The Handicapper’s job in the first race of the season is always a difficult one. Stiles keeps a close eye on the training form over winter but some riders are expert at hiding form. Pete Finlayson is a classic example of a rider who normally starts the handicap series 4 groups in front of scratch because he “hasn’t been doing much”. Ray York, the defending club handicap champion has also had a long layoff and his form is a mystery. Jayman Prestidge is often at the start of one of his crash diets so is likely to faint mid race. Stiles took a conservative approach to start the season. Finlayson – Scratch. Prestidge – Chopping Block, York, a relatively miserly 16 minutes with everyone else in between. Conservative indeed: the scratch bunch had caught the out markers by the end of lap 3 and a mob of over 20 riders all thought they had a chance to take the victory.
First off was Ray York and Matheson Jenkins with 16 minutes on scratch. Then followed Mariah Dastey and Andrew Gordon with 12 minutes head start. The 8 minute group comprising Rupert Hudd Baillie, Tom Herd, Dave Baillie and Harley Bondini worked well together and were the last group caught. The 6 minute bunch contained race debutant Glenn Marriott. He was matched with veterans Col Brown and Trev Rollinson and they looked after him until the scratchies swamped them. With 4 minutes head start on scratch Cy Monk, Simon Baxter and Paul Yeatman were joined by former A grader Callan Barker who is returning from a long layoff after a knee injury. On the chopping block with 2 minutes on Scratch were Rob Monk, Charlie Davine, Geoff Thomson, Graeme Parker and Jayman Prestidge. Thommo instructed his fellow riders after about 400 meters that “I’m not doing a turn till the scratchies catch us cause I know they will.” His words turned out to be prophetic as the scratch bunch consisting of Shane Stiles, Jim Timmer-Arends, Jarryd Jones, Pete Finlayson, and Thomas Sandner cranked out two 17 minute laps and reeled in all before them by the end of lap three.
After the catch the pace went out of the race as scratch men decided they didn’t need to keep driving as they had no-one left to chase. Jayman Prestige provided his usual moment of comic relief by rolling to the front and nearly stopping which led to a torrent of abuse aimed in his direction. This slowing of pace prompted some short lived attacks from first Simon Baxter then Timmer-Arends and Sandner. Cy Monk was prominent covering each attack.
The lead bunch still consisted of over 15 riders along Parkers Rd and a sprint finish looked inevitable.
Stiles decided to stretch the bunch out and keep the sprint safe. He had Charlie Davine locked on his wheel and Davine left the cover with 150 meters to go. Cy Monk had been led to the front by his father and he loomed as the only danger to the fast finishing Davine. Charlie proved too quick with Cy taking second. Thommo wove through the blokes who were “chopping wood” to take third. Rob Monk hung on for fourth with Marriot fifth, Stiles sixth, Baxter seventh, Prestidge eighth, Yeatman ninth and Finlayson tenth.
The 9 race handicap series continues next week. If you have not tried cycle racing and think you may be the next Cadel Evans, handicap racings is a great way to start your competitive cycling experience. In handicap races you are paired with riders of similar ability and you work together as a team to catch the groups in front of you while hopefully staying in front of the faster groups chasing from behind. Come along to Cloverlea next Saturday morning and give it a try. Registration is at 8.30 with racing commencing at 9am.