Torrential downpours and gale force winds are usually sound justification for keeping the bike stashed away from road cycle competition. It was precisely these conditions leading up to the race start on Saturday at Picnic Point, the host location for a rare season combine race with Melbourne-based club Carnegie Caulfield, that hardened racers were confronted with. In the ten minutes prior to the race start not a bike could be seen warming up for the challenge around the Fishers Road circuit, despite a full car park and sausage sizzle provided by host club, Warragul Cycling Club. The more logical warmup seemed more appropriate to take place sitting in the car.
With a smaller turnout than anticipated, race organisers were forced to adjust the race circuit and length in light of the unrelenting rain and westerly gale. Combined A and B grade fields set off for 5 laps of the 14km circuit which incorporates the infamous ‘Wall’, well known to local riders on Fishers Road. A huge crosswind and less traction from the wet surface meant little forgiveness for those attacking the hill in the wrong gear. The ferocious weather kept the A and B field together across the first lap, but with a strong tailwind to assist on the Picnic Point climb Carnegie Caulfield’s Nathan Wise attacked the field, followed by Coburg’s B grade rider, Darren Lapthorne. The duo worked together and remained clear for most of the second lap, but was joined by Carnegie Caulfield’s Justin Davis by the start of lap three.
Justin wasted no time in attacking the lead pair on the Wall, keeping Darren alongside but losing Nathan Wise. A flat tyre slowed Justin’s progress, leaving Darren to continue alone for lap four. Warragul’s John Mackenzie joined Nathan Wise in the chase behind, but the gap was too large to close on Darren over such a short distance. The positions remained the same by the bell lap, with Justin Davis losing even more time as he struggled with a mixed marriage of gearing manufacturers for his replacement wheel on his second flat tyre. Darren rode away with a rare B grade victory, followed by A grade riders Nathan for second place and John in third. Despite his mechanical delays, Justin retained fourth position. Warragul B grade rider Wayne Chester crossed the line in fifth place a few minutes behind.
C grade featured the largest field for the day with 18 riders set for a wet competition over four laps. Folklore surrounding the severity of the Wall kept the field subdued over their first lap, although the surprising steepness of the short climb was too much for one C grade rider who admitted defeat by completing the climb on foot! It wasn’t until the third attempt of the Wall when an attack by four riders proved successful, including Coburg rider Fraser Short, St Kilda’s Stuart Hastings and Warragul’s Geoff Thomson. Working together in the head wind, they quickly established a gap while the chase bunch was established, led by Warragul’s Chris Hunt and including Carnegie Caulfield rider Gemma Goyne. The breakaway bunch continued to widen the gap over the final lap, and by the finishing straight was coy enough to casually approach the finish, content to share the prizemoney available. Unable to leave a finish uncontested, Geoff Thompson disrupted the agreed plan and jumped the bunch to take out the C grade win. He was followed across by Fraser Short and Stuart Hastings. Gemma Goyne was the first female home.
The D grade field was contested by 11 riders, who used the first climb out of Picnic Point as opportune to stretch their legs in the cold conditions. For the Warragul riders in the peloton, the race held strong interest in the outcome of the final season standings between Bill Frew and Dave Axford, where only one point separated the two at the top of the season tally. With Axford holding the one point advantage, a focussed Frew was keen to ensure no disruption to the race plan or pace, especially into the headwind on the back straight. Disaster struck at the start of the second lap, with Bill losing his chain on the Picnic Point climb, just as Warragul’s Michael Pridmore stretched the bunch out on the front alongside Peter Walker and Andrea Bishop. Race rivalry was put aside momentarily as Monique Hanley and Dave Axford ensured Bill remained in contention for the final points available for the Warragul riders. The three worked together to reel in the other riders unable to stay with the lead bunch, but with Michael Pridmore’s love of the Wall, the front bunch were difficult to catch. Peter Walker eventually took out first place, followed by Michael Pridmore in second and Andrea Bishop in third place, who was also first female home. Despite a race where both riders were tested by conditions, pace and tactics, the final sprint between Dave Axford and Bill Frew was fought out alongside each other and without any leadout. The sprint, and the season trophy, was claimed by Dave over a valiant Bill.
Many thanks to the volunteers for their assistance during the day and in the lead up to the event, including: Ian deBruyne, Ian Walk, Jake and Glenda deBlauw, Glenn Fisher, Glenda Pridmore, Wilf Tampoline, Norm Baberton, Justen O’Connor, Jason Kruger and everyone else who donated their time amongst the hail and freezing conditions. Club racing would not be possible without the ongoing contribution of volunteers.
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Tags: carnegie caulfield cc, combine, scratch, shady creek