By Geoff Cuckson
Top Gippsland cyclist Phil Gallagher returned to club racing with a vengeance last Saturday to score a very strong win in the final Criterium of the summer season.
After a foiled attempt at splitting the combined A and B grade bunch in mid race, Gallagher burst from the group with five kilometres of a 36 kilometre event to go and in a daring solo effort, held on gamely to win by a comfortable 10 seconds. In very warm conditions, the overall time of 54.43 was an excellent performance with Gallagher’s last five kilometres being timed at a race of over 42 kilometres per hour.
The battle for second was a very close tussle with a never say die John Salton battling exhaustion to just hold out fast finishing Andrew Palm by less than half a wheel. Geoff Thomson again finished just behind the place getters in fourth spot, ahead of a much improved Ian Miller, Glen Beveridge (who had earlier taken the bunch up to Gallagher in the mid race surge) and Ken Bolch.
Tim Eerhard, Graham Hanks and Paul Yeatman had been dropped from the main bunch by the halfway mark but they continued in an intriguing mini battle with the end of each lap showing positions different to that of the previous.
At the finish it was Eerhard’s superior sprinting ability that saw him finish ahead of the other two riders.
The 11C grade and juvenile riders also rode off as one bunch and covered a total of 21 kilometres – the winner averaging over 37 kph. After a comfortable first 10 kilometres, the group broke up as give lads rode away from the rest of the field. That number reduced to four for the final eight kilometres and in another great charge for the line. Brad Clark again proved his class by holding out Aaron Nobelius, Murray Fenwick and newcomer Mark Sage whose first up ride was full of promise. As with the other grades the higher numbers in the bunches enabled riders who had lost the front runners to battle it out with others and not be left to finish alone.
Anthony Radcliffe took out fifth placing while firstly Brett Williams and Stuart Cuckson and then Sue Van der veen and Dermot Avon had excellent finishing battles for the other positions. Avon and former Warragul cyclist Sharon Tatnell were visiting from the Caulfield club and both performed well in a race, which was shorter than their normal trips. Brett Miller also battled on well although struggling for air in the conditions.
Overall, Saturday’s racing was very entertaining and a great lead up to the final event of the season next week. This will take the form of graded scratch races over the long course with secret sprints to keep riders on their mettle.
Presentations for the summer road series and the track championships will follow the racing at an early barbecue. The club will supply the meat and salad and all riders and supporters are encouraged to come along to the wind up which will leave the Burke St finish line at 3.30 pm for a destination which will depend on the weather conditions.
The senior points table is not as one sided as first thought although Salton should only need to stay on his bike to win. He has 62 points and is followed by Fenwick who with 56 is assured of at least second. The battle for third with Yeatman (42.5), Eerhard (41) and Ian Miller (41) looking for the extra effort next week.
The other riders are headed by Hanks 34, Thomson 33.5, Corkran 31.5 and Beveridge who has 30.5.
Next Sunday sees the first of two club road combines around the testing Cloverlea-Bona Vista circuit, a race in which over 100 riders from several clubs are expected to participate. The graded races will cover distances of up to 90 kilometres and should be a great sight for cycling enthusiasts.