell really ought to have this classification wrapped up but the organizer hasn't given him the proper credit.

5km to go, I put in another attack. No dice, David tries next. Uphill and crosswind, the group is splitting. I let myself get too far back in the line and someone opens a gap I'm not willing to close with David still ahead. But nobody else closes it, and while just four seconds behind we never make contact again. David and I both end up top ten, but it is a major missed opportunity.

Stage 10 - October 24: Maryborough - Daylesford, 96.5 km

Still super windy. Eric has the first break covered, the yellow jersey (Wrolich of Gerolsteiner) is up there too. It goes out to over a minute before 3 teams begin a ferocious chase lasting half an hour. A big fight breaks out right next to me between an Mroz guy and someone else. I'm desperately trying to hold the wheel ahead at this crazy hard pace and these guys are so fired up, they're whipping full waterbottles at one another. They create such a ruckus that the officials take notice and levy fines of $200 each after the stage.

Mroz has their team lined up behind the chasers, then Sunderland, then me, then McCook. Dave and I know what's coming, can we hold on? Just as the break is getting caught, Mroz comes underneath right in the gutter and takes it up to nearly 60kph. Wrolich swings in and catches on. The peloton is shattering. I'm still on Sunderland, still on, heart rate 185, can't go any harder, bit of washed out road edge ahead, I swing out of Sunderland's draft for a millisecond to avoid the obstruction. Just at this moment one of the remaining riders from the chase (I think one of Sunderland's teammates) comes over and slams his bike in front of me. Touch the brakes, this guy is blown and he's sitting up, try to come around him on the windward side, no more revs left in my motor. That's it, it's all over for me. In 30 seconds the one meter crevasse has grown to a distance that might as well be the Grand Canyon. I'm now in the second group of about 15 including the Custom Fleet guys, Eric, McEwen, Sunderland's entire team, and Wrolich's team. All the way to the line Mroz continues to pull away, Custom Fleet is pulling us but Gerolsteiner and Fakta are sitting on. Mroz takes out the stage and moves four men into the top seven, an amazing performance by the Poles.

We're staying in resort cabins tonight. It's raining and cold, of course. There is no heat except for woodstoves, but the wood is green and wet. The Wohlbergian comes to the rescue with his forestry skills (he worked for a Canadian lumber company before terrorizing the US cycling scene) and he chops a bunch of kindling to get the fires going in our cabins.

Stage 11 - October 25: Ballarat - Ballarat, 120 km

20 6km circuits around a lake. Another day of drama. Cold and windy. Before the start the metal crowd fencing was blowing over until the crews got them anchored down. Good cappuccino warming me up. Looked longingly at seasoned potato wedges, promised myself some after the stage finish. Pell starts things off for us on the first lap with a powerful attack. Of course the organizer doesn't notice, and three "aggro" points are given to Vogels for doing nothing more than following the attack.

I'm just three meters behind Vogels as he's going across, in a strong crosswind and riding on super bumpy pavement between tram tracks. For the second day in a row I don't quite have the punch to get across as the winning break slips away from me. Blown from the failed effort, I'm drifting back in the group as Wohlberg and a few others fire across to the break on the other side of the road. 12 guys now up the road, we have two in there, Mroz has Wacker, Jayco has Vogels and Clarke. Fakta is helping Gerolsteiner set tempo on the front again today. The break laps us at four to go.

Here the drama begins. Our average speed had been about 40kph for 15 laps until we got overtaken by the break. Official cars try to keep us separate from the leaders. We're warned not to work in with them. On the last lap (for the break, we've got one more) we are about 30 seconds behind the leaders and the officials announce we may resume racing. Mroz immediately drops the hammer and we close the gap to the break straight away. Pell and Hilton Clarke (Jayco) have broken away, it's 3km to go, and it may have succeeded but now Mroz is quickly overhauling them with the rest of the break in tow. Everyone is screaming at them to ease off the throttles and let the break fight it out fair and square.

