#BAYCRITS (DAY 4)
#BayCrits, formally known as the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic is a 4 stage cycling "carnival" with 4 races in as many days in locations along the western side of Port Phillip Bay. Starting down in Geelong, and spending the first 3 days down on the Bellarine Peninsula it can act as the perfect warm up, or launch pad for a serious shot at the national champs the following week (either Criterium or Road Race).
Zeke and Dean caught the action over the weekend, and considering the three of us (plus Will) weren't required back at work yet, we decided to cure our major case of Mondayitis and catch up for the first time since the festive period all in one hit. We met at "The Rev" in our neighbourhood for breakfast for what was arranged as 10am meet up...observed by some, less so by others (Dean). We exchanged stories over caffé lattes & breakfast sandwiches, occasionally checking social media to see who was going to be trackside today. Once lunchtime hit we bailed from our alfresco table and drove down to Williamstown where we had to beat the crowds to find a car park. The weather was looking good, with the forecast storms and rain replaced by crit-side temperatures sitting in the mid to high twenties and for the most part, a cloudless sky. We arrived relatively late in the piece, catching the second half of the men's support race which saw the series leader crash out on the final corner, thus lose the overall victory to a competitor. Yet another reminder of the harsh mistress that is bicycle racing.
I: GOOD, BAD & UGLY
- The circuit. It's the opposite of what you see from the "way past his best" Formula 1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke. Fast, simple, but with a first corner that is an absolute banger for rider and spectator alike. Cafés sit either side, most of which are pumping on the most quiet of days in Williamstown, so on this fine afternoon when they were extra jam packed it added to the overall vibe.
- The sun. Sure the forecast said otherwise and some of us had dressed/prepared for that, but you couldn't complain at all. After all most people we knew were headed back to work that day.
- #cornerlikecaseystoner seems to really be catching on, whether bicycle racers are aware of it or not. We can only assume they constantly check their junk email folders and as such have seen our memo regarding the lifestyle choice.
- Medics. This is a given. Crashes happen in cycling, and crashes happened all afternoon. Fortunately anybody who fell victim to the tarmac were quickly whisked into the skilful arms of the professionals.
- Wilko. You all know why.
- The post race gelati. Very welcomed. We all double scooped with a waffle cone. However we will take the opportunity to educate the masses and recommend the one to the north of the roundabout. It wasn't so bad that it tipped its way into the categories of Bad or Ugly, it's just that the other Gelateria is just better.
- The goddamn drainage grille dead on the apex of the first corner. No doubt causing a moment of hesitation between riders every so often as they sought to make up precious, precious milliseconds on their rivals. Or try outdo the others in the #cornerlikecaseystoner competition..we are leaning more towards the latter.
- Not being prepared for the weather. Also packing too much gear, thats camera. However for one of us there were post criterium duties that meant he doubled as a sherpa for an afternoon.
- Jonesy ordering breakfast at cafés. If you know, well you simply know.
- Climbing trees. Good in the sense that you momentarily relive your childhood, bad that they are incredibly uncomfortable, and death defying when perched & looking through a viewfinder, unaware if you're about to land on some cyclist a few metres below. All for the gram.
- Bad as in badass. We're talking about a particular Crown Casino corporate kit that was spotted trackside. Normally one to frown at corporate kits, this one was so particularly garish that we couldn't help but grin ear to ear as its wearer made its way downtown...walking fast...
- Continuing on was the fashion choices brought on by the weather. Jumpers were worn as hats, shirts fashioned as ski masks, clothing ditched all together..some badass for sure, some just completely f**ked up.
- Crashes. Naturally for the physical aspect, but in the instance of the men's support race for the emotional weight of it all. Final corner, series leader towards the front of the race, hits the tarmac and goes flying into the side railing. Photo's were taken of the finish but respectfully omitted. Gotta feel for the lad.
- Criterium back straights that aren't Cecil St in Williamstown. Once we turned the corner and looked up towards the next corner, gasping mouths were covered over its awe inspiring lusciousness. Less industrial estates, more leafy streets we say.
- Wheels that aren't 82mm deep. It seems as though half the people racing thought there was a categorised climb somewhere along the circuit with their 24mm wheels and all that.
- Punching other cyclists in the bunch. Ugly? or this sports take on the whole "bring back the biff" thing. It happened in the first third of the race, so for now we will truly sit on the fence and let you decide.
- Our faces as we gorged on Banh Mi in Footscray on the way home. The only way to eat it is ugly.
