By Rob Monk
A social ride held under covid safe conditions.
The inaugural Warragul-Leongatha-Warragul was staged on Sunday.
For the past 64 years, the Long Weekend is June has seen the running of the Gippsland Three Day Cycling Tour. With COVID19 restrictions in place, the Three Day Tour is on hold until later in the year. Local cyclists were forced to improvise. Borrowing from two of cyclings Monuments, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Paris Roubaix, a Winter one-day classic was organized. The Warragul- Leongatha-Warragul event borrowed the Velodrome style finish from Paris Roubaix and the hilly Parcours from Liege.
Riders set off from Warragul in cool but dry conditions. They headed for Leongatha via the tough Seaview climb. The route took riders along the Grand Ridge Road and some spectacular country. Chris Joustra set a solid tempo on the climb and soon distanced the bunch. Rob Monk and George Tambassis chose to climb at a steady tempo knowing the 115k race would probably come back together after the climb. They were met with some good fortune when Joustra suffered a mechanical near Mt Worth, allowing them to catch up.
Some quick descending towards Leongatha followed. Gippy Cycles rider Darren Spiteri displayed his superior bike handling skills as he distanced the peloton on the tricky descent.
Tambassis lost contact but somehow managed to rejoin after the decent.
Following the rules of the event, riders needed to do a lap of the Leongatha Velodrome before heading back to Warragul. The route up Wilddog Valley Road took in some spectacular views and the major selection of the day was made on the 5km gravel climb to Arawata.
Joustra and Brett Kennedy powered away. Drouin Cycles Performance Team’s, sole representative, Jim Timmer-Arrends tried to go with them but was dropped. Col Aitken and Peter McLean drove the chase group but by the time they reached the Warragul Korrumburra Road Kennedy and Joustra were out of sight.
Joustra gave it everything on every rise on the way back to Warragul, attempting to shake Kennedy from his wheel. Kennedy clung on grimly, at times risking being inside the 1.5 meter COVID safe distance from Joustra’s rear wheel.
The “winner” would come down to sprint finish on the Warragul Velodrome. Jousta went early; with a lap and half to go. Kennedy took the high position on the bank of the velodrome, an option not available to Joustra as he is frightened of the bank. Kenny won the sprint and came across the line first.
The chasers arrived at the Velodrome 5 minutes later. Spitzy had towed them most of the way home so they let him have the third spot on the podium.
The hilly 115km trip was covered in under 4 hours.
This could be the start of an annual event under race conditions.
While racing is on hold there have been great numbers on the Warragul bunch rides.
We encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy one of the best places in the world to ride a bike.
Cycling is fun. Be a part of it. Be safe.