Winning With Honor, Or By Sitting In…

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This past Saturday was the 51st Fred Icke Memorial Handicap in Creswick, VIC.   In all my searches I could not find exactly who Fred Icke was or what this race represents.   The only thing I could find was on the Brunswick Cycling Club website “the race was first introduced to the Victorian calendar by Fred Icke in 1960 as the Wendouree ‘110?, and has become one of the most well known events on the Victorian cycling calendar”. I’m always fascinated by the history of these long standing Australian races where so many cycling superstars came up through the ranks.

Is was cold, wet and windy and I expected nothing other.  I love these Australian Handicaps. The dynamics are totally different than racing a regular scratch race and absolutely everyone has a fighting chance of winning. The silent hum of carbon wheels with 20 guys working together to achieve one common goal of catching and not getting caught is exhilarating.

I was in the changeroom after the race on Saturday and I was listening a guy from one of the front bunches having a laugh and trading stories with one of the guys off scratch.  That’s the cool thing about a handicap.  All ~200 people ride the exact same race, no matter who they are or what their ability.   Whatever the winner’s mark is, his or her victory is just as legitimate and as highly regarded as if it were a scratchie who won it.

I was thinking about what my own strategy would be as I was driving to the race.   I was off with the 6min bunch and the logical thing to do would have been to sit in, conserve energy, and not do as much as roll a turn until the scratch bunch caught us (which is often the case when you’re on the “chopping block”).  As my group started the race however, it was impossible for me to just sit-in with a clear conscience.  It would have been poor form.  However, about half the guys in my bunch were sitting in the back refusing to roll through.  At very least they could have given it an effort.  Sure, there may have been a few of them who weren’t physically capable, but the majority of them were simply bludging and creating a negative effect on the whole group.

Unless there’s an immediate tactical purpose or you’re not strong enough to do your share of work, why even bother coming out and racing in a handicap if you’re just gonna sit-on?  If you did happen to win by sitting-on the whole race, would you really feel good about it anyway? Does it prove that you were the smartest or best?  If you think you should have been marked with a more “prestigious” handicap, put your ego aside for a few hours.   There may be tactical reasons for sitting on a bunch in a handicap, but until the stronger groups catch you I think it goes against the spirit of the race and is shameful.

Race Report

To be honest I don’t really know the details of what happened ahead of my bunch so I can’t give much of a race report.  Scratch caught my group, they split the bunch to smithereens up a climb going into the third lap, and then a small group of us kept picking up small groups until the finish. We never caught the 17min bunch so it must have come together up there.  If anyone from Cycling Australia or Cycle Sport Victoria is reading,  Twitter works really well for posting unofficial results.

Here are some photos from the 51st Fred Icke Memorial Handicap taken by Jarrod Partridge.  Good on him for standing out in the freezing rain taking photos of us just for the love of it. For his upcoming event plans follow him on twitter and facebook.

Losing contact with your group isn’t such a bad thing in a handicap. There’s almost always another bunch who you can catch a ride with. Unfortunately they’re usually faster than the bunch you just got dropped from!

The scratch bunch was absolutely flying.  I couldn’t believe how fast they were charging along when they caught us.

This was taken on the last lap when the scratchies smashed the bunch to pieces up the final climb at the 89km mark.

The heavens opened up for the final sprint.  I’m not certain but I think I see a crash at the back.

Click here if you’re interested in the ride data.  Notice that you can place your cursor over the map profile (where the orange dot is) and the software will align it with the corresponding graphs and map.

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