Chris Stace has been crowned Armidale Cycling Club Road Racer of the Year 2017 after a nail-biting finish to a fast and furious Dangarsleigh 30km handicap race on Saturday that saw Harrison Munday’s 2014 course record smashed by over a minute. Riding at a screaming pace, the scratch riders did everything they could to bully their way to the front of the race and gain the necessary bonus points to unseat Chris, but in the end he held on to win the season-long competition by a solitary point from Mick Harris thanks to some strong riding from front runners and race winner Luke Milan.
Thirty riders rolled up to contest the final round and there were no easy rides for anyone with a rapid outward leg despite a slight SE headwind. Two more Harris’s were in the mix with a brief welcome home for Ben and a first welcome to road racing for James. Despite finishing just a little bit behind the winners on the day, James achieved his stated pre-race objective of “finishing before it gets dark” and wins the award for the best 15km turn. Check it out below – well worth emulating if you can and hopefully the first of many, welcome to the dark side James.
Scratch were ripping through the pack on the outward leg with Mick Harris and Dave Munday four points and four and a half minutes in arrears of the league leader at the start of the day. They were joined by Mick Hoult and an in-form Brent Rees (Inverell), together packing some serious punch. The group caught Block just 5km into the race and these riders could only sit on and watch as the bunch ahead was brought into range and then captured before the turn.
At that turn the size of the task ahead looked daunting for Scratch. While their quarry, in the form of Chris Stace, was now in sight just 41s ahead, the race leaders and those all-important bonus points were far from close. The remnants of the four-minute group were over 90s ahead, but that wasn’t the front of the race. Half a dozen riders from the two-minute group, plus Go rider Jo Wauch, had turned over four minutes to the good. With a favourable SE wind, the odds were not favouring a Scratch catch.
That did not seem to daunt the riders one bit, they blazed through the turn with those not in the first four scrambling to stay in contention. Chris Stace’s group was collected and dropped and riders were strewn along the road as the Scratch train powered on. David Cook and Ben Harris were having more success than most, just about managing to stay in contention but the way the chasers tackled the Monument climb put an end to that.
After a solid piece of approach work, Brent Rees launched what looked like a finish line sprint up the final slope with only Mick Harris able to stay with him. Houlty and Dave Munday were still in contention just a few metres off their wheels while Cookie and Ben Harris started to be distanced at this point, despite giving their all in an out-of-the-saddle charge. Dave and Houlty got back on over the top and the four then continued to trade blows all the way to the finish line.
Up ahead Luke Milan gave a strong hint of his real form with a powerful finish, reminiscent of 2014 when he decimated the field to win the 2014 RROTY Competition with 137 points. This time round San Remo crossed the line to take victory 5s ahead of an impressive ride from Chris Belson with Dave Jenner not far behind, posting a PB and claiming third.
At this stage, Chris was out of contention for bonus points meaning Mick Harris or Dave Munday needed to finish next in order to tie on points with Chris. Mick had the superior points-per-race figure so equal points would see him top the league. Next over the hill was… Bourkey, the man who stood between Scratch and glory and he didn’t let Chris down, finishing well to get 7 bonus points, leaving just 6 available for Mick and Dave to fight over as runners-up.
Sure enough, the next riders over the crest were from Scratch. It was Brent Rees who crossed the line first, once again showing that ruthless sprinting ability to finish just ahead of Mick Harris in a time of 42:16s at an astonishing average of 42.59kph. Rule 1.4.3 states that a non-ACC rider finishing in the top 5 doesn’t collect RROTY bonus points, so Mick’s 6th place gained him 6 points, one short of what he needed to take the contest.
Chris Stace came home unsure of what had happened ahead but soon with a broad smile on his face, a worthy and very popular winner of the 2017 Road Racer competition. Congratulations Chris and also to Mick Harris as runner-up in what has been an enthralling contest this year. Well done also to Luke Milan on a fine victory.
Thanks to Mick Harris and Carl Hooton for performing sign duty after a bit of 11th hour delegation from Dave Harris and to Col for running the race and providing photos and video footage that made reporting the results much easier.
Finally, a huge thank you to all 60 riders who have contributed to the 2017 Road Racer of the Year competition. It has once again been a fantastic event and we look forward to another, equally competitive league in 2018.
|RHYS Brent||05||0:10:30||0:21:18||0:20:58||0:42:16||0:01:09||42.59 FT|