The following is an account by Marco Rando about his first attempt at the infamous Melbourne to Ballarat Handicap.
I Arrived at Rockbank early and was worried with the mental scarring of last years Nationals race, where I was unable to finish. I noticed some familiar faces in the car park of riders from the 3DT and the Drapac boys were looking so PRO.
Our bunch started with 26 riders, and pretty quickly some riders were in trouble and out the back within 5kms. A long day for them. There were 4 female riders in our group, and 30kms in over the Pentland Hills our group had been split into two and I was in the front bunch of 12 riders. The female rider in front of me looked like being dropped so I helped her over this climb
Limit bunch was in sight and we caught them at Myrniong 40k mark. We hit them fairly hard and split that bunch and we now grew to nearly 30 riders. Big man Scott Hunter was in limit and was glad to see a CLASSIX™ rider. Straight away I decided that he would be the man to sit on if we were to succeed. We had a lead of 5-6mins at Gordon 60ks in. Tim Nuttall was screaming abuse to bunch trying to get as to pick up the pace I looked down at the speedo and we were doing great between 40-45km/hr.
At the 80k mark we continue along the western hwy Ballarat bypass nobody dropped. I am now concerned that the bunch was too big 30 riders and with the last climb approaching the front riders start to slow down . We had nearly 4 mins on Scratch but they were gaining on us. I thought now was time to turn some bodies cold. I launch an attack on the climb and the only followers were the female riders. The female rider I helped earlier returned the favour and pulled a turn for me. Bang!!! I attacked again this time stringing out the bunch and sure enough dropped a few riders.
Before the turn into Ballarat fatigue must have kicked into a Kelly Coaching rider who made contact with my rear wheel but managed to keep this bike upright. I gave him a spray and made sure I kept clear of him. Two ks to go and we have 1min on scratch. The junior riders start to attach and I convince Scott Hunter to chase and then jumped straight on his wheel. Prior to the race I studied the last 5ks I now know that there are 2 left hand turns to go and less than 1k. Scott now attacks and the bunch is doing the Serpent. We have the entire road to ourselves traffic is at a stand still police escort at everywhere intersection I’m feeling so PRO right now. I now focus back on the race and second last corner is a mess due to the marshall not indicating a left turn. Scott suffered the worst from this and was then shelled out the back. I can now see the lake and know 1 corner to go. Roads are narrow pot holes and loose gravel everywhere.
This is it I said to myself!!! Dived into the last corner underneath a couple of riders. “S##T that was tight” and I had a vision of me hitting the deck at this point.
I’m still upright and can see the banner now. Sitting about 7th/8th wheel, head done and I start my sprint knowing that the last straight is 700m. I’m catching the riders but the calf muscles are screaming the next 2 riders ahead pop and sit up. I scream past them knowing that I’m in the TOP 5 and 1st Master. I gave up the chase for 3rd the defended 4th with 10m to go. I was thinking about my victory salute “X Factor” it was. Over the line under the big banner there I am hands in the air. BOOYA!!! Another 4th place.
The majority of my results this season have being 4th places but this was different. Where are my minders???? Minutes feel like hours then I hear my name called through the crowd ” DT…where are you” then he appears, he didn’t see me finish. I thought at this stage I had 3rd place (sorry about that) We then celebrated high 5′s all round.
Scratch did catch the back end of our bunch, but it was too late for them in the end and they finished nearly 2.5 minutes back from the winner.
I recall January this year sitting in a coffee shop at the Basin when I announced that I wanted to do Melbourne to Ballarat. The look on Kev’s face said it all. He had done this race before and wasn’t going to join me. Vanilla suggested that maybe all the Xmas beer was starting to cloud my thoughts. Brave smiled and wished me all the best.
The only thought that stayed with me while training this year was DT’s. After my efforts at the 2011 Nationals he pulled me up and said ” Pick your races…..” and that I did M2B 2012.
Thanks to CLASSIX™ Racing Team I think I have just about used you all up as training partners. Looking forward to more training rides, racing and weekends away. We are a small team and the camaraderie is what makes us.
DT and Brave thanks once again your support up to and throughout the race was A1. Its so inspiring to see your mates on the side of the road, at one stage I wanted to attack the bunch.
Well done to Marco and team CLASSIX™!