Armidale won the Overall Club Points Trophy and Inverell took out the two General Classification competitions yesterday in Round 3, the final round of the Northwest Interclub Tour. Inverell had selected a challenging 42.8k variation on their Gilgai course which included the drop down and climb back up Howell Road towards Copeton Dam. Riders were split into smaller Go, 4 and 8 minute groups, chased by an imposing 8-strong Scratch bunch including John Frieberg and Phil Kelahar alongside current GC contenders Dan Wilks and Armidale’s Mick Hoult.
In the Overall handicap GC, the top 4 riders were all together in the 4-minute bunch which boded well for an exciting contest although an early touch of wheels disrupted this group with Colin Swanbrough and Phil Thomas losing time after sportingly stopping to help David Smith. They both latched onto the 8-minute bunch but the pace on the long climb out of Copeton was just too much for them to hang on to.
The 8-minute group still had a 4+ minute deficit on the leaders at the turn and a healthy advantage on Scratch who had a monster 16 minute handicap at the start. When they hit the main road with 12k remaining they picked up the pace, driving on to try and catch the leaders. At the front of the race, Alex Thomas and Dene Bourke were now a lone pair, slowly being reeled in by Inverell riders Jason Sprang, Peter Baz and Tony Schuman who had picked up Richard Wilkinson from the Go group.
Further back, Scratch were powering on and with a cross-tail wind had torn up the long climb out of Copeton with John Frieberg in determined mood to bridge the mighty gap. Dan Wilks was locked onto Mick Hoults wheel knowing that the 7-second advantage he held in the GC would be sufficient if he remained in contact.
With just over 1k remaining, the remains of the 8-minute group caught the Inverell trio but even as a combined bunch they weren’t going to bridge the gap to the pair ahead. Dene Bourke outsprinted Alex Thomas for first place, the pair rolling over the line 35s ahead of the hard-charging mob behind. Steve McMahon topped off a strong ride to win the bunch sprint and claim third place with Rob Hale and Jason Sprang rounding off the bonus club trophy points.
Just over 2 minutes later, 7 remaining Scratch riders came charging over the line led by Phil Kelaher who took out the bunch sprint from Sam Munday with Dan Wilks in very close attendance having averaged 41.7kph for the out and back course.
In the overall standings, Armidale’s consistent points scoring resulted in a monster 79 points tally across the 3 events. Tamworth scored 35 and Inverell 29. A different story unfolded in the GC competitions over the course of the tour however with Dan Wilks retaining his margin of 7s over Mick Hoult to win the overall fastest time GC having led from the first round. A change of order at the top of the Handicap GC saw Peter Baz leapfrog fellow Inverell club rider Colin Sawnbrough to take first place by 38s with Andrew Swan finishing third a further 30s back.
Many thanks to Inverell for running a great contest and closing off the tour in fine style. Well done to all clubs and club riders throughout the series having hosted and supported the tour which will hopefully continue to be a regular fixture in the local racing calendar. Thanks also to New England Mutual and Armidale City Signs for donating the winners jerseys.
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