It was the first road race of the season for Armidale Cycling Club yesterday and a great turnout of 25 riders made it an interesting and competitive one. The choice of the Long Swamp course ensured it wasn’t a procession and although a big bunch collected at the start of the last lap, it was shredded on the Imbota climb when Mick Harris attacked to make a real race of things.
Jacqui King, Emily Wooster and Bella Hosking got things moving in the Go group along with Jason Simmonds and a still-sore Dene Bourke who was recovering from another MTB misadventure. By the time they turned at the half-way mark it was the fresh MTB legs of Emily and Bella that were spinning most freely with Jason hanging in there and still with over seven minutes on the growing Scratch/Block group that were steadily mopping up those inbetween.
Lone Wolf Wilf had attacked his group and the trio was in disarray as a result with Chris 30s in arrears and PC another 30s behind that. Swanny spent the whole of the first lap trying to convert the male MTB crew into road riders but they seemed immune to his subtle advice on positioning and drafting. They weren’t going badly though, punching out a 24:29s lap with Lachie just managing to tag on the back courtesy of a rather creative rapid turn (ahem).
Two cars caused a 10+s delay at the turn for Scratch/Block who had swelled to 9 in number having nursed their group up Dump Hill under the instructions of Kirky and Houlty. They were now just 40s behind, with the catch seemingly inevitable. Sure enough, on the reverse side of Imbota David Cook drove the line up the inside of 7 riders at sufficient pace to make connection a challenge for some.
The final inbound turn was an interesting affair with a range of rider skills and associated turning circles being exhibited. Somehow everyone negotiated it without incident and off went Houlty and Cookie driving the pace from the front. A couple more riders were picked up before the foot of Imbota and it seemed that the pace would remain steady when Mick Harris tore through the pack and unleashed a fearsome attack up the climb. Cookie and Rob made it over the top with him and these three then worked together to hold a gap of 15s on the pack with Houlty, Kirky and Holly organising the chase behind.
Up ahead, Jason was going well and showing the benefit of those early morning Invergowrie sessions. While all the action was happening on Imbota, he was over 3 minutes in the clear in the company of Emily and Bella. He fairly flew up Dump Hill to freewheel over the line for a well-deserved maiden club race victory, almost six minutes quicker than his last attempt in October 2016. Emily held on for second place by 2 bike lengths on Bella and over a minute ahead of the main field.
Despite a hard chase, the pack didn’t reel in the trio ahead and Mick and Cookie charged away up the final climb of Dump Hill to cross the line together with fastest time on the day, at an impressive average of 38.72kph.
Congratulations to Jason, Emily and Bella and great rides also from Jacqui King and Angus Apps who, despite being given a very tough handicap, held on superbly for lap 1 and then blew up spectacularly after that! Thanks also to Richard Wilkinson for running the race and providing a small amount of cold water which was drunk by the early arrivals before the race had even begun.
A reminder to all members that we have a club meeting at 5:30pm next Wednesday 8th Feb at Armidale Bicycle Centre. Please come along to share your thoughts and ideas on upcoming events. We have a potential Interclub Criterium series with Tamworth starting on 25th Feb, the much-awaited 40km Dangarsleigh Bianche on 4th March and the Autumn Festival Criterium on 19th March. Keep an eye on the Calendar and this website for more details of these very soon.
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