A new spring classic may well have been born this week. Sandwiched between Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race in the early season calendar, the little-known Dangarsleigh Eroica, a short but ruthlessly tough barrage across the unforgiving New England landscape, will surely become part of the UCI world tour before too long.
16 riders signed on in overcast and grey but warm conditions, including Dave Smith who’d travelled from Tamworth clearly recognising the potential significance of including an inaugural victory in his palmares.
The first 8K followed the traditional Dangarsleigh race route and with no neutral zone, the handicapped groups went off at an impressive rate, appreciating the need to get to the Forest D’Angarsleigh sector ahead of rival groups where passing would be near impossible on the heavily rutted surface. As anticipated, once riders left the tarmac, the race strung out and there were already some casualties at this early stage. Bourkey was spotted on the side of the road awaiting the neutral service vehicle, but Bob had driven the ute straight to the intersection with Black’s lane so out came the inner tubes and spanners and on went a solo PC. Clint was still upright but his choice of steed meant he was heading backwards at this point although the chunky-tyred MTB certainly looked comfortable. Certainly more comfortable than sitting on Swanny’s wheel crashing through every hole and corrugation and grimly hanging on as he tore through the opening sector at an incredible pace.
Onto the relatively smooth and very straight Blacks Lane section (apparently dating back to Napoleonic times), PC could be seen ahead and was slowly reeled in by the block group shortly before he too suffered from mechanical issues aboard the otherwise beautiful looking Euro. Up ahead Lachie and Dave Smith seemed to be making good progress although they were well behind a strong-riding Hugh Munday who had shaken his 6-minute partner and was heading for the hills in style.
Ray had become another casualty of the dirt roads and at the mid-race turn the gaps between remaining upright riders were coming down dramatically. The 5-strong scratch group had only started 1m:30s behind block but had been decimated on the outward leg. As the block trio commenced the return, Harrison was ominously bearing down on them, perhaps 20s behind. A little further back was Sam Munday but there was no sign of Dave (puncture), Ben (puncture) or Houlty (double puncture) at this point.
On the upward Blacks Lane section, block had collected Dave Smith and Lachie and potentially this should have made it harder for H to get across the gap but along Elliott’s Rd, the group was back to just 3 riders with Paul Williams strongly supporting Swanny who had hit the home made gels at this point and was looking unstoppable.
Everyone had forgotten about H, and the rough surface and noise meant it was a complete surprise when he came tearing down the outside and immediately put 30m into the pack. Swanny organised the chase (again) and reeled him in with some impressive riding. Back onto the solid surface of Dangarsleigh Road, there was a strong-looking group of 4 but that became 3 before the final sector with the pace too hot for one.
Wilf was shouting ridiculously optimistic encouragement from the roadside as the chasers made the turn at the foot of the Category 1 assault of Knobs Rd. The climb proved to be particularly hard on tired legs at this point in the race with Hugh Munday still somewhere ahead out of sight of H, Swanny and Paul.
Tragically, Simmons Rd put paid to Hugh’s ambitions of victory with another puncture and the spectacular corrugations on the final crest sorted out a few more places. By now H had broken free at the head of the race and comfortably crossed the line with a 22s margin over the hard-charging but now exhausted, Swanny and Paul.
Everyone else drifted in over the course of the next 4 minutes having executed some impressive roadside puncture repairs, with the exception of the Bourke Sisters who took another 12 minutes to make it home having ridden their legs off on what were very heavy bikes. Bob returned the sag wagon which had an impressive display of shredded inner tubes in the tray and set off to collect the DNF’s from the surrounding countryside.
With everyone safely accounted for, the presentation ceremony could commence with Harrison Munday the worthy recipient of both the winners trophy (cobble/rock) and fastest time award.
A big thank you to Wilf for putting the signs, flags and cones out and running the race, ably assisted by sag-wagon driver Bobby and our on-the-scene videographer Rhys (hopefully some footage coming soon). Next week we return to solid ground with a 45K three-lap Long Swamp Special ahead of the Mt Yarrowyck club race the following weekend. Remember to get your registrations in for that ASAP if you haven’t already done so.
|MUNDAY Harrison||01||13:00||1:02:53||0:00:00||0:49:53||36.08 FT|