By Rob Monk
Handicaps are beautiful races when the handicapper gets it right. “Getting it right” means every group thinks they can win at the start; every group is still a chance of winning at the bell and the limit riders turn into the finishing straight, still leading, but with the scratchies bearing down on them. Saturday was a beautiful handicap.
First away were limit bunch of Colin Manintveld, Adele Whelan and Frank Benstead. They worked well together for a lap and half before being caught by the 11 minute group.
In the group with 11 minutes on scratch, first time racer Luke Gallagher was rolling turns well with Paul Kennedy, Andrew Jackson, Rachel Dawson and Xavier Prescott. Colin and Adel joined in and rode the final two laps with the 11 minute group.
With 7 minutes on scratch Col Brown, Graeme Patrick, Zvonko Maric and John Davine started fast. Brown and Patrick were on the same handicap that they were successful with last race but they didn’t have Ross Henry with them today. Col and Graeme proved too strong for Zvonko and John and dropped them half way through the second lap. Before the bell lap they have caught the limit bunch and Patrick and Brown were driving them along in search of victory.
Paul Yeatman, Ross Henry, Jayman Prestidge and Jayden Manintveld started 4 minutes in front of scratch. Prestidge was only useful as a moving wind break giving Henry, Manintveld and Yeatman short breaks but ultimately slowing them down. They eventually discarded the big man. Prestidge’s form continues to decline. He was only able to stay with his bunch for one and a quarter laps.
The chopping block group with 2 mins on scratch were unlikely to prevail. Rob Monk, Neil Walker, Jack Walk and Joe Patrick rolled through for the first lap while Geoff Thomson warmed up. Eventually Thommo started to chime in but this bunch was always destined to be caught.
The scratchies had the chopping block group in sight after a lap. Shane Stiles, Pete Finlayson, Cy Monk, Graeme Patrick, Pete Whelan and Leigh Hauxwell had a plan to ride four 17 minutes laps. They wanted to be steady and not shed any riders. Their plan worked well as they caught the chopping block group on lap 2 and got a few turns out of them for the rest of the race. Stiles, Hauxwell, Finlayson and Cy Monk were the main contributors. Only Pete Whelan was shelled from the bunch.
By Lap 3 scratch were combined with the chopping block and were working well. They had Yeatman, Henry and Manintveld in sight and caught them on Parkers Rd on lap four. The limit bunch now consisted of 9 riders while the scratchies were bearing down on them with a bunch of 14.
The limit riders turned into the finishing straight still in the lead but they were in sight of the chasers. Rob Monk launched off the front of the chasers and weaved through the fatiguing limit riders hoping to create interference for those chasing him. Col Brown was the only rider from the outmarkers bunch who were able to go with him.
Within sight of the line the scratch bunch tore past the limit riders, chasing Monk and Brown down. They flew past them with 400 meters to go.
Stiles waited till late, timed his sprint perfectly and cruised away to take the win. Graeme Parker and Geoff Thomson were fresh enough to finish on the podium after not taking a major role in the chase down. Then followed Finlayson and Brown. Stiles gave special thanks to rapidly improving rider Leigh Hauxwell in his victory speak. He credited Hauxwell with doing plenty of work for the scratch bunch in the chase.
Next weekend is a big one for Warragul Cycling Club Members. Saturday is the club road championships and Sunday is the State Country Road Championship. Many riders are doing the double.
The Club Championship consists of 5 sections: J17 and under, J19 and Elite, Masters 123, Masters 456 and Womens.