Before I launch into a report on the Tour of the Great South Coast, I should mention I had a successful trip over to Hokitika the weekend prior, for Round 4 of the Elite Series. Racing in the familiar colours of the Benchmark Holmes cycling team, we loaded up the two team cars and headed west on Friday afternoon, with the rain falling more heavily the closer we got to the destination.
Staying at the awesome West Coast Accomodation House on the beach, the team indulged in a good meal and a few red wines at the house before moving down the road to the West Coast Wine Company for a couple more drinks and some good yarns. It was a great chance to relax and unwind and left me feeling calm and in a good head space for the racing the next day.
Awaking the next morning, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the sun was out, making for perfect racing conditions. The racing started fast and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at forcing an early break , I adopted the tactic of letting a large group up the road before bridging across to it up the first climb of the day. It worked perfectly and I found myself in a big break of riders all equally willing to put their head down and do work.
Hokitika on a Good Day
With my team mate James McCoy doing a lot of the early pace setting, it was no surprise that we pulled away from the peloton quickly and smoothly and our time gap grew steadily the entire race from two minutes, to five minutes, to nine minutes. It fast became obvious that the race would be decided from this bunch. My legs felt awesome and I took great confidence from the fact that other riders in the break seemed to be working much harder than me. Given that everyone was doing their fair share however, I was happy to keep things together until the last lap.
I made my move on the penultimate climb of the day and got a good gap immediately. I was rejoined by three other riders over the top of the climb; Ian Smallman, Tim Rush and Adam Bull and after a quick recovery spell on the descent we continued to lap together well. With a strong headwind back along the coast to the finish, our group had resigned to the likelihood of a sprint finish deciding the race. We all did our share of the work, and after a bit of cat and mousing inside the final kilometre the sprint opened up and I won comfortably by a few bike lengths.
It was a satisfying day out and a good confidence booster as I jumped on the plane to Melbourne two days later. Adding to the great day out, Haley Mercer from the Benchmark Team has also won the women’s race. A big thanks to the whole Benchmark family for making it such an enjoyable trip to Hokitika, I am already looking forward to my next chance to race with you all.