Race SPECS: 67km, 1200m climbing, 2hr26min
The Safire Classic is one of the longest standing races on the local calendar that has changed its name over the years but still remains a good marathon tester. The 65km distance is a fast paced race with two big tough climbs to separate the field early on and tactically push the rider’s abilities out on the track. The 2015 edition followed an almost exact replica of the previous year’s course and would give an advantage to the riders who’d raced before by knowing what to expect and how to manage their efforts.
My day was made very tough by the entry of two top SA XCO riders from Kargo team. Both Brendan Davids and Alan Hatherly had just come back from racing overseas and are gearing up for the SA cross country in PMB later this month. With two riders of there calibre on the starting grid I know I would have to do something special to take the win on such a tactically dependant track. Having a team mate in this instance really helps as the route is largely a district road race with some fun sections of single track, so the drafting affect really comes into play like it would in a road race.
The pace off the start wasn’t to quick with many of the riders not wanting to expend too much energy before the real tester of the day, the Banesfield Breaker. This climb is 8 km long and has a steady gradient taking over 26mins to ascend. The racing started at the first 4min climb before the breaker climb. It was here I felt the first attack from Brendan who was looking for a gap to begin his title defence. I covered the move and knew that Alan was on my back wheel waiting for the next move. The paced settled and a group of 10 riders accumulated as we rolled towards the biggest obstacle 2km up the road.
The start of the 8km climb was steady and I set a good solid hard tempo over the first 3km, I saw Brendan had dropped off the back of Alan and I kept the pace high so it would be difficult for him to ride back. Alan who had been sitting wheel decided to give it go and moved round and attacked hard for a good couple of seconds. I responded and got back onto his wheel but could feel the elastic was tightened, Alan went again and I just couldn’t hold his pace and wheel, this left me in between the two team mates and I could see Brendan was now closing down on me. I had no choice to continue riding consistently and would hope that I could respond when Brendan attacked again to link up with Alan. As the move went I knew I was unable to go with it but kept trying to bridge the gap back onto his wheel. He crested the climb 15seconds ahead of me but had a lot in the tank to chase down his team mate up the road. The remainder of the route was fast paced and I had to concede that two riders would always be faster then one but I had to keep pushing knowing there would be other riders chasing me down behind. I kept the pace high and tried to get splits on the two leaders between where I could see them and when I reached that same point on my garmin. I just over a minute off them most of the way but know they would put the hammer down in the single track towards the finish line. I limited my losses and eventually crossed the line just under 2 minutes off Alan and Brendan.