II: CORNER LIKE CASEY STONER
Whilst each corner offered its pros and cons to get Pythagorean with it, arguably the first corner was the go to place for all of your #cornerlikecaseystoner needs. It was a small right handed kink in the road which was immediately followed by a turn left around a cobblestone roundabout that on a Sunday evening Williamstown loop acts as our chicane as we blast through the suburb on the way towards the beach. There were many worthy entrants to todays award, but you'll have to read on to find who the winner was...
III: TRACK WALK
Really it's less of a walk and much more of a visual representation on account of us not being Tony Greig and possessing a god given gift to provide pre game/race/event insight with nothing but a broad brimmed hat and the key to a mid 2000s Ford to keep the sponsors happy. Nor did we film us walking the track at any point. To make up for it here is a guide to the criterium circuit for the final stage of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic. It goes a little like this:
- Cross the Start/Finish line
- Dogleg to the right. Think Conrod Straight on Mount Panorama
- #cornerlikecaseystoner left, avoid the drainage grille on the apex
- 90º left
- 90º left
- 90º left
- Cross the Start/Finish line, repeat for x1 hour or 60 minutes
IV: ELITE WOMENS
FINAL STANDINGS: TOP 3
1. Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS)
2. Julie Leth (Alé Cycling)
3. Kajihara Yumi (Geelong Novotel/Japan)
1. The first shout out goes to the entire field of the elite women's race for the great race they put on. With a few people towards the front making breaks, and generally pushing the pace it made for an interesting 45 minutes of spectating.
2. The flowers on the second to last corner, identified as Agapanthus' by one of our mothers, they played the roles of foreground and backdrop to some solid #cornerlikecaseystoner action for the afternoon, under the watchful eye of Mr Pink who was marshaling on that corner.
3. Our third shout out goes to the paint job of Verita Stewart's bike. If you've been to a local race, you know the one. If you're from the internet, well you'll have to wait...we will try snap some photos some time soon. If only she wasn't so fast.
We milled about what probably has a name but for better or worse, is being described as the "pit area" of the Williamstown circuit before the elite women's race kicked off, checking out the bikes that would be out on track in next to no time, and quickly chatting to a few of the riders from both Elite category races just to get an idea of how they were feeling.
We caught the start of the race at the exit of the final corner, which for a race that started with such a flurry was a good choice. However with such pace comes risk, and as was seen in the men's support race before them, the final corner was leaving a few people unstuck. Not to the point of totally binning it into the fence, but there were definitely some miscalculated lines being taken into the final corner, and as such riders were punished in the run down to the first corner.
It wasn't that long before breaks started forming and the field slowly started to splinter. It seemed like a who dares wins type of race as at one point of the race there wasn't a chance to cross over to the infield due to race traffic. Soon it seemed the cream of the field began rising to the top as riders from the Orica AIS squad started moving towards the front amongst solid representation by the Japanese riders for Geelong Novotel/Japan. As the temperature heated up so did the pace, seeing Lizzie Williams head off the front, leaving others in her wake. One by one riders were dropping off the back, out of contention and for some, completely out of the race.
By the mid point of the race we had reached the second last corner where we positioned ourselves amongst the Agapanthus for a few laps, capturing the riders shooting past as Mr Pink yelled words of encouragement, team staff yelled time gaps, and Will haplessly tried to give directions to Dean, who lost us after the race start. It was after a few laps on this corner that we properly turned and stopped in awe at the sight of the back straight. As we relaxed in the shade, the bunch slowly came back together, doing two things to those spectating. First, it gave you this false sense of excitement that it was going to be a fast, and close finish. Maybe we should head back to the finish line to catch a great finish. Second, who was actually coming first? Who was coming last? Either side, with similar time gaps were riders that were seemingly keeping pace with one another. We were hit by the same confusion we experienced watching the support, and the elite women's races of the Shimano Supercrit. Do we need to become more learned criterium spectators? It's unfortunately seeming this way. This was all ironed out however, as with a few laps left, the media attention turned to one rider in particular. Lizzie Williams with the number 3 on her back. For a moment we thought she was catching on the back it seemed she was so far in front, but it became evident she was headed towards a very classy win.
V: THE BACK STRAIGHT (PARTY)
The back straight for the Williamstown circuit is Cecil St, a wonderfully leafy street lined with evergreen trees (although we are no horticulturalists). A wide entrance and exit of the second turn allowed riders to absolutely blast it down the back straight, flashing in and out of the pockets of light shooting through the tops of trees. Along the road were spectators lazing about on lawns, Nonno's watching from the shade of their verandah grape vines, and local families setting up camping chairs and eskys in their front yards and nature strips, channeling #summervibes in true style.
