Velothon Sunshine Coast 2019 – Obi Obi, the brute

Blue skies and brisk but sunny conditions greeted the bunch of this year’s Velothon …

Blue skies and brisk but sunny conditions greeted the bunch of this year’s Velothon Sunshine Coast and with Stage 1 featuring the gruelling Obi Obi ascent, its safe to say every rider would be feeling the heat by the finish in Montville.

Words: Alex Malone

Photography: Tim Bardsley-Smith

Escape winter and venture to lands where arm and leg warmers are scarcely required. That’s the appeal for many who continue to make the journey to Maroochydore for Velothon Sunshine Coast each year. Whilst the opening morning kilometres are undoubtedly fresh, there’s comfort in knowing that by the time you reach the finish, you’ll be thoroughly warmed to the core.

The opening day of the 2019 event may have looked somewhat flat on paper but the skyward profile at the finish wasn’t a glitch, the ascent of Obi Obi really does rise out of the flats in an imposing and leg-shattering way. The 90-odd kilometre stage featuring nearly 1,500m of climbing would be the first test of the three-day event and with gradients touching well over 20% near the finish, it would also seperate those who are here to ‘race’ (or ride quickly) and those more interested in the afternoon beach activities and post-stage Clubhouse ales.

Now in it’s third year, the word around Velothon has expanded across to the Land of the Long White Cloud and in 2019, the Kiwis are out in force – the Spoken Cycles squad cleaning up with Alex Heaney taking line honours on Day 1 while Sydney locals Chris Ball and Matthew Kasher would round out in the podium.

“We have been excited about the opportunity to ride Velothon for months and day one lived up to expectations. That climb is pretty steep. It was quite hard. The weather was sensational this morning and that is one of the main reasons we came across. It is a good excuse to come across the ditch and ride in some sun for a week.”

“Those roads are unrelenting, it seemed pretty flat with one climb on paper coming in, but it was different to ride. It was a hard day, I am not going to lie. Obi Obi came as a bit of a surprise, it was definitely steeper than I was anticipating.”

“I do a bit of everything in New Zealand, national and club racing and that sort of thing. I haven’t ridden overseas too much but I just love racing and riding bikes really. That is why I do it,” Heaney said.

In the women’s field, Zoë Clayton-Smith showed the rest a clean set of Bont’s with a gap over 8 minutes to second place and former Team WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling rider Hayley Jones and Wendy Young crossing the line in third overall to also take out the top spot in the Master’s category.

“The weather is beautiful and we are looking forward to a couple days of great riding. I have a sun tan within the first four hours of being here.”

“With a big roll out it is important to keep up the front, so I sat in with a group of guys. Obi Obi was just as bad as it was last year, if not worse, so it was nice to have fresh legs for it. The false flats are my strength, so I just had to get over the hills and get the yellow jersey.”

“It was a climber’s stage with Obi Obi being the main event, so it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow,” she said.

Faces of Obi

Having got our first taste of Velothon Sunshine Coast last year, a return to Maroochydore in 2019 was never in doubt. Coming at just the right time of year – personally I’ve been wearing winter bib tights to work most mornings – the three-day event (don’t call it a race) offers a few precious extra degrees that make cycling all the more enjoyable again.

Sure, the morning is cold, my Wahoo registered something deep into the single digits but upon crossing the finish line, the sun up here is well and truly out in force. In short, the folks up here have it pretty damn good during the winter months and the cycling isn’t too bad either. There’s a reason the Australian Cycling Academy make this place home throughout the season.

Originally slated for Day 2, event organisers were forced to switch around the opening stages and with Obi Obi impossible to avoid, today was a bit like pulling off a Band-Aid; anxiety replaced with a short amount of pain and then relief. Today’s stage was a fast one and with few challenges in the opening 70 kilometres, a huge bunch hit the base of Obi together and then it was every man and woman for themselves.

My effort, while faster than last year, seemed agonising difficult with thoughts of stopping for breather a real possibility. But it’s not all that bad. The climb of Obi Obi is a short one and from the top the meandering ride across to Montville was made all the more easier thanks to its close proximity to the ‘summit’.

While my the finish line result wasn’t anywhere near the front, this event really has far more to offer than simply a victory salute. That said, I’ll happily piggyback off my partner’s fancy new yellow jersey as she (Zoë) takes on tomorrow’s Stage 2 with a handy lead in the women’s field.

And in case you’re wondering what it takes to get through a stage of Velothon (I’ll save you from my stats this time around), here’s a few numbers from Zoë’s day.

Strava file: strava.com/activities/2544031398

Bidons consumed: 1.5
Gels consumed: 0
Brouhaha ales consumed at the Clubhouse: 2 or maybe 3
Maximum gradient: 22%!Distance: 90km
Metres climbed: 1,427m
Average heart rate: 170bpm
Obi Obi power (average): 275 watts for 14:30
Normalised power: 245 watts

Velothon 2019 – Stage 1 results

Male

Pos Cat Name Gun Time

1 (Team) Alex Heaney (#664) 02:18:09

2 (Open) Christopher Ball (#110) 02:19:19

3 (Team) Matthew Kasher (#618) 02:19:42

Female

Pos Cat Name Gun Time

1 (Open) Zoë Clayton-Smith (#494) 02:25:28

2 (Open) Hayley Jones (#467) 02:33:41

3 (Masters) Wendy Young (#442) 02:40:20


King of the Mountain

Male

Pos Cat Name Gun Time

1 (Masters) Sean Vintin (#417) 00:06:57

2 (Team) Matthew Kasher (#618) 00:07:01

3 (Team) Alex Heaney (#664) 00:07:06

Female

Pos Cat Name Gun Time

1 (Team) Megan Williams (#628) 00:08:29

2 (Open) Bree Playel (#328) 00:09:02

3 (Open) Zoë Clayton-Smith (#494) 00:09:30

Full results here.

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