Sunday, 2 June 2013

Race Review: The Fred Icke Memorial, AKA “The Creswick”

The Fred Icke Memorial has been around for quite some time, in fact this was the 54th running of the event.  The event began in 1960 as a 110mile handicap called the Wendouree 110, it was organised and promoted by the late Fred Icke.  After Fred’s passing in 1981 another stalwart of Victorian cycling and close friend of Fred’s, Wal Smith took over the running of the event.

Team CMC Jersey and Number(s) ready to go.
The course has changed a number of times since 1960 but has been run in more recent years over three 44.3km laps outside of Creswick just north of Ballarat.  The Fred Icke has to probably be the toughest handicap race of the season with weather that generally typifies the first weekend of Winter as well paying homage to the worst of the winter conditions that the Ballarat regions can offer, not to mention the dead and leg sapping road surface.

The course profile and map for each of the 44 km laps can be seen below:

Fred Icke Memorial Profile
I had always avoided this race up until last year when Craig McCartney convinced me to ride it, I suspect that he just had a soft spot for the race since he himself held the fastest race record for a number of years.  Last year I rode off the 18 minute mark and found the going tough on the last climb/lap when scratch came blasting past our group.  The weather was clear and the sun was out, but if you know Ballarat at all you’ll understand that this does not translate into it being warm by any stretch of the imagination!

This year I wasn't quite as lucky with my handicap (this year being 12 minutes) nor with the weather. Melbourne the night before had had it’s highest ever single day of rainfall for the first day of winter with almost 50 mm of rain bucketing the city.  Creswick had copped most of that storm as well over night and there was a lot of standing water on the road.

Pre-race Creswick.. looking left, hmm wet.
Pre-race Creswick.. looking right, yep still wet.
As I was warming up on the rollers and a passer by asked me out of jest if I was going to enjoy the rain, I said I don’t mind the rain, it keeps the snow away.  I was only half kidding.  I recall my brother once reminiscing about the year he ended up in a “space blanket” post race while being treated for hypothermia after racing in sleet and snow.

My form doesn't feel all that great at the moment, I've had a couple of weeks outside of cycling that have impacted on me.  It’s not an unusual thing but when I’m stressed I eat and apparently I must have been pretty stressed as I have done nothing but eat... which included eating all those things that I shouldn't be eating.  Consequential I felt sluggish and bloated leading into this race, the scales don't lie and it really showed on the day.

The first lap I was feeling pretty good but on the second lap I began to get a bit bogged down and my cadence dropped down a few RPM, as a compensation measure to maintain my work effort I had grabbed a harder cog.  By the third lap I wasn't feeling overly sprightly and as we started the climb out of Creswick we were told that the leaders were still 11 minutes up the road.  Great.  How’s that for a motivation killer, out bunch basically stopped pedaling out of despair. We were now on the climb and even though I was feeling a little shabby I jumped on the front of our group to ride tempo to keep our momentum going up the climb.

Well hindsight is great... and that turned out to be a mistake.

I didn't actually know then but scratch were also on the climb at this point and other riders in our bunch recognised this and jumped up the road to ensure they would not get caught on the climb.  Scratch came past at a fair rate of knots and I had done a little too much tempo riding up to this point and didn't have the leg speed to or strength to respond as they came past.  My legs were beginning to feel like cement blocks.

Getting rounded up by Scratch... via Brian Mangano Phtoography
Great, off the back off scratch and race pretty much over now.  The only thing left was to ride for dignity and to avoid a DNF.  I found a few other jettisoned riders from scratch, 3, 6 and 12 minute bunches ad we huddled together to form our groupetto. I wasn't a whole lot of help but took my pull at the front when I was able to.

We made it home dirty, wet and cold, but safe and my legs certainly were making it clear that they had still had a pretty serious workout.
...and I thought I had a tan.. nope, just road grime and dirt.
Not a red letter day at all, but the season goes on and it's time to get serious and get my nutrition under control and start getting my body back to my expected race weight.  Next race up for me is the Footscray 3 Day Tour which will be a tough event but one that I'm looking forward to racing.