With the roadwork on Dangarsleigh Road finally completed, Armidale Cycling Club was back on the fast undulating course yesterday for the first time since February. The Monument section which has been repaired is much improved and notably smoother (and faster) – well worth the wait and a fitting way to finish off the year with the last road race of 2015.
With no handicapper in residence this week the job was left to Swanny who got it just about perfect (although his legs might not agree). Ray went off Go with Bob at 2 minutes and a returning Scott Fittler at 3:00. Then we had 3 bunches of 5-6 riders each at 7, 10 and 12 minutes.
It was hard work on the outward leg into what was a predominantly head wind and although the groups kept their basic order on the road, the gaps had come down quite significantly by the 15k mark. Scratch had paid the price for a rapid first half and were now down to just 3 riders but the trio of Houlty, Swanny and Rob had all but caught the 10-minute group by the turn. These two groups then combined and the pace picked up with Houlty, as usual, driving things along hard. The fragments of the earlier groups were picked off bit by bit but up ahead the 7-minute group was still intact and the 5-strong bunch looked to have a good lead of around 500m as the race hit the long drag up from the Monument.
In this 7-minute group was young development rider Tom Simmons. Tom had a great race by all accounts and on restricted gearing did well to stay the pace on the homeward leg. With Captain Creagan in charge, the group rode sensibly having agreed at the start to run with 30s intervals on the front rather than thrash themselves rolling turns in the gusty conditions. This tactic worked well although Wilf and Wilko seemed to be using a sundial to do their timing.
As the chasing pack crested the Monument, three riders had broken clear on the front, realising the pace needed to be higher if they were to close the gap on the leaders with just a few k’s now remaining. This trio included Rhys Williams who was having a blinder and hung on gamely to Houlty and Rob as they ramped up the pace once again on the final rise past Peterson’s. Up ahead, PC’s group weren’t hanging around either and riding to the textbook, didn’t look back once. Round the turn at the railway, they were just 30 metres ahead and starting to wind up for the big sprint. As they crested the final rise with the long downhill finish ahead, the group was almost together. At this point Alex Thomas pulled a long turn on the front with PC settled in behind looking good for the finish. Then out of the blue, Richard shot off down the inside and gained a few bike lengths before anyone could react. PC had his whole family on the line ahead and wasn’t having any of that, so started to get the 53 x 11 going in serious fashion and it was on! As the finish line loomed, Pete powered round the outside of Wilko and punched through to win by a couple of lengths with the crowds going wild on the sidelines.
Unbeknown to them, the Scratch pair had managed to get Rhys onto the back of the pack just as Wilko made his attack and Rhys then launched an outrageous long range sprint of his own from the back of the bunch. His Garmin later showed he hit 68kph, almost making it to the front but finishing just half a wheel behind Wilko for third, his pace taking him alongside a shocked PC a few metres over the line.
Well done to PC for a fine tactical and well-earned victory with special mention to Tom Simmons and Rhys Williams for excellent solo rides on the day. Fastest time went to Houlty with a 39.8kph average. Many thanks to Paul Williams for putting the signs out and running a great race with cold refreshments once again provided and very welcome at the end. Unfortunately Rob hadn’t charged the camera before the race and consequently it packed in but amazingly did so just a few seconds after the winners had crossed the line. Consequently anyone finishing after the main pack didn’t have a recorded time – sorry everyone!
And so there ends the 2015 road race season. It’s been another great year for our club with some fantastic, competitive but always sociable racing enjoyed by all. Next weekend starts a run of Christmas Criteriums and of course on Sunday we have the Armidale Cycling Club Christmas party. A big thank you to all club members, families and friends for your help and support this year, we hope to see you all on Sunday and on the road in 2016.
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