As riders carefully donned their special time trial wheels, spokes, handlebars, skin suits and aero-space helmets in the picturesque potato fields of western France for the start of the Tour de France on Saturday, a similar procedure was occurring in the picturesque dairying locale of Picnic Point.
Twenty riders converged from as far away as Mornington and Hawthorn to take part in the special three-week Warragul racing series, bringing their own well-loved skin suits, aerobar attachments, extra-inflated tyres and polished-up helmets for the first stage 2.7km prologue. As le Tour progresses on its annual loop of France during 22 days of July, Warragul Cycling Club is celebrating its own le Tour du Warragul with a special three-week racing series. During the Tour de France, normal Saturday racing will consist of two stages, each tailored to emulate a special component of the Tour de France.
Saturday’s first and second stages at Picnic Point consisted of a 2.7km prologue, or individual time trial, followed by a 30km stage race on the Fishers Road circuit. With the weather exceeding expectations, dry roads were presented for the prologue, and with a swift tailwind some fast times were posted. A grade rider Danny Dilger stole the show by insisting he start with one foot on the ground, causing problems for other riders who struggled to clip themselves in to their pedals after starting. His time of 3mins, 47seconds was not matched, with Hawthorn rider Dave Tennant finishing 6 seconds later, and Brett Rollinson and Luke Hanley both posting equal times to claim third.
Paul Yeatman took the yellow jersey for C grade, only three seconds ahead of Mornington’s George Greenall. In D grade, Brendon Pridmore claimed the yellow jersey honours.
With less than ten minutes between stages, lactate-ridden riders reappeared at the start line for the 30km scratch race. With the special edition yellow jerseys distributed, it was easy to mark the leaders of each grade. A and B grade combined fields for the scratch race, which was completed at a comfortable pace until a surge at the base of the Wall thanks to Monique Hanley prompted Pete Bailey to extend his lungs and counter surge up the hill, followed by Luke Hanley. Bailey had plenty of energy to burn after finishing last in B grade for the prologue, and did not disappoint. The effect dropped Monique, Nicole Whitburn and Brett Rollinson from the field, with only Nicole and Brett managing to get back to the bunch on the Labertouche flats.
In lap two, Luke and Pete were again strong on the Wall, but it was A grade rider Dilger who left enough in the tank to storm across the field as they regrouped, continuing solo for the remainder of the race. Post race, Dilger was modest in his summation, ‘I am grateful for all the other A grade competitiors, they did a good job but I was too strong on the day’. Danny can look forward to next week when the A grade field (many of whom raced at the country champs in Leongatha) are expected to return for some competition. The B grade bunch settled for a sprint finish won by a well-positioned Luke Hanley. Hanley thanked yellow jersey leader Dave Tennant for ‘an awesome lead out from Dave, who sat on the front for the last 3 km and slowly picked up the pace. I made the jump with about 150m to go and held them, and that was it’. Luke was followed home by Pete Bailey and Justen O’Connor, and will now wear the coveted yellow next weekend for B grade.
1st stage C grade yellow jersey leader Paul Yeatman found wearing the jersey inspired him, ‘Yeah it was easy to defend the jersey in the 2nd stage – I felt good and thought the jersey must be magical. Dropped all but four in the first ascent of the wall, then dropped Mark (Oakley-Browne) in the second lap, then we thought we’d catch B again (caught them last week)’. Yeatman’s main competition was George Greenall, racing at Warragul for his first time and on a steep learning curve, as he commented afterwards, ‘ I learnt a lot going over the wall the first time, and got up it better the second time. You had to get it in the small chain ring and spin spin spin’. With only Greenall, Yeatman and Michael Pridmore remaining at the front of the strung out C grade field, a close sprint was anticipated. But in the final 400m Pridmore lost his chain and his balance, ending up in the grass and leaving only Yeatman and Greenall for the sprint. Greenall edged out Yeatman by a tyre width and in doing so is now equal leader of the C grade jersey alongside Yeatman. Pridmore remounted his steed to cross the line for third place.
In D grade, the yellow jersey was well defended by Brendan Pridmore over mum Glenda after a tough completion of the circuit without the benefit of cover from a bunch. His lead will be tougher to defend next week with the likely return of regular D grade riders from school holidays. Next week’s racing, and week two of the yellow jersey fever series, will be held at Shady Creek consisting of a mass start KOM challenge (3km), followed by two laps of the Stuhrs Road circuit (34km).
It is certainly not too late to be part of the action and collect some points towards the yellow jersey of your grade, especially so with many grade leaders unable to defend their jersey this weekend. Try out the different racing on offer and be a part of it! Here is what some other attendees thought of the day:
“Very good. I think a lot of them were socialising in the 2nd half of the scratch race, but in the end it was a good finish” (Chief Commissaire, Graeme Fricke)
“The time trial killed me, but I really enjoyed the slow pace of the race” (Club President Justen O’Connor)
“Top marshalling, especially on the top corner up there” (Terry Kelly, top corner marshall)
“I am jinxed. I am jinxed at Warragul” ( Blackburn rider Rachael Koffel on puncturing every time she races at Warragul)
“Absolutely will come back to race at Warragul again” (Mornington riders George Greenall and Michelle Murell)
“It was good. Good country environment, lots of chatting in the pack” (Warragul member Nicole Whitburn)
Yellow Jersey Fever Overall Series Leaders (after two stages)
Stage 1: 2.7km Prologue Stage 2: 28km Scratch race ( Fishers Road circuit)
A grade Danny Dilger (Warragul)
B grade Luke Hanley (Warragul)
C grade Paul Yeatman (Warragul) and George Greenall (Mornington)
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Tags: picnic point, scratch, time trial, yellow jersey fever