The new-look racing schedule for the Warragul Cycling Club handed out its first test to all grades on Saturday with a bunch destroying hill climb finish at the highlands of Jindivick. In brilliant conditions consisting of clear skies and little wind, 28 cyclists made their way to the home of cheese for some cultured climbing.
The A grade bunch kicked things off with a frighteningly fast descent from Jindivick into the planes of Labertouche and Longwarry North. The pack churned through the flatter sections of the course and by the first climb at Picnic Point had averaged over 45km/h, causing pain for those more accustomed to the pace of last week’s scratch race. With Thomas Sandner and John McKenzie central figures in applying the pressure, they relentlessly attacked their first attempt on the momentum-sapping rise known as The Wall on Fishers Road. Sandner and McKenzie surged up the steeper sections, turning round at the top to realise the full effects of their efforts. Steve Twining, Charles Howlett and Geoff Thomson could be seen languishing from the assault, with only Wayne Chester surviving.
No allowance for any recovery from the climb effectively crushed Chester’s hopes of a highly placed finish as he lost touch from Sandner and McKenzie. The duo charged on for the remaining lap of Fishers Rd circuit and to the start of the net 500m of vertical climbing required to reach the finish line. McKenzie attacked Sandner early at Drouin West, but a response from Sandner kept him on McKenzie’s wheel until the second-final hill, where he eventually succumbed to the tempo. John took the well-deserved win with a 1 minute, 8 second gap to Thomas, followed by Wayne Chester almost five minutes later. The remaining bunch finished as individuals after some solo time trialling efforts to keep in touch.
A larger B grade field began their afternoon casually as they let gravity guide their descent. With C grade at their heels by the flat sections, the pace increased thanks to some motivation from Jason Kruger and Pete Bailey. Bailey showed some early promise with strong leads up the Picnic Point and Wall climbs as Luke Hanley yo-yoed off the back, his determination the saving factor in keeping in touch with the bunch. A breakaway attempt from Bailey and Tim Lee was unconvincing on the second Picnic Point climb, moreso when the duo sat up to wait for the field. Steve Sandner and Pete Finlayson remained removed from the action as they saved themselves for the final climbing stretch.
The bunch stayed together for most of the climb, producing a rare bunch sprint finish not seen in any other grade thanks to the 15% gradient offered over the final few hundred metres. Steve Sandner showed enough stealth and strength to cross the finish first and ahead of Tim Lee and James Henry, all with the same time. Pete Bailey and Peter Finalyson crossed seconds later.
The C grade field were lacking in numbers but not in power as they descended from Jindivick like a lead balloon. The sixty-second starting buffer granted to the B grade field was easily consumed thanks to Rob Monk and the newfound descending weight-to-power ratios of Shane Stiles. On the valley floor the pace calmed as the pack focussed on the upcoming climbs. With everyone intact after their only outing at the Wall, Rob Monk initiated an attack up the second climb of Picnic Point hill. His fortune was short-lived as the field reeled him in by the Robin Hood motel.
Passing Old Telegraph Rd turnoff, Monk re-ignited the field with another turn of pace, proving this time to be more successful. He took only Trent Brown with him as the two quickly gained clearance from their chasers. The blind corner on the second final climb was another opportunity for Monk to launch another pre-emptive strike, successfully shedding the steady improver Brown. Climbing with grace, the tactician claimed a great victory with a 22 second buffer to second placed Brown. Dave Axford, another graduate of last season’s strong D grade bunch stormed home to claim third.
The small junior contingent joined forces with the D grade field, which under Chris Jones’ direction kept the descent at a reasonable pace in order to keep the bunch together. With the return climbing fresh in their heads, the juniors decided to turnaround early and wisely avoid the unnecessary kilometres involved in the larger loop. Sam Atkinson and David deBruyne worked hard to climb back to Jindivick on the testing terrain, accompanied by Ian deBruyne. With Jones keen to keep the remaining field together until the tougher climbs, Roger Bell retained some leg freshness which was unveiled at the first test at Picnic Point.
Although strung out by the tempo, the group kept in touch until a further counter attack from Bell past Gregory’s gym. His final assault, shortly before Main Neerim Road, proved fatal for the bunch and a long, strung-out line of solo riders completed the course. Bell powered to victory with a 50 second buffer to Helmut Korab. Chris Jones was another minute back, who was followed a further minute later by the steady improver Lawrence Maskill.
Next week’s race will be held for the first time on the recently surfaced Old Sale Road section between Bloomfields Road and Seven Mile Road. The race will kick off from the corner of Beards Track, located approximately 14km east from Bloomfields Road . Racing commences at 2pm, and all riders are reminded to bring along their race licences.