By Geoff Cuckson
A rearrangement of the race program saw another strong victory to Phil Gallagher in Warragul Cycling Club’s extended Criteriums last Saturday. Due to the expected traffic numbers in Lardner Road, the scheduled longer scratch races were postponed until next week – the final in the summer series.
Instead a combined bunch of 16 A and B graders rode off to cover 50 minutes plus three laps of the three kilometre Wills St course whilst six C graders covered 24 kilometres.
The big group set a cracking pace over the first 18 kilometres with several riders jumping off the front in fierce attempts to break up the bunch. Most riders were able to stay in touch but the effort took its toll as the front settled into a slower and more even tempo.
The strength and experience of Gallagher, Chris Joustra and Dave Redman told as they took Geoff Thomson and Murray Fenwick to open a good break over the field with half an hour to tide. Drizzly rain made several corners very slippery with an unfortunate fall forcing a bruised Travis Fromholtz out of the race whilst a shaken Paul Mead continued on after losing ground.
At the front, Fenwick attempted a break with two laps to ride but was pulled in comfortably before the bell. In the final straight, Gallagher again showed his class by out sprinting his opponents to score in a time of 1:07:05.
Thomson, showing his enjoyment of the longer distance, zipped out from behind Gallagher close to the line but was unable to bridge the gap and took second less than a second down. Joustra came in third ahead of Redman and Fenwick with a two-minute gap to the next riders Rohan Watts and Paul Yeatman. Ross Henry put in a tremendous performance to follow them in on his own and only four minutes from the winner. He was followed another minute away by Anthony Radcliffe, Peter Bailey and Paul Mead with five riders (including Travis) registering DNFs.
Henry’s effort gave him first of the B graders with Bailey taking second – both new members showing greatly improved form over the last few weeks.
The C grade group split early with two other improvers, Dale Grant and Russ Walker settling in to consistent lap times at the front. They stayed together for the entire race, which came down to a quick sprint at the end. Grant went for home early but the wiley Walker wound his machine up to come over the top and score running away in a time of 40:30.
Ted Dunn and a resuming Kevin Mills battled on to take third and fourth over four and five minutes respectively behind the winner. Marion Ophof lost a lap to the winner as did newcomer Melissa Aarts who, in her ride, battled it right out.
On the points table with one event to complete the series, Gallagher on 54 leads Walker 49. Henry 48. Bailey and Yeatman 44 each, Cuckson 42, Watts 40, Thomson 39 and Dunn 38.
The junior under 17 boys also rode graded Criteriums with three lads covering 21 kilometres and two younger boys, 12 kilometres. Ben Fleming, Scott Keeble and Jason Boxall stuck together in the A grade event and came home strongly with fast lap times over the second half of the race.
It was not until well inside the bell that Ben kicked clear, the last lap time of 4.51 being indicative of the improvement of each of the boys. Ben went on to score comfortably in a time of 37.48, some 20 seconds ahead of Scott with Jason, an easing third, a further eight seconds away.
Stewart Hood took out the B grade event in a time of 16.05 after he and a resuming Dean Wilson went around easily together. Like Ben, Stewart kicked away in the final lap to score comfortably.
Although troubled by a knee problem, Dean rode on well and it was good to see him back in action.
Jason leads the points table with 60 ahead of Ben 41, Dean 40, Scott 28, Ryan Ritchie 22 and Steven Byers21.
As next week completes the season, the club encourages all senior and junior riders who have competed this year to come along to the last event. We have had 19 juniors and 65 seniors take part since Christmas and an attendance of most of those would be a great finish to the season.
The wind up and presentation of trophies is to be held in the form of a barbecue at the velodrome in conjunction with the club’s track championships next Saturday evening commencing at 5 pm. All competitors and families are invited to attend -see members of the club race committee for details. Club members are also advised that the autumn road combines are scheduled for Sunday, April 18 and May – note the second event has been returned to the original date of May 2.