A mid-winter 3-lap assault of the hilly Long Swamp course could have gone either way yesterday but the weather gods behaved and an excellent race ensued. With regular handicapper Mick Hoult away racing in Tamworth with Keglegs, there were no favours dished out for our perennial club whinger. Kirky had gone to the trouble of applying impressive-looking bandages to his right leg covering a fake ‘wound’ but canny Maciver saw straight through that and put him where he belonged – in Block, 20-minutes after Go rider Jaqui King had peeled off the start line.
The now very familiar Scratch pair of Dave Munday and Mick Harris were a further two minutes back and had their work cut out with a strong cross/headwind on the return legs. San Remo and Chris Belson were off 10-minutes but were quickly collected on the first lap by a well-matched 12-minute group that were really motoring. In that group were RROTY League leaders Chris Stace and Alex Thomas along with in-form Rhys Williams, Billy Mara and Bourkey. This bunch had chopped their gap on Jacqui King in half at the end of the first lap and by the end of the second they were only just over a minute in arrears. With one lap to go they still had a comfortable margin of 3m:26s on the chasing pack which was about to get bigger as the last 3 groups on the road combined.
Scratch and Block were working well and screamed past the 17-minute group when they caught them on the outward climb of Imobta (referred to as Nimboyda by Kirky). The hot pace continued with realisation that there was still some serious chasing to be done and they were steadily reeling in the leaders ahead.
By the last turn the gap to the front of the race was a shade over 2-minutes and down to 70s at the top of Nimboydia. By the time they got to the foot of Dump Hill where Bourkey peeled off, it was 40s. Chris Stace and Ice Cold Billy Mara kept the charge going up the first half of the climb but then also succumbed to the high pace as it levelled off. This left Rhys and Alex Thomas still with a 30s advantage, looking over their shoulders as Mick Harris launched another trademark attack off the front of the chasing bunch behind.
This time however Mick couldn’t make the catch, although he denied Chris Stace some valuable points overcoming him and Billy on the final ramp as they gulped in lungfuls of rotting dead things wafting over from the dump courtesy of a favourable northwesterly.
Rhys powered over the line for a well-deserved first handicap race win, and his fastest time on Long Swamp for over 2 years. Alex was only 1s behind, recording his 6th podium of the year and third 2nd place result on the Long Swamp course this season. Mick charged home just 9s later finishing off another fine race with fastest time, Chris Stace and Dave Munday grabbing the last of the bonus points.
Alex Thomas now sits proudly on top of the RROTY League with a 2-point gap on Chris Stace followed by Mick Harris and Dave Munday. With these four riders finishing in the top-5, they’re now starting to pull out a bit of a gap on PC and Wilf.
Many thanks to PC for marking out the course (which included two excellent new A-Frame traffic signs) and running the race with some much-appreciated cone work at the turns. Congratulations to Rhys on his first club win and well done Mick Harris on grabbing fastest time yet again. Next week we are finally back on Dangarsleigh and, weather permitting, with bragging rights at stake in the Munday family and a newly-resurfaced course, we might just see a new fastest time set.