We all know what the first weekend in November means in WA, It’s Tour of Margaret River time or better known as “TOMR” time.
This year I thought I’d do something a little different and actually ride the event to get an experience from the other side of the events fence, and to be honest, I’m not sure what’s easier, but what I do know is, it’s just a great weekend.
From the time we arrived into Nannup on Thursday afternoon, until the last team crossed the line on the final day’s Team Time Trial it was just smooth sailing.
The Event team lead by Brendon Morrison and Rebecca Cotton was faultless and the first thing that really stood out to me was the respect the participants had for the tireless volunteer crew, and what a crew they were. Whether they were standing on corner with a flag, assisting at sign on at registration or sweeping the corners, they were all doing it with a huge smile on their face which showed they just ‘wanted to be there’ and provide a safe and enjoyable experience.
The event was held over the traditional three days starting with the first ‘team grading’ 27 km Team Time Trial stage (The Gold Rush- TTT) with 305 metres of climbing just to the halfway point, this was one I was most nervous for, as at 90 + kg’s I don’t normally leave the comfort of maybe a quick burst up Preston Point Rd on a Saturday morning bunchy, so at my level of current fitness it’s safe to say it was a tough start.
The result of stage one had 115 teams (including mixed teams) of 6 riders categorised into 11 grades, and 15 female teams of 6 riders ranked into the women’s A and B divisions, ready to tackle the first road stage.
Super Saturday started after a beautiful 60 minute drive from Nannup to Manjimup where my team of ‘mamils’ were all discussing tactics, and how we could get an early jump on the rest of the ‘K’ group (yes that’s the 11th categorised group inclusive of 15 teams – 90 riders).
The Stage was 99 km’s, including 1245vm of climbing (yep 90 + kg’s… ) from the heart of Manjimup to French’s Orchard on Channybearup Rd, taking in the beautiful Graphite Rd and Vasse H/Way and into the Karri Forrest. From all accounts and from what I’ve been told (I struggled to see out of my sweat-cover sunglasses from about the 10km mark) it was a spectacular course and a worthy inclusion into this great event for 2020.
The second stage as part of ‘Super Saturday’ was a 20 km TTT from French’s Orchid back along Channybearup Rd towards Manjimup, and after 90 mins rest (a little less for a few of us) this was to be a real tester. Time was to be taken from the 5th rider to cross the line and not the traditional 4th, so it was important to make sure you all took care of each other in-case of a mechanical or for some… the inevitable …pop. I personally am not sure what was harder, the 20km 387vm TTT or the 8 km ride back to town down the highway after 119kms or extreme racing pain, but after the traditional service station stop for a Coke and Mars bar all was fine.
Now I’m sure most can relate to this (maybe not those all-conquering Unicorns, Veris, VeloFit or Chaotic Energy legends) but Saturday night for me was filled with leg cramps, binge eating/carbo loading, leg cramps, a quiet brew and some more leg cramps.
But come Sunday morning, we were to do it all again.
Now on paper, day three was looking ok, a meandering 40km jaunt on the road from Nannup to Balingup and a return 40 km TTT jaunt back, seems easy enough, well believe me, it was another day of torture (in the best form of torture)
Again, riding, surrounded by the beauty of the South West, who wouldn’t want to be a part of this, and I’m sure this stretch of road is fast becoming one of the most sought after stretches or road us cyclists long for, rolling terrain, fast descents, beautiful scenery and of course a peloton full of mates.
After being cursed at for sitting on and not taking a turn in the last 5 km (whilst racing for 89th place, I’m not sure rolling a turn was going to get us back up to the front) we rolled over the line into Balingup, a quaint little town now swarming with lycra clad, exhausted cyclists.
It was almost over, just the last 40km’s back to Nannup, and I was told it’s all downhill from here, (I didn’t think they mean just for me personally), I was looking for the freewheeling parts but alas I’m actually still looking for them.
Stage 5 was that last run home, a scenic TTT run back to Nannup, and to be honest, an amazing way to finish such a great tour, the chance to swap turns with your teammates in that last drive toward the finish line and for some, podium success.
Whether you’re a rider with 20,000 km’s in your legs or like me, a fraction of that, this tour is for you. Team mateship, a load of laughs, a quiet brew and a fantastic crew of hard-working event staff, it’s guaranteed you’ll be back.
Well done to the staff, volunteers, officials, participants, supporters and locals for allowing me to participant in such a great event and I promise to come back fitter and stronger to continue to enjoy and partake in such a great event in 2021 and beyond.
Glenn Te Raki – WestCycle General Manager – Recreation.