As Pell is caught, Wohlberg makes a go at it and gets a good gap, but the Poles still have it floored. Dave and I are furious: if Mroz is going to help Wacker, we're going to help our men. 800m to go and the line is me, Dave, Eric, then Wacker, Vogels and Clarke. Dave panics and pushes me out of the way too soon instead of calling for more speed. I watch from behind as Clarke flats on the tram tracks, Dave blows up with 400m to go, Eric has too far to go alone and is overhauled, the Mroz train pulling Wacker past Vogels. Apparently Wacker had told Vogels repeatedly during the stage that he wouldn't sprint (he'd sat on the back the whole day). When Wacker's team came by at full speed calling for him to jump on, he couldn't resist.

Mroz kept it floored for the last lap, and only about five of us could hold on. When we crossed the finish line we had 45 seconds on the remnants of the peloton. It turned out to be wasted energy for me in hanging on, as a flurry of furious protests from just about every team manager resulted in Wacker being relegated to last in the break, Vogels getting the win, and the gap that Mroz had built in the last lap being erased. Eric has now moved all the way up to seventh - yeehaa!

The café had run out of seasoned wedges by the time the race was over. At least once a lap for 20 laps I'd thought of munching on some. Bummer. On the positive side, we're in a four star motel tonight with full size kitchens, so Lynn cooks us an amazing dinner.

Cheers,
John

Results

Stage 12 - October 26: Dunkeld - Hamilton TTT, 30.7 km

It was a mistake for the organizers to put a team time trial in the tour so late when the GC is already shattered and many teams have lost riders to sickness or crashes. It should have been on the second day. Poor Williams, sitting top 5 overall this morning, has been bumped down the standings through no fault of his own. There were some "teams" starting with one to three riders! Not a very even playing field.

The weather was again tough conditions: a howling headwind and biting cold showers. Eric had his full TT kit: superbike, helmet, super low position. And he's already such a little guy. Dave McCook, next smallest on the team, was to follow Eric with myself next. I knew we were in trouble in the warmup. As the event commenced, Dave lasted just 2km before he was dropped.

No fault of his own as we all found out. On our high position road bikes we simply could not get any draft from Eric. It fell to me to struggle behind Eric for 28kms, while Greg and David got a normal draft off me so they could do fair pulls. We were essentially down to 3 cylinders from 5. My nightmare team time trial realized. Somehow our performance was good for 2nd behind powerhouse Mroz, which moved Eric up to 6th GC.

Results

Stage 13 - October 26: Hamilton Criterium, 36 km

Another Johnny L special hilly crit. Dave is wishing for a downtown, flat, wide, four 90 degree corner, true criterium. My twin goals: collect finish points (top 10 only) towards our sponsor's classification, the Australia Post Express Post Criterium Championship, and see one of us win the stage. I was leading (the results haven't been right one single day) 16 points to McEwen's 12. Unfortunately I had my head you know where and missed both breakaway groups.

We had Greg Henderson in the lead group. Nobody gave us any time splits so for a while I stayed in the peloton hoping that Greg would lap us and I could assist him in the sprint finish. When I heard that his group was over a minute back and would not be catching us, I tried to get away. At the most inopportune time I broke a wheel, took a free lap, finally broke away to go for 8th place. Scott Sunderland's team Malaysia Airlines/Fakta (they're working for Wrolich's Ballarat team to defend the yellow jersey) chased me down (for 8th place!!!) so I didn't score any points at all.

Consequently I lost the Express jersey today, with just Geelong on Sunday to try to get it back. I'll be doing my best to ensure Eric moves up tomorrow and if that means the Gerolsteiner/Fakta combine loses the $10,000 first prize to Mroz, then tough luck to them. On the positive side, we scored another podium finish today with Greg finishing second, and Team Australia Post is up to 4th in the teams classification.

Tomorrow is the longest and possibly hardest stage of the race, 192km with some hard hills. Mroz has 3 men poised to overtake Wrolich, so it should be a real fight.

Results

Stage 14 - October 27: Warrnambool - Colac, 192.7 km

Pell kept me up half the night with his coughs. He doesn't sound too good, but he doesn't complain and he tries hard every day. This morning Greg Henderson came into Pell and my room saying he was ready for the tour to be over. His sentiment is widely shared amongst the remaining riders at this point, after a "Sun" tour that has been far from sunny.

Greg absolutely gutted himself yesterday, first to hang on to the pace set by Wohlberg and later in the criterium breakaway in which he finished a respectable 2nd place. Today I thought for sure he'd be sitting back, but when called upon he was a tough man again.

