By Geoff Cuckson
With the arrival of several top line Latrobe Valley riders, Warragul Cycling’s graded scratch races provided strong and fast bunch riding last Saturday. A total of 35 senior riders covered up to 36 kms of the Landsborough Rd circuit in four grades whilst seven juniors look part in a 15 km secret handicap.
The 36 km A grade event saw 12 starters with several rolling off the front to open small breaks over the others at different times during the race. Such was the increased strength of the bunch that alt breaks were covered quite comfortably until down the back for the final eight km. At that point Chris Joustra who had surged on several previous occasions, took Colin Aitken and Glen Gibson with him to open a handy break. With the other riders deliberating, Phil Gallagher rode strongly from the back and came across to the leaders to set up a tight finish.
Gibson led out the final sprint but the talented Gallagher again belted along the outside of the road to come away to score well in a smart time of 53:21. Joustra held on well for second ahead of Gibson and Aitken with Murray Fenwick and Geoff Thomson leading in Paul Rowse and Dave Redman in the second bunch. Chris Kypriotis came in off the back ahead of Lenny VanBerkel whilst two riders failed to complete the course.
The B grade event, which was also over three laps, again saw a close finish with not a lot between the riders at the finish. Despite losing an unlucky Grub Melnyk with a puncture after 12 km and Ian Fromholtz dropping his chain after 20, the other riders sorted themselves out over the first two laps. It was not until the final climb past Marist that the active “Dogged” Rohan Watts, Paul Mead and Stuart Cuckson split the bunch with a fast break. However, with some strong riding headed by the much-improved Travis Fromholtz, a group of seven came together again around the long left-hander in Landsborough Rd.
As has been the case on several recent occasions, the final sprint turned in to a tight finish with Paul Mead leading out for a long charge home. Again though it was the improved sprinting ability of Cuckson that came to the fore as he went to the lead and held on comfortably for a victory in a time of 58.36. Paul Yeatman again finished well for second with Watts also showing improved sprinting to come in third, ahead of tiring Mead. Travis, of whom it was said by one of his opponents ‘ rode like two men”, came in two seconds off the winner with Graeme Hanks just behind him. Ian Fromholtz worked hard on his own after his earlier misfortune and picked up over ten seconds on the main bunch over the last lap. He had a great sprint with Tim Eerhard with the latter just grabbing seventh on the line whilst two other riders plus Melnyk registered DNF with gear trouble.
The seven C Graders were sent to cover one intermediate (4.25 km) and two large circuits of the Landsborough Rd course. After a close and solid push over the first circuit, Bruce Mason in only his second ride with the club, blitzed his opponents to take 30 seconds out of them over the next 12 km. Despite some strong work behind him. Mason was able to hold on well to score impressively in a time of 48.15 for the 28.25 km. In another good sprint to the line, Ross Henry held out the fast finishing Wilf Tampaline for second some 25 seconds behind the winner and just in front of Tony Lorback and Peter Stanfield. Brian Miller put in an improved effort for sixth with Dale Grant battling on well but nine minutes down on Mason.
For the D graders, the excitement started before the event when a wounded Ted Dunn arrived after coming off his bike whilst on his way to the cycling. Despite a couple of nasty gashes which later required three stitches, and following some repair work by First Aider Sue Van derveen, the gutsy veteran rode off with four others to cover 24 km. The adrenalin must have been pumping over the first lap as Dunn attacked and would not allow Peter Bailey any latitude at the front of the field. It was not until well into the second lap that Bailey was able to shrug off the veteran and go on to score a comfortable win in a time of 42.13. Russ Walker, who along with the other riders was bemused by the attacking Dunn, finally grabbed second over two and a half minutes behind the winner and 12 second ahead of Ted. Kevin Mills came in fourth with Marion Ophof fifth both in their best times over the 24 km course
The seven juveniles rode a 15 km secret handicap with Scott Keeble and Ben Fleming off scratch. Sensing that Ben and Jason Boxall were having gear trouble, Scott put the hammer down in mid race and in a strong solo ride careered away to win comfortably in a net 26.34 with a fast last lap of five minutes dead. Ben battled on well for a net 27.13 with Jason taking third ahead of Mick Delaney whose effort was his best since he started riding with the club. Ryan Ritchie and Stephen Fenwick who both show cycling promise finished fifth and sixth whilst another newcomer Travis Wells put in an excellent effort first up.
With Gallagher on 47 and Cuckson 37, the fight is on for third between Dunn, Henry, Bailey, Yeatman, Walker and Watts with several others close behind on the points table.