by Rob Monk
LaTrobe Valley hardman Chris Joustra usually complains at the end of Warragul Cycling club races that they are too short. “Real bike races are at least 100 kilometers long,” he says. We grew tired of his objections and decided to grant his wish. Sure that others would not share his desire for 100k races we expected a small field and a one-off event. We were pleasantly surprised – The Joustra 100 Handicap proved a great success.
Entries kept growing during the week and on the day 35 brave souls pinned on a number. In an innovative approach to handicap racing, there were only 3 bunches. The scratch group would do 13 laps of the 8.13km Darnum circuit. This would give them 105km in total. The Chopping block group would do 12 laps for 98km and the limit bunch would do 11 laps.
Handicapper Shane Stiles had done the sums. If scratch averaged 40km/h and chopping block averaged 37km/h and limit averaged 34/km/h all the bunches would come together at the finish.
Scratch started first with a strong group of 14 riders. Former Australian Criterium Champion and pro bike rider Brenton Jones and Paul Collins, who does the same number of kilometers a week as most pros, were the riders to watch. The rest would help when they could. Brenton and Paul kept the pace moderate for the first 4 laps but were not going fast enough to catch the large chopping block group.
Chopping block had 16 riders and was joined on lap 2 by Matt Parkinson to make it 17. Lacking organization and courage, Matt had slept in and didn’t want to ride with scratch.
Warragul riders were perplexed by the tactics of the “Life of bikes” team. With over 90 km still to race, they attacked off the front and tried to ride away. That didn’t last long. By lap three some semblance of order had been established and at times all 17 riders were rolling through. Scratch would struggle to catch them.
The limit bunch had only five riders and try as they might they struggled to stay together. Thommo barked a few orders but it still took until lap 8 for the Chopping block group to catch them. With 4 laps to go chopping block was 6 minutes in front of scratch and Brenton Jones decided it was time to unload the passengers and start up the chase. OnlyCollins was able to stay with him.
Aaron Nash, Ross Henry, Jordan Mifsud, Jake Hallyburton, Col Aitken and Rod Aitken were the strongest riders in the chopping block group. Hallyburton, in particular, was stringing the bunch out each time past the milk factory.
At the bell, the chopping block group still had a 2 minute lead over the scratch. Geoff Thomson, Ed DaBinnett and Lachlan Skinner were still with the chopping block bunch as the survivors of the limit group. Chopping block had lost Alex, Chris Baggot, and Jayman Prestidge along the way.
Hallyburton, Mifsud and Aiken tried to break away on Stur’s road but were closely marked. A grinding uphill bunch sprint concluded the race with Hallyburton just holding off the fast-finishing Glenn Marriott to take the victory. Then followed Graeme Parker, Daniel Bishop, and Rob Monk.
Brenton finished less than a minute later to take the fastest time of the day.
The Joustra 100 Handicap will become a regular fixture on the Warragul Cycling Club Calendar. Two weeks before the Melbourne to Warrnambool race it seems like an ideal warmup for the serious racers and a chance to the Club hacks to clock up a fast 100k.
2020 continues next Sunday with a criterium at Burke St. 8.00am sign on for an 8.30 start.