Last weekend, the 20th and 21st August 2016, Port Macquarie Cycle Club hosted the Percival Property Northern Division Championships which had not been held for several years. There was fierce racing in every event with riders racing for prize money and the title of Northern Division Champion.
Despite the culmination of the Rio Olympics, Armidale still had sufficient athletic depth to send a representative squad down to the coast. Tom Simmonds, Mick Hoult, Phil Thomas and Jo Wauch put on the Green and Yellow and did us proud. Thanks to Armidale’s Phil “Keg Legs” Thomas for providing the following personal take on events and congratulations to our riders on some excellent performances.
Midweek I had everything as organized as I could to get myself to Port for the Northern Division Championships. The body was as good as it was going to be, I had the cheap motel booked and the extra fluid for the leaking clutch in the Subaru. Good to go!
As a precaution I went for a spin on the Caden carbon wheels on Thursday club ride and realised that there was still some last minute equipment preparation required. My back tyre was too large and was rubbing on the bike frame and brake mount. I could not even keep roll pace with the group down the hills; clearly this would not do.
Thanks to some urgent repair work at Bullen’s I was on the road by 5:00 pm Friday and in Port a little after 8:00pm feeling pretty relaxed and hoping that Saturday’s racing would be fun. I arrived at the Clubhouse just before 8:00am in time to see Houlty off on his race. I saw him off the front a couple of times when the laps brought the race past the road in front of the clubhouse. Classic Houlty racing, taking it to the bunch all the way, bearing in mind the racing in Mick’s age group is really hard, this was a big effort. Mick came home with the leading bunch but unfortunately did not place.
Tom Simmons, Jo and I were off in the next groups to race. Tom and I were in the same race in a mixed group that included M6, J17M, Elite W and W3. The M6 and J17M raced together and could work across groups. That made for some interesting race dynamics, beginning with the J17M group leading the race out, with those from other groups looking to work off the young legs. For me it meant that being dropped off the back in the first series of hills, which pinched my legs early in the race.
Tom was riding strongly in the early laps of the five 11k-lap race and as with Houlty, asked the question of the other riders early. He went off the front, hoping somebody would come with him but they didn’t. When eventually a couple of riders did attack and make a break, Tom’s legs were done and he couldn’t go with them. Meanwhile Jo rode a great race and won her division convincingly.
In my race, a couple of the M6 riders had stuck with the main bunch of the J17M riders. The pursuing riders (including me) did not know at this stage, that these guys were both from Coffs and being able to stick with the younger riders up the front, put them in the box seat for the win.
I was now in a group of three M6 riders and we were gradually catching the two Coffs riders clinging to the riders up front. When one of the M6 riders dropped off the front group we figured that with another set of legs, it would only be a matter of time and we would catch the front group. Unfortunately the rider that dropped back to us was not a motivated to catch the front group as we had hoped and somehow after his addition to our pursuit we saw the front group gradually draw away.
As we entered lap four of the race I realized that the M6 rider in the front group was no longer within reach. That meant that the group I was in was now racing for 2nd and 3rd place. We kept a good pace and during the bell lap and my goal was to try to stay with the group up the hill pinches on the way home and have fresh enough legs to dedicate to the long nearly flat sprint to the line. The group I was with made some rather pointed but well meaning comments to me about gorillas when discussing what might happen as we approached the line. I was quite happy to try and make their fears come to reality and managed to stay off the front on the final few kilometers to the line.
As we rounded the bend to the final straight I found myself at second wheel, with two riders on my wheel. As we passed the flags that indicated the road was all ours for the sprint, I put all the pressure on the pedal that I could manage and accelerated away from the competition. As I approached that line I started to spin faster than I had expected and realized that I was not in the best gear for the slight decline that led to the line. I had a rider on my heels and no more purchase available in the cranks. Luckily the line came to me before the rider behind and I snatched 2nd place.
Had a great time at this meeting but was not able to stay for the Sunday crit. Tom and Jo did and were the happy recipients of more medals. Jo convincing won her division in the crit and Tom managed to take 3rd place in his division. Well done to Jo and big congratulations for Tom!
This was a great meeting and the facilities at the Port club are very impressive. The thing that would really improve this racing meet would be more people racing and if at all possible I will be going again next year.