Eric's plan never changes: attack them hard and early, get up the road for mountain points and GC time. During the opening circuits, we all saw the race leader Peter Wrolich (Ballarat/Gerolsteiner) having a chat with Mroz, his supposed arch enemy and only real competition for the lead. This is unfortunate for us and for the race, as the anticipated shootout won't happen today. There were already 9 men riding the front for Wrolich, but we tried hard in the opening 30kms to get Eric in a breakaway. The leash was kept very short: Eric never got more than 20 meters gap on the Fakta/Gerolsteiner train.

A lone Mroz man managed to escape, and Wrolich seemed completely unperturbed. As we were pummeled by rain we continued attacking, until we saw that Mroz had lent their men to the Eric containment efforts. Scott Sunderland asked us why we were attacking so much. What have we to lose? They lost heaps of time in the third stage when I lost the jersey, and it seemed as though they sold out.

Some people will say we are na´ve or just sore losers, and certainly I won't make friends in the peloton by writing about this stuff. The organizer has brought this kind of deal making upon his race by the prize structure, wherein 80 places are paid (despite the fact the usual number of finishers is less than 70) and the drop from 1st to 2nd on the overall and each day is a whopping 60%.

Back to the race. Pozzi has gone alone in pursuit of the Mroz guy. As he's on equal points with Eric for the mountain jersey, we have to get him back. This we do in a series of attacks and mini-chases, much to the leading team's displeasure. Now four more men have slipped away, and the F/G combine is gradually letting their lead grow. We've missed it. I ask Eric what he wants to do. He's frustrated and knows that he won't be able to escape unless F/G/Mroz teams get tired late in the race. Fat chance. So I call on Dave McCook to fire Greg and I across to the four attackers. He does a magnificent 1km full-on sprint pull to get us clear, while Pell shuts the door behind us. Dave pulls off and sits up.

My turn - and with a quick look back to see that Fakta has upped the tempo significantly at the head of a single file peloton. They're just 50 meters behind our blistering bridging attempt. If it had been a significant gap I'd have done a regular turn and tried to stay with Greg and the only other rider with us, Robert Crowe. Instead I sacrificially pulled as hard as I could and dropped back to the peloton. Fakta eased off the throttles and Greg was up the road into the break. Mission accomplished although with just one Post rider in the break our chances of victory against the Pole were diminished.

On the category 2 climb 107 km into the race, Crowe was dropped from the leaders and broke his chain. The Pole attacked the break and went solo. I was swinging at the back with a pothole ruined wheel but after a wheel change I felt much better.

By the 40km to go mark the break had brought the Pole back within 30sec, but disaster struck when Greg was getting a Coke from the team car at 55kph. He crashed heavily on a pothole and sprained his wrist badly. The break waited for Greg, and the Pole's lead on them went back out to 1:30. It took Greg 10 km of chasing and then not working while he assessed his injuries. Then he threw his efforts back into chasing the Mroz man.

In the peloton, the F/G combine had it dialed up and we could see the break at 3km to go. One of the break riders, an honest man who Greg said hadn't missed a pull all day, was dropped and caught with 1km to go. Despite his wrist injury, Greg won the sprint for 2nd and we came across a few seconds later. What a tough guy.

Halfway into the stage today I had a complete motivation failure. We were being drenched by yet another cold rain and I just wanted to get on a plane and go home. I was trying to figure out a way to excuse myself from the notoriously bad weather Southland Tour next week. However, Greg's performance was inspiring and instead of drinking myself silly last night I went to bed early and no matter what happens in Geelong tomorrow I'm going to rest and train at Lynn's beach house next week before flying to NZ.

Results

Stage 15 - October 28: Geelong Criterium, 44 km

Goals: take back 3 points in finish points on Sullivan for the Express Post Crit Champ Jersey. Get Eric 12 seconds on Ashley Humbert for one place move up on overall to 5th. Try for the stage win. Hey, there's blue sky this morning and the air is still!!! Figures.

Dave and I make the break, I attack multiple times, brought back. Sullivan is there. Crash in last turn ruins my chances but Dave wins! 3 days on beach, then fly to NZ for Southland tour. It'll be cold there...

Final Results