Riders for the race were Anthony Giacoppo, Matt Clark, Pat Shaw, Chris Hamilton & Mark Tupalski
Stage 1: 7.5km Uphill Time Trial
The first section of this stage was mostly downhill which made for a fast start & with all 5 riders at different stages of their preparations it was important for us not to go too hard, especially considering the climb we were about to tackle. AJ got us up to speed and the rest of us did our best to maintain his pace, Matt took us into the foot of the climb before I took over, fresh & excited to race, i probably went a bit long but we were setting good pace, as AJ came past me the reality of my personal form set in, this was going to be a long gruel to the line. Chris took his turn to burn our legs and did exactly that holding over 400w for what seemed like eternity, I had to give in and ask for the pace to be eased. After surviving the toughest part of the climb then AJ ramped our speed right up to approach the final KM (another sharp pinch), Chris and Matt drove it hard to the line with the team posting a time of 12m40s. Glad that was done!!!! Matt took KOM & Leaders Jerseys from this stage.
An extremely undulating course, strong head and crosswinds also accompanied by drizzly conditions. This was the stage the boys and myself in particular feared the most. 12mins of hard work is a huge difference to 50kms worth & at this point in the season we just didnt know how we would respond. The intriguing part was that for this stage it was a time bonus awarded to the winner rather than raw time. For every position you were behind the fastest team you would be penalised 5secs. We decided a strong ride would still have us in good shape heading into the road stages.
We took it out slow and steady to assure we would not have any problems finishing with the required 5 riders. Mid way through Chris and Matt really started to power on, putting the rest of us under real pressure, cracks were forming but under no circumstances were we to allow Chris and Matt the pleasure of dropping us! Heading into the last 10kms Chris and Matt ramped it up, pulling 1km turns at a time while we gave them small amounts of recovery, we hit the line in a time of 1h09m04s.
As a group we were very happy with the ride, especially considering the sensations of the major part of the team were well below par. Matt retained the Tour lead.
From the Teams time trial, groups were formed, 1st-5th was first off then 30 seconds to group 2 (6th-10th) then 30 seconds and so on, if a group behind catches they get that time in bonus at the end of the stage. Very Exciting and different!
Just 2kms into the stage was a brutal climb, our warm up was not up to scratch when we tackled this climb, luckily Chris and Matt had great legs and followed the early moves, by the top of the climb however we had been joined by the very cooperative 2nd and 3rd groups, giving them a huge advantage on General Classification. The race took in beautiful but difficult undulating and hilly terrain before at the 60km point hitting a plateau of flat fast roads, it was hear already the attacks and counter attacks came, with Navitas Satalyst and Otoc Racing really testing us out. Already down to 4 guys, we were in a bit of strife, until AJ and myself (the old guys) came good and AJ rode the next 5-10kms stong on the front stopping the attacks. Then we let Hamo out of his cage and he ripped the field immediately, splits everywhere, forming a distinct break off the front which stuck to the finish seeing Chris take the Stage and overall lead, AJ won the bunch sprint for 6th place with Matt and I in the group at +9 secs.
This would decide the overall GC if group 2 or 3 caught us in this stage they would win the overall, so we had to go straight out of the gun and make sure they never caught us. Whistle blew and we were off, immediately hitting the front we set a hot pace on the first climb, averaging of 500w to the top, by this time a small group had gone off the front of our bunch but the Navitas guys wanted it back, they drove it hard, bringing it all back together, a small glimpse over the shoulder saw 2nd group at just 200m!!! Straight to the front with AJ and Matt to protect Chris lead in GC, the next 20mins was horrible, a lot of pain but we decided over night that we wouldnt let the jersey go under any circumstances. At the 30km mark it was decided Matt would ride the front with the Dome Cycling Team and Aj, Chris and myself would stay strong for the big attacks in the finale. They came 15kms from the finish with no one leaving anything in the tank. Thankfully 7kms to go Chris broke away with one other rider which gave AJ and myself a much needed rest. Caught just 1800m to go then Chris lead out the small bunch sprint, but today we were spent, no legs to sprint against fresher opponents. Chris remained GC winner with myself 2nd, AJ 3rd and after riding the entire stage on the front swapping off Matt stayed high in GC in 7th. We also won the KOM jersey with Matt.
We all had a great time and must thank the Tour organisers, Olio Bello (for accommodating and feeding us!) and for becoming great friends, Our team sponsors for without them we would not be able to attend and lastly the many fantastic people that took part in the event and came to say hi. The support for the team was once again unbelievable and flattering.