by Jason Tubnor
Near perfect conditions greeted cyclists for race one of the Warragul City Motors Gippsland Combine series.
48 riders in total contested the racing across four grades.
In A grade a small but elite field of ten riders set off at a quick pace. Shane Stiles and Brett Kennedy were keen to keep the pace high but Leongatha trio of Will Lumby, Colin Sing and Harry McLean were not keen to let any breaks get up the road. Latrobe pair Chris Joustra and Daniel Furmston were in everything for most of the race. As is often the way at Cloverlea the race was decided in a sprint finish. Matt Parkinson towed the bunch around for the final lap then Shane “Rupert” Stiles won the sprint with a limp wristed flourish from Will Lumby and Daniel Furmston. Harry McLean was fourth and Brett Kennedy fifth.
The B grade bunch of 18 riders started sedately. The race was soon animated by Warragul duo Al McColloch and Pete Whelan. The were soon joined by Dylan Adams from Leongatha and it was up to the Latrobe City team to chase them down. Jim Timmer-arends, Col Aitken and Adrian Harper made short work of it. Latrobe were well represented in the next move when Big Jim and Darren Spiteri were joined by Warragul pair Pete Whelan and Al McColloch and Dylan Adams. This group were a real threat so Warragul riders Rob Monk, Joe Patrick and Connor Baggot worked hard to bring them back. When they were within catching distance, Jayman Prestidge bridged to them and was soon joined by Aitken and Harper. Monk, Patrick and Parker were in serious trouble and looked like getting dropped. The lead group sat up just enough for the race to come back together. Big Jim tried to break it up again on the final lap but the sprinters were not letting him get away. Darren Spiteri showed he’d lost none of his finishing speed taking the win in a long sprint from Rob Monk with Graeme Parker in third. Then followed Jayman Prestidge and Col Aitken.
C grade have the largest field of the day and most were still with the group at the finish With the largest C Grade bunch in recent history, augmented by the experienced pairing of Geoff ‘Thommo’ Thompson and Ross Henry, this was always going to be a great contest. The first lap had the bunch spread out along Allambee Road, as Ryan MacGregor, the ever improving Bryce Edhouse and Daniel Bishop, whose performance did not mirror his claims of recent man-flu, rode at a heady pace. Up and over the Hazeldean Road rollers for the first time, Leigh Jamieson attacked solidly and leapt 50 metres clear, however, was pulled back by hard men Danny Dilger and Morgan Barnes. On the fast downhill approach to Parker’s Road, Latrobe’s Michael Salerno attacked, however, the left turn proved quite elusive for him and he came down on the corner, becoming a mobile obstacle to the rest of the bunch, who managed to safely avoid the carnage. Unfortunately, after rejoining, he later snapped a gear cable and was an DNF.
The next two laps saw a few minor attacks that were brought back very quickly, as the bunch settled into a pacey circumnavigation of the course. On lap three, Leongatha’s Damien King rolled hard off the front at the end of Parker’s Road, jumping to a 100 metre lead, necessitating strong work from Dilger and De Mac in the crosswind to bring him back, with the bunch scrambling to stay in touch. All consolidated and crossed the line together for the bell.
The final lap saw the bunch stay closely together, with Bishop, Barnes, Dilger and McDonald rolling turns at the front along Parker’s Road, into the increasing headwind, whilst others hung on and hoped to keep out of the wind.
Rounding the final turn onto Allambee Road, the pace quickened and riders set themselves for a sprint to the line. Despite some nervousness, a near touching of wheels and some riding off-line, all managed to stay upright, with MacGregor and Bishop setting off the final sprint, with strong lead-outs. The bunch split somewhat and was strung out as riders began to wind themselves up. With courage and commitment, MacGregor proved too strong, nudging out Bishop, whilst Thommo placed third, with Ross Henry hot on his wheel. Edhouse managed to ward off De Mac and took fifth place.
Frank Bensted was the man to beat in D grade. The bunch stayed together for the first 2 laps but Frand broke away at the bell and the field splintered. He looked to have a winning break rounding the home turn but Col Manintveld had other ideas. Col passed Frank in the shadows of the post. Frank was second and first time racer Andrew Mead finished third. Mead will be better for the run and will try a different pre race day hydration routine next week. Leongatha Junior Kaleb Jans was fourth with Leongatha senior Peter McLean in fifth.
Race two of the series starts at Dumbalk and races to Mirboo North and back to Dumbalk. Yes it is hosted by Leongatha and yes it will be hilly. Sign on from 9.00am Sunday for a 10am start.