The Brisbane Blast Running and Cycling Series aims to develop a blue ribbon race series with in heart of the Brisbane CBD.  After four years of planning and negotiating with local businesses, councils and sponsors the first of hopefully many Brisbane Blast Christmas Criteriums was raced in near perfect conditions on Sunday.  With racing across a number of Elite, Masters and Corporate categories.

While not originally on my list of events, the postponement of my last MTB event for the year due to rain, I decide to give the Blast a go.  It was to be my first open event since joining the MIA Rouge Coffee Race Team.  My plans however, went very much awry when a poorly placed wheelie bin and a moments inattention saw me unceremoniously knocked off my bike almost exactly 48hrs prior to race start.  I was left with massive bruising from knee to groin on one leg and some sort of mild rib injury.  To be honest as I got my bike ready on Saturday, I was unsure if I was going to be able to race on Sunday.

Brisbane Blast 2014 Course
Racing in the CBD

On Sunday morning I decided to ride in early to watch team mate Bryn in the first race.  This would also give me a chance to warm up and give me an idea as to how my injuries were feeling.  I was happy that other than a bit or rib discomfort, I generally felt OK.  I arrived in the city at 6:30, in time to watch the first race, Masters C on closed city streets.  I had been in this part of the city many times, and knew there was an elevation change, but watching the peloton flying up Alice St reminded me exactly how steep this climb was.  Of course there was an almost identical descent on the back straight which was going to be FUN!

Brisbane Blast course profile
One Lap Profile

I watched the last couple of laps of Masters C, and Bryn was in the first 10 on the bell lap, which was promising.  I rolled down to the finish line to see HPRW club mate Jim Murphy get the win in Masters C.  Apparently a touch of wheels forced Bryn to withdraw with a broken spoke on the last lap from a leading position.  Perhaps an indication of how tricky this circuit was.

Brisbane Blast Pace Car
Race Start behind pace car with crowds watching in the shade

Our race was scheduled to start at 8:20 and I gathered with my MIA Rouge Coffee team mates for some pre-race banter.  There were 5 of us racing as part of a massive Masters B start list of 75 riders.  We rocked up at the race briefing, but ended up towards the back bunch, which meant that the first 3 or 4 laps was spent trying to get towards the front.  The track basically consisted of an uphill straight, a tight corner short straight, tight corner, a long downhill into a tight corner, followed by a short straight, and finally another tight corner.  Essentially the two straights were the only safe passing opportunities on the circuit.  For strong riders the uphill straight was the best opportunity, because most riders were fast on the downhill straight, so picking up just one or two positions was tough.  Picking the perfect line the final two corners meant deciding between the wider, longer and higher speed or tighter, shorter but lower speed inside.  I discovered on a couple of occasions that it took a whole lap to recover from touching the brakes at the wrong time in those corners.

Considering the bruising on my leg, I felt pretty good.  The weather was fantastic, and racing between the buildings and the overhanging trees of the botanical gardens meant that we were mostly riding in the shade.  The great thing about such a central location was the ability for the general public to see a real bike race.  My family and some friends came along to watch, and every lap I could hear my kids cheering and other friends urging me on.  As the race continued, I generally progressed towards the front, but some laps you might pass 5 riders, but on others you might lose 10 places.  There were a couple of solo attempts to get away(including teammate Darren), but rarely lasting more than a lap.

Darren Croad Brisbane Blast 2014
MIA Rouge Coffee teammate Darren Croad getting away on a solo break

The prime lap came and was won by Gavin Broderick.   By my standards, I was having a pretty quiet race, rarely making it to the front 10, but I was able to contribute to the chase on some of the breaks (not including teammates of course).

Anthony at Brisbane Blast 2014
Me sitting in 3rd position the bell lap

The race seemed to go quite quickly, and before I knew it the “2 laps to go” board was out, and the pace quickened.  I jostled for position, and actually made some ground, to take the bell in about 3rd position.  Not trusting myself I made the mistake of looking for teammates to lead out and lost a few positions in to the corner at the top of the hill.  At this point some overzealous passing attempts had riders hitting the cones that lined us up for the corner.  Teammate Luke was caught up as riders took evasive action, which essentially ruined any chance of a podium for him.

Once we rounded the 2nd corner and dropped in to the downhill back straight, there was more jostling for position, and I managed to stay around top 10.  Through corners 3 and 4 everyone was sensible and we were on to the punchy uphill straight with only about a 200m sprint from the corner to the finish.  Not being the greatest sprinter, I lost a few spots and made a couple to end up 13th across the line.  Club mate Steve Meharg won, an awesome effort.

Brisbane Blast Steve Meharg Win
Steve Meharg Wins the Sprint Finish

Results for all grades are available here on the Brisbane Blast website.

I’ll be putting this race down in the 2014 calendar as a ‘Must Do’.  The event was well organised, and the course challenging yet quite fun.

Anthony Zahra

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Anthony spent much of his childhood riding and “messing around” on bikes with his brother. After roughly a 10 year hiatus, Anthony’s love of cycling was rekindled as a way to get fit. After doing his first cross country mountain bike race in a 2 person team roughly 7 years ago, he was hooked. This was followed by racing 24hr enduros in teams, then solo, 6, 8 and 12hr races. He eventually progressed (some say regressed) to riding almost exclusively Single Speed MTB and undertaking his first 24hr solo race on his beloved single speed. Most weekends Anthony can also be found racing local criteriums, road races and the odd time trial. Weekdays he can be found commuting to and from work, rain hail or shine, and is a strong advocate for cycling rights on the road and the use of the bicycle for transport. Anthony rides a variety of differnet bikes including an Azzurri Forza Di2.
  • Haydn Thomas

    Sensational stuff Anthony. Well done mate.

  • Anthony Zahra

    Thanks. Given the state of my leg nearly 3 weeks later, I’m surprised I made it through.