Race Day Recap: Darren Smith Classic 2019 SPOILER: I WON!


It takes all the fun out of it when it is in the title, doesn’t it? Nonetheless, the story is still an exciting one!

Hello my wonderful, loyal readers. A quick life update to set the scene for you: I left the start up I was working at to take a break and recharge myself mentally, only to find myself as part of another start up within a matter of weeks. The short break I did have was perfect, and I got to enjoy many a pro hours ride (check out the vlog I did of one of these here). 

It’s actually not a bad view, really…

The new start up I’m at is very fast paced, with lots of moving parts, and a team over the in UK as well as here in Australia. What does this mean? Late night phone calls most nights of the week. This has led to some reluctance on my behalf to wake up in the mornings at the times required to get a decent workout in. With my current mental fragility in mind, I was beginning to crumble. Here’s the kicker: I was crumbling under my own pressure I put on myself (isn’t it annoying how we do that?). Something had to give. What gave was outdoor, morning workouts. My training sessions became indoor, afternoon sessions on the Tacx in our living room at home. 

The result? More sleep, more flexibility, overall a much happier April. Oh, and…

I won a bike race. 

To be more specific, I won Queensland Classic Road Series Round 3’s bike race. I’ve been a bit lazy with my previous race day recaps, but I actually managed to snag the Leaders Jersey for QCRS at Tyalgum Cup, so I went into the Darren Smith Classic wearing yellow and ready to defend. 

The Darren Smith Classic 2019 is an annual road race held on the Gold Coast in Australia in memory of Darren Smith. Gold Coast Cycling Club put the event on every year, and the course includes exclusive access to a climb up the side of a dam wall. The climb itself I think is a bit over 500m in length, and tops out at about 9%. It’s pretty savage. Especially when you then realise the course is a 12km loop, that you do multiple laps of for your entire road race. So you are riding the wall every. single. lap.

Just for shits and giggles, Tim and I had actually done a few recons of the course in the weeks leading up to the race, sans the dam climb because it is restricted access.

My overall feeling for the course was that it was perfect for me, and I was going to have a great time rolling around on it. As you can see from the course profile below, it is a pretty lumpy course, but ultimately once you get over the dam wall it is kind-of-sort-of-a-little-bit downhill for the rest of the lap. 

I was in Division 3 which was 48kms and 4 laps, and included multiple Grades – Juniors (stopping after 3 laps), Elite Mens Masters C & D, a well as Elite Women’s C & D. The first climb up the dam wall was in neutral as there is actually quite a technical descent on the other side, and since the dam is restricted access there wasn’t much availability for riders to investigate the course for themselves.

But after the climb, it was on like Donkey Kong! I had attempted to position myself as close to the front of the group as possible, more to avoid the concertina effect that occurs at the back of a large group than anything else. The first lap was quick, but as we came around to the second, and first proper race up the climb, the group split apart very quickly. The front group of men got away and I clung for dear life onto the back of a men’s chase group. 

Photo Credit: Adam Weathered

I stuck with them quite easily on the climb, but once we hit the downhill, I was in a spot of trouble. The men flew down all the hills and I had to pedal furiously in my smallest gears to stay just within their draft zone. It all came undone however when we had a turn coming up, and I mistook how soon it had arrived so I began easing off the gas in preparation for a bit of a tight corner, only to realise once it was too late that it was the next turn after the one I thought it was. 

That was the end of my tow from the men. The rest of my race was spent on my own somewhere in no-mans-land. I had no idea if I was coming first or last – I had seen another woman, who is actually my biggest yellow jersey risk, come up the inside to join the front men’s group earlier in the race but I never saw myself go past her so I had no idea if she was up the road or out the back. 

Either way, I just kept going.

On my last lap, about halfway through, Bear and Paul arrived on the live-streaming bike and began recording me. I was confused AF at this point, I didn’t know the heck was going on, but he followed me the entire goddamn rest of my lap. My pain, and awkward lumbering up and over the rollers that I was only a few laps ago dominating like a champion, are all caught on bloody camera. Check it out for yourself:

With the end coming closer, I began pedalling harder and preparing myself to leave everything I had out on the course. I didn’t know if I was winning or losing, but I wanted to make myself proud anyway. So I sprinted all by myself across the finish line. 

And then Bear and Tim told me I had won. When Bear started recording me, I had a FRICKING 4 MINUTE LEAD!! I was gobsmacked. And also very, very stoked. 

Unfortunately the two runners up were not around by the time presentations happened so I was on the podium all on my lonesome 🙁

This essentially means I am now in B-Grade also, as I have successfully accumulated all my points that I needed to move up a Grade! I’m now just patiently waiting for the official email saying I have been moved up. At this stage, I will still be competing in Queensland Classic Road Series Round 4 in my current grade however. Not that I mind, it means I will get one more ride in my yellow jersey. Once I move up a grade, I will no longer be able to retain my C-Grade jersey.

Speaking of B Grade, the winner was riding a gravel bike!

Jonnemei, an absolute weapon on wheels, had a mishap with her road bike in the lead up to Darren Smith but instead of pulling out decided to change the tyres on her cyclocross bike (but keep the gravel bike gear ratios lol) and use that instead. And smoked the field. Bloody insane.

The good news keeps rolling, Emily Fowler (Youtuber: Emily Fowler), also made it into the QCRS Yellow Jersey for WOMEN’S FRICKING A GRADE! To think that 2 years ago she was tearing the crit track in C Grade with me and now she’s dominating A Grade and racing NRS. Legend. 

So next week will hopefully be my last race in C Grade! It is the Cunningham Classic, Round 4 of the Queensland Classic Road Series. 97kms across a range called Cunningham’s Gap. Big one. 

I know this entry is a bit more long-winded than my previous Race Day Recaps, but I had to provide a bit of a life update in the background as well. Thank you very much for reading all the way to the end, if you did.

Check you next time!

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