We adopted the tried and tested method of the camera toting tradies by shooting from every possible angle and position. We climbed trees, went prone behind traffic cones, even snapped photos mid yoga pose, and despite all of the hassle we can promise you that our eye never left the viewfinder, nor our finger left the burst mode button of our iPhones. All for the gram.
We can't tell if it's actually catching on, that people heard our pleas, or that Williamstown just has a greater dog per capita ratio. Either way the beautiful dogs and their owners were out in force on a pleasant afternoon. Each had varying levels of interest in the actual bike racing, with most preoccupied by the other dogs around them (yes there were THAT many). For making us smile even wider on an already great afternoon, each dog featured gets x2 internet pats. Except for the last dog, only on account of us not wanting to wake it. Have you ever seen a dog look so absolutely chilled whilst laying on some cobblestones? Not outside of Belgium you haven't. At least until today that is.
VII: FASHIONZ ON THE FIELD
We asked Jonesy, the patron Saint of the Sartorial Cyclist to provide his analysis and opinion on the best kit in the bunch of the elite men's race. Fending off a mimicking Zeke, this is what he had to say...
*Special mentions also go out to the kits of State of Matter/MAAP for their bright number, and the stripes of the riders repping VTWO*
VIII: THE ELITE MEN'S BELL LAP
FINAL STANDINGS: TOP 3
1. Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEDGE)
2. Brenton Jones (Drapac Professional)
3. Alex Edmondson (Orica Greenedge)
1. The guy we've already mentioned and photographed. The one from Oliver's Real Food Racing who repped the 80mm wheels like a total champ. Grazie for the spaceship noises.
2. The days winner of the #cornerlikecaseystoner competition is Bernard Sulzberger from Drapac, although his team mate directly behind him can also take some of the credit as it adds to the whole photo...an image that truly epitomises this Pythagorean lifestyle. Bernie (if we can call you that, please don't hurt us) get in contact with us and we will shoot you a prize pack!!
3. The third one has to go out to Caleb Ewan. Multiple stage wins this time around, three time winner of the series. Love him or hate him hes got some serious speed, which is handy in a race situation.
It could have been our lack of sustenance, or our waiting in anticipation (we didn't actually check when it was supposed to start, but we assumed at 2pm) but the elite men's race started slightly behind schedule. After seeing the women light it up before, and a few of the men do the same on their warm up laps, we were looking forward to seeing them tear down the back straight.
When they finally came they certainly didn't disappoint. Immediately strung out the shot down the back straight, with riders jostling hard for the crucial early positions towards the front. A few laps in and solo breaks were attempted and quickly brought back before a rider from State of Matter/MAAP and another rider took off. A little further back riders in the VTWO stripes sat on the front, a team made up of local riders and Cannondale Pro Cycling rider Nathan Haas. Things stayed like this for a little while longer, but as we made our way back up towards the start of the circuit, who you would call the two power teams in the field (Orica GreenEDGE and Drapac Professional) made their way to the front, and immediately took control of the race with a burning pace. As riders were left to stroll back to the pits contemplating race retirement after getting spat out the back, yelling got more audible, shoulders, elbows and in a few instances fists got thrown around the back as things started getting more and more heated edging towards the hour mark.
The last few laps of the race were a bit all over the place. There were that many changes of position, people getting lapped, shot out the back, or pulling over to the side with snapped chains or flat tyres that it was hard to keep up. Heading into the bell lap, the Orica GreenEDGE boys were looking the goods, with a near full Drapac squad tucked in right behind them. As they rounded the final bend one rider popped out in front, an audible laughter could quite easily be heard.
It was Caleb Ewan, with a few of his own team mates on his tail. For the most part his team had controlled the race from start to finish, something that Caleb acknowledged during an interview with Matt Keenan following the podium celebrations. Once he came around that final corner in front you knew he was going to hit the line first, and that was the case. In doing so he won the series for the third time after success in 2013 & 2015, proving that he has the skills to back the hype he gets in the media. Drapac took out the team honours, with Brenton Jones finishing the stage in 2nd, our mate Bernie finishing 5th, with the top 7 all finishing with the same time. Photos were posed for, champagne sprayed, interviews given, a guy wearing a Lederhosen skinsuit spotted, and gelati consumed, the perfect way to round out a day watching bikes going real fast.