By Murray Fenwick
The continued popularity of Warragul Cycling Club’s road racing saw the inclusion of a fourth senior grade for Criterium racing last Saturday. With another three riders having their first ride for the season, a total of 57 competitors have taken part in senior events over the past six weeks. Two new juniors also competed to bring their numbers to 12 with three of those lads also having ridden in open company.
Saturday’s A grade event over 36 kilometres saw a mixed bag of tactics as riders varied their speeds. A confident Aaron Nobelius attacked in mid race and was away from the bunch of five others for 10 kilometres whilst John Salton kicked clear for three kilometres prior to the bell. Murray Fenwick, who had chased Nobelius and then dropped off the bunch himself at one stage, took off 800 metres out in a bold attempt to steal the sprint to the line. It look them a while but the bunch wound up with Phil Gallagher darting out around the leader and a precariously parked car to go on and hold out the chasers in a time of 56:22. The consistent Geoff Thomson came home strongly for second ahead of Nobelius, John Salton, Paul Rowse and a tiring Fenwick who was only four seconds off the winner.
The B graders again had a tremendous race with only four riders of the 12 starters missing the bunch finish at the end of 36 kilometres. With Ian Fromholtz, Graeme Hanks, Stuart Pharoah and the surging Rohan Watts working the group hard, the winner came in only seven seconds slower than Gallagher’s A grade time. As has been the case in previous weeks, the final charge was a beauty as Pharoah, then Brett Miller hit the front only to be grabbed by Stuart Cuckson who burst clear 40 metres out. In a determined lunge, the improved Cuckson threw off the “bridesmaid” tag us he held out a fast finishing Paul Yeatman to record his first victory in open company. The consistent Miller held on gamely for third ahead of Watts, a resuming Grub Melnyk, Pharoah and a game Kevin Williams. Hanks came in just off the back with Tim Eerhard out sprinting Ian and Travis a further 20 seconds away.
The newly graded riders were in a different C grade with five starters who were to cover 30 minutes plus three laps (27 kilometres). In an aggressive attack Steve Kerekes and Tony Lorback opened a 10 second break after 10 kilometres with both riders looking comfortable at that stage. However, a strong push by Ross Henry and Peter Standfield reeled them in with all four working well up to the bell. Henry, showing the benefit of recent hard riding, looked the winner inside the final 400 metres but was unable to hold out the less experienced Kerekes who scored by two metres in a smart time of 46:29. Lorback came in 13 seconds down with Standfield a further 20 seconds away and Brian Miller a DNF due to illness.
Of the five riders who started in the D grade event over 21 kilometres, newcomer Harry Langridge showed a fair amount of potential as he kicked clear after 10 kilometres and blitzed the other riders. Russ Walker and Ted Dunn worked well together for most of the event before Walker kicked clear to comfortably take second with a strong finish some two minutes, 15 seconds behind the winner’s 36:04. Dunn battled on well seven seconds away with Marion Ophof coming in fourth and Debbie Williams also registering did not finish due to illness.
The junior lads had two events in the form of a mixed handicap and a 300 metre sprint. Covering six kilometres, eight year old John Dent took out the handicap in a race time of 19:18 ahead of Ben Cumming (nine kilometres). Third place went to youngster Marcus Salton who did a great job to cover six kilometres in his first ride whilst Dean Wilson (nine kilometres) came in fourth ahead of back marker Jason Boxshall who rode 12 kilometres in a race time of 23:40. In the sprint, Jason’s 29:59 was too quick for newcomer Anthony McDonald (32:58), Dean, Ben and John.
With their victories, Gallagher (36) and Cuckson (29) strengthened their points positions ahead of Miller and Nobelius (24 each), Henry (22), Thomson and Yeatman (21 each) and Bailey, Dunn and Watts with 20 each. Jason heads the junior list ahead of Dean and Ben Fleming.
Next week’s road racing will take the form of a handicap and it is expected that there will be a big turnout of competitors again for this event.