Not a first in the sense of being first amongst a group of like-minded individuals to pass a specific point marking the end of a defined distance in the shortest possible time- but rather as a participant in an inaugural event. Charters Towers is a gold mining/beef production/boarding school town located about 125 km south-west of Townsville.
Each year the town has a bit of a festival (The Gold Fever Festival) centred around the gold mining industry. It is a lifestyle festival which incorporates the history of mining and current operations as well as sporting activities like a Fun Run and this year, a three stage cycling race.
Gold Fever LeTour included an individual time trial (18km) and a criterium on a 1.3km circuit on Saturday and then a road race back to Townsville with the distance varying from 103km to 121km depending on the grade.
Our local club has had a memorial race (The Bob Campbell Memorial) which has been run on this weekend for many years. This year, that race was incorporated into the Gold Fever LeTour schedule with considerable support from the Charters Towers Regional Council, Townsville City Council, Xstrata Great Western Games and many financial sponsors.
For a first time event, the support was fantastic-more than 80 licensed riders registered for the weekend's racing. There were additional riders who took part in the time trial only and as part of the festival, a "Come and Try Day" was held for unlicensed riders on the criterium circuit.
I had never taken part in a stage event and wanted to be part of the weekend so I registered and headed off Saturday morning for the TT and crit. I have done a TT before- but never one which included so many, what shall we call them- undulations perhaps??
Okay- just over half an hour of self-inflicted misery and it was all over. But it wasn't bad for for someone with a keen aversion to hills- had me in sixth in our grade (almost commuter grade). Then a bit of a break and off to the crit circuit- 25 minutes plus 3 laps of a 1.3km circuit with a couple of testing corners and a downhill finish into a headwind.
About 10 of us got away after 7 or 8 laps and managed to stay away for the rest of the crit- I didn't manage to pick up either of the sprint prizes on the intermediate laps and I didn't get lapped and was able to hang on for a top ten in the general classification after two stages.
Then it was in the car and back to town- Dee was coming back from her trip to Nova Scotia. Gawd, the last four weeks have been lonely.
So with my support crew back in town, it was up and at 'em at 4:15 this morning. We headed back to "The Towers" for a 6:30am race start. About 8C and foggy was how it all began and 103 km (2 hours and 45 minutes) later, it was all over. And despite the great hand-off of the water bottle, I didn't manage to squeeze it like I intended (sorry Dee) and it hit the deck. Fortunately I still had about half a bottle on board which was enough to see me through. Overall the race was less painful than I had feared but that last "little" hill before the finishing straight was my nemesis. Despite leading the group on to the hill, I felt the cramps coming on in my thighs and had to back off in order to keep moving. I was not alone as the sprint leader of our category fell to more severe cramps and fell well behind me.
I think I finished in about 9th in today's stage and it was enough to take me to 5th place overall in GC and plant the seeds for next year's race. The dates have been set and the planning has begun. Here's hoping this is the start of a great event on the race calendar.
Cheers- ride safe