A glorious late summer afternoon saw 18 local riders and Joel Barker from Coffs Harbour turn up at the ever popular Long Swamp Road course for a “friendly” race, designed as a warm-up for next day’s Autumn Festival Criterium.
The format was a graded scratch race and (as always) there was a little bit of contention over the cut-off point between A and B grade riders (yes, Kirky was racing!) A grade contained four hardened “Three Peaks” veterans in Swannie, Kirky, Tindale (you need a decent nickname, mate) and ‘The Cannibal’, as well as Mick Hoult and young gun Michael Harris. On the line, I advised young Michael to sit on and attack on the last climb: a strategy that was beautifully and successfully executed – didn’t they listen? The race went along at a steady pace, nobody was pushing too hard and everyone turned together for the second lap at a time of 24:23. Michael attacked at the bottom of the final ascent of Dump Hill and only John S-H was able to stay with him, but, for once, his big sprint wasn’t working over the last 50m to the line.
A slightly modified B/C Grade race had Dave Jenner, Pete Wlkinson and Richard Wilkinson start 4 minutes ahead of the ‘real’ B Graders with the chance to sit on when (if?) caught. This put Dave well out of his normal comfort zone with a 5 minute ‘penalty’ compared to handicap times. The B bunch contained Pete Creagan, Rob Hale and Ben Harris (all returning from conquering the “Three Peaks” the previous weekend) and Joel Barker from Coffs cycling club. Bill Mara, Col Maciver, Dene Bourke, Paul Williams, Lachie McPhie and Phil Hess made up the rest of the peloton and they all set off at a pace that was pretty close to A grade. Phil Hess led the turn for the first lap at 25:05, closing in on the two Wilkinsons, who had dropped Dave. There was some hesitation as two SUVs caused a neutral turn and a re-forming of the bunch, but it didn’t give enough time for the two Ws to escape and they were caught before the final turn. The last few ks saw a series of attacks and the field did end up splitting.
Thanks to Wilf for putting the signs out, running the race and writing up the above story – my job is getting easier by the day!