KCC rider Ewan Carter took the biggest win of his short cycling career on Saturday, winning the Melbourne to Ballarat handicap.
Ewan is focusing mostly on track racing, doing some CX and mountain biking for fun plus preparing for the upcoming crit season. As a full time chippie, his strength lies in the shorter more explosive races, but entered the Ballarat handicap just to get some km’s in his legs.
Packing a very good sprint, Ewan waited patiently as the front group rode up the finishing straight. With 350m to go, second place finisher jumped. Ewan got his wheel and then timed his sprint perfectly, taking the win by a full bike length.
Well done surfie boy!!!
Ewan wins his first ever handicap race!!
Ewan Carter takes the win
Ewan and Ryan looking like "kings"
Ewyn Carter blogs about his Melbourne to Ballarat victory
by Ewyn Carter (2014 Melbourne to Ballarat winner)
“The Melbourne to Ballarat started for me off limit, 34 minutes in front of scratch. I sat on the start line unsure of how the race would unfold with no real expectations nor the knowledge of how handicap races played out. This was my first handicap, so finishing close to the front of the first or second bunch would have been a good day out. I had studied the course the night before, I spent all of a minute looking at the elevation, flat for 20k’s and than the ramp to Ballarat was long and steady. My strength in cycling is sprinting, I’m a builder by trade, and my days are pretty physical compared to most, so I knew that any group was my best place for the day to finish with a result. A solo attempt was out of the question with the stiff headwind and Time Trialling for me is pretty much non existent. However, The headwind did play into our hands quite well as it would become a race of strength and I new if we worked off the line as a group we’d have a chance to stay clear for at least the first quarter of the race.
From the gun the Limit group took a couple of k’s to gel and I was sitting mid pack. I’d watched the pros ride since I was a grommet and knew that any form of disorganization would be the end of our day, so I went to the front and tried to set a solid pace, a few joined and with some stiff words from the more experienced handicappers all of a sudden the whole group was thrust into a metronomic state, and we worked as temporary teammates. I found this both exciting and confidence building. Again after watching the pros in action for many years on TV, a breakaway group can get a sizable lead all day but when they want to shut it down they turn the wick for a few k’s and the group is caught in the blink of an eye. I had this thought in the back of my find for the first twenty km’s and was constantly looking for flashing lights behind when I went to the rear of the group to indicate the impending catch by the group behind. But to my surprise we hit the first climb clear and relatively still all together. From my previous races in the VRS I’d always been smoked up any incline by more suited climbing riders so today’s plan of attack for me when the road went towards the heavens was to get to the front and set a tempo then roll through and remind my new teammates that this was a long battle to be run and tempo was needed. My max heart rate is 183 and we where climbing at 160, which was uncomfortable but manageable. I’d started eating early on the road and had a few packed pockets on my jersey and tried to get as much energy back into the system at any opportunity. A race of attrition and nutrition.
As the group continued to climb and descend, climb and descend, the rolling of turns continued. Tactically rolling turns was the best way to conceive energy anyway as sitting on the back would have required too many surges, consistency for me was the key. As we were rolling through I could see riders in more discomfort than I so my tactic changed in the pace line, as soon as there was a gap in the line I’d jump from the slow line to the fast always staying on the move forwards. This proved to be the best way to ride as we went from roughly 25 starters down to about 8 at the halfway point. More importantly no groups had caught us yet. My confidence levels had grown at this point and I all of a sudden relaxed. Heart Rate back to 130, which for me is perfect for a distance ride. The 8 of us continued up the road, seven working with one hanging on.
We kept climbing some long shallow climbs and some short sharp climbs too. I have relatives in Ballarat and have friends there to, so had driven the route a few times. We where ticking all of these climbs off, still without being caught and I knew that there was only really the reservoir climb left and rest was rolling, perfect for a sprinter. We descended to the reservoir and an officials car pulled up alongside and held a A4 piece of paper up to the passengers window with 3:50 written in big texta, my first thought was that person has really nice writing and the second thought was that’s a big gap to a chasing group! Relaxation in a big race like this for me went to another level. We climbed out of the reservoir heading for the loop. One of the more experienced handicappers left mentioned that the group behind would definitely make the catch and the win wouldn’t come from just our little group. I did some quick maths and thought the following group would catch us somewhere on the off-highway loop. So I kept eating and finished one of my bottles. Our group splintered a bit on the cohesion front as everyone now received the memo about the catch from the more experienced rider. For me this was a bit annoying as an advantage is an advantage and the later the catch the fresher we’ll be at the end.
We left the highway, and about halfway through just after the steepest climb of the day I turned to see whether the chasers might be in site and they where about 150 metres behind! Flashbacks of the pros where running through my mind, was the white flag going up, wave to the camera as you get swallowed up by the marauding peloton etc…. I’d been told by a few people about techniques when being caught by a chasing group, one being to sprint off your group and gap them while the fight for positions take places behind, crashes to occur etc….than let them overtake only at a couple of kph faster rather than blasting past in a flash. So I gassed it off the front when I saw them at about 25 metres from us. One came with me from limit and to my relief I was caught by the rolling chase group of about 8 and casually slipped into there pace line. This was going nicely.
