By Rob Monk
This week’s cycling race was the Tim McCardle Handicap at the Darnum circuit. Tim passed away in a cycling accident in September, 2002 and Saturday’s race is held is held in his honour. The Warragul Cycling Club is serious about road safety and Tim’s sad passing is a reminder for all road users to be respectful of each other’s rights to the road.
Club President John Davine made an emotional pre-race speech on behalf of his mate in front of the 37 racers which set the scene for a great race – one that everyone wants to win!
The first group away was Pam Benstead and Macca Parkinson who worked very well together to hold off the chasing groups for almost three laps.
The second group away consisted of Adele Whelan, Greg Sealby and Mark Oakley-Brown. Two and a half minutes further back was the group of Matt Williamson, Colin Manitveld, Frank Benstead and Aaron Nash. Each of these groups performed solidly, with newcomer Aaron Nash performing well until he found the going too tough on the third lap on the hills in front of the Fonterra factory. He is strong though and will improve rapidly!
A further five minutes in arrears was a large, and race threatening group that included Neil Edwards, John Batten, Colin Brown, Zvonko Maric, Ross Henry, Brett Kennedy and Neil Walker. If this group could roll turns smoothly they would win. The challenge of making this happen would rest on the old and experienced shoulders of John Batten and Neil Walker. Could they rein in the bunch destroying tendencies of the infamous Col Brown? Without their guidance, this group would fail to stay away from the chasing groups. Alas, John Batten punctured on lap 2 and within the next lap their group was caught by their pursuers.
The chasing group of Pete Whelan, Paul Yeatman, Greg Spencer, Rob Monk, Jayman Prestidge and Brett Rollinson pulled track turns from the start and reeled in the Neil Walker group at the half way point of the race. Spencer punctured reducing the firepower of this bunch. When the catch was made the large group maintained its pace and at the end of the fourth lap still could not see the fastest riders approaching.
The chopping block included Shane Stiles, George Tambassis, Peter Finlayson, Leigh Hauxwell, Matthew Parkinson, Graeme Parker. Cyrus Monk started alone on scratch and would never catch the chopping block riders. George Tambassis started his off season break at the end of lap 1 leaving the chopping block bunch to power on without the hindrance he’d provided since the start of the race.
With the last lap bell rang and the fastest riders not in sight, the “sit on sprinters” Rob Monk, Brett Kennedy and Jayman Prestidge made a tactical error. They figured the Stiles and Parkinson lead group would not catch their large group and headed to the rear of the group to save their legs for the sprint and Henry, Brown and Yeatman were the only ones willing to do any pace setting. Due to the tactical ineptitude, they bunch of Graeme Parker, Matt Parkinson and Shane Stiles caught and passed the large bunch with 4kms until the finish.
Rob Monk launched a ridiculous counter attack that would, and did, fail dramatically. In a fast and furious final corner 25 riders squeezed through enough space for 5, with several riders taking to the dirt. Hauxwell’s chopping block team had worked tirelessly for him and would now have to take back control of the race. They offered to lead out Hauxwell in the sprint which is analogous to bringing a knife to a gunfight. Hauxwell looked the goods sitting forth wheel as Parker then Parkinson provided a powerful leadout with Stiles ready to tow Hauxwell to the line. As the leadout train’s speed increased Hauxwell’s didn’t. Parkinson then Stiles rolled over the line in first and second position wondering where he was. Parker was third with Hauxwell forth and Neil Walker in fifth.
A tremendous race conducted in exemplary competitive spirit was a great way to honour the Late Tim McCardle.
Racing returns to the Cloverlea circuit at 2.00pm next Saturday.