Our group was now aprox 12, with four from limit, heading to Gordon, at a quicker pace than the last 10 km’s! Relaxation was back after calming myself down from the sprint off the front of the limit group. Eating, drinking, keep the next group from catching, new teammates, fresh attitude, focus on the finish. On the tailwind section I went to the back of the group to take stock of who was in this group and try to assess the danger, who’s a sprinter, who’s a climber, who sprints. Unfortunately I only knew one other, my clubmate Lynton. He’s good at all three of the above! Not knowing the other riders did make me nervous a bit for a bunch finish, which wheel do you take, so with 20km’s to go my time would be spent closely observing riders looking for fatigue signs, climbing strengths and who was looking pretty cagey for a sprint. I get pretty chatty in competition so was sussing people every now and than even laying a few false seeds that I was suffering and hurting etc…The officials at this point gave us a gap of 5 mins. I knew the finish would be from this group after another calculation. So gels were the food of choice. I did have a moment on the loop, I moved out of the pace line to clear my nose one handed and rode through a pot hole the size of a kids wading pool, managed to pull of the save. Got a few pats on the back from the fellow riders for the effort. I think the Russian judge would have given me a ten if I came a cropper as we where doing 65, and the tarmac usually wins those battles and the ditch to the side of the road looked like a ditch more suited to the Swiss Alps. Just goes to show you, can be in a winning position one second – a hospital the next.
I continued in the pace line until about 5km to go and realized that a few where missing their turns, so I made the decision to conserve and let others pull me to the line. The sprint was going to be uphill, so I needed the energy to be at its best. A few continued pulling hard with 2km to go, but the majority where thinking as I was and were sitting on. We made the turn to the castle. I knew the finish was still a k to go so I went to the back and was last. I thought this was the best place to be to cover any sprint. The group was still driving steadily in the left gutter with 500m to go no sprint as yet, so I moved up the right side to be about 6th about 4 wide. Those on the inside were boxed in, an I was controlling the boxing. Lynton than opened the burners with 250m to go and I knew this would be the selection. He’s strong and sly as a fox, so that was it – get his wheel to 50 to go, and try and hold the others off who followed me. But we’d gapped the rest quiet easily and significantly. The win was out of us. 50m to go I went to his right, should have been his left, the non windy side, but I had heaps of strength left and just ripped it to the line. That feeling was super surreal. I didn’t feel relief or excitement or anything really. It only felt like there where 12 riders to beat. I didn’t see any of the NRS boys or anyone else, as I’d expected, so the weight of winning a bigger race like that was kind of lost on me and still kind of is.
I have a cycling coach. Bob Kelly from Kelly Cycle Coaching. This race wasn’t really a massive focus for me. I’m planning to try to do well at the criterium and track disciplines going forwards so this was sort of seen as a training ride at race pace. Bob and his wife Helen do a great job. I’d encourage riders to seek a structured program once in their racing careers as it gives you good goals to strive for. I used to just ride my bike thinking I was getting fitter, but having a plan and structure has really accelerated my development and makes me want to achieve higher results. I work a rather extreme schedule so to have a timetable for training takes the pressure off that little bit as someone else is making the decision for you. I know it’s an added cost and how far do you get the bank budget stretched already these days but Bob and Helen cater for all.
For me the future holds criteriums and track events. I’ve just started on the track down at DISC and absolutely hang to get on the boards and hook my bike around the banking. I encourage every rider to put it on their riding bucket list. I race every Thursday night now with Northcote and Craig Neiwand puts on an awesome night of racing and motor pacing. No cars, no rain and good times. I think this helped with my sprint and ride in the Ballarat. It gives you that extra 5% that seems only to be available to those who win.
Long term I’d like to position myself as a rider of a similar pedigree to a Shannon Johnson or a Hayden Bradbury, older fellas who are still stomping and making the young ones hurt. The riders we have are surely some of the best in the World, and when they go overseas always dominate. I feel fortunate to be involved in such an environment and other riders definitely inspire me to want to race at higher and higher levels. You don’t have to win races all of the time to enjoy cycling though. I still leave my Garmin at home occasionally and just ride my bike for the release. Recently I was up at Wangaratta helping Bob and Helen with the junior state titles. I took my bike and just simply got on and rode. 4.5 hours later I came back, all country lanes, cattle, sheep, sunshine, magpies swooping, canola fields etc… Thats the beauty of cycling, enjoyment isn’t about first place, it’s the journeys we take as individuals and newly found unexpected teammates.
I’d like to thank the Ballarat City Council, Ballarat cycling club and the Victoria Police. Without them this event wouldn’t happen and it needs to have another 104 years of racing to come. I’d especially like to thank those who held warning flags, stopped traffic, put out signs, barriers waved the chequered flag, drove the lead cars, you know who you are and without you, this race definitely wouldn’t happen. Thanks CV for organising the event also, you guys are breeding the future so old blokes like me down the track can say we raced with an Angus Lyons or a Cyrus Monk or a Jordyn Hasset when they are winning Paris-Roubaix or La Course for the girls.
See you on the road or track enjoying cycling together.”