The final race of the year took place in sweltering conditions – at least for Armidale – with temperatures nudging 32 degrees late into the afternoon, but the hard core heroes weren’t deterred with 17 riders braving the heat and turning up with some well-decorated machinery – Dene and Jeff went for the Stem-Santa look while Jo had a helmet-mounted tree (probably breaching at least 3 UCI rules) and Holly donned her aero-bells. The Parker family had done a fantastic job of setting out the course and the neutral zone resembled a World Tour event with chairs and umbrella’s on top of the usual range of support vehicles (utes).
Unfortunately our handicapper was taking a well earned break for Christmas, but with a good spread of abilities 4 groups were quickly created and Dave Jenner got proceedings underway tearing off up the road, disappearing into the shimmering heat. After his good-natured grumbles last week, we’d reserved a prime spot for Wilf but a no-show meant that next up at 6 minutes was a good-sized group of 7 including Brendon Cole on his first race outing. Two minutes later the 4-person 8-minute group lit up the road in pursuit and just 2 further minutes back a blockbuster scratch group of 6 containing all the big names and with Mick Harris for company courtesy of too many good B-grade performances of late! In hindsight the handicapping was shocking (sorry everyone) but it did ensure that for once we didn’t leave Sam Jenner hanging out to dry on another ITT chasing down the bunch – Merry Christmas Sam 😉
The 8-minute group (which had shed Jeff on the long drag up from the monument) was down to 3 but Pete Hoskings was hanging in gamely and the group of 3 picked up the head of a splintering 6-minute group containing Pete Wilkinson, Hayden Freeman and Dene Bourke which then caught and turned with Dave Jenner. As the scratch group ominously thundered down to the turn and with a slender lead of perhaps just 30s it was time to go, or be caught. And so started a rip-roaring return leg that saw scratch average 41.9Kph. The remnants of block, joined by Dene made up a Gang of Four that gave it everything to stay away with great long turns from Holly holding the chasers at bay but with just 2.5K to go and Peterson’s in sight the mighty scratch group came alongside and took control and the rest could only hang on grimly. The pace ramped up and the final run in culminated in a flat-chat 65Kph+ sprint with Harrison putting 3 bike lengths into the pack on the line.
In the true spirit of Christmas, the rest of the field paired up making for a series of 1:1 line sprints which was highly entertaining and everyone came home safely. The best finish went to Dave Jenner who’d had to drag Jeff along all the way home, eloquently summarised by Holly at the finish – “Jeff, yet again, you’ve disappointed me with your riding performance”. (Editor’s note: A little research on the Sunday morning ride shows that Jeff actually did a pre-race ride yesterday and has also been piling on some steady K’s as part of his 2-year ‘Grafton Strategy’ so we might forgive his short-term results but we expect more of you in the New Year Jeff!).
Well done to everyone for a cracking race in challenging conditions and a great way to round off the year. That’s it now for racing until January 4th but check out the calendar for some interesting events such as a Paired Teams Race, Points Race and Surprise Team handicap when we reconvene.
Have a safe, relaxing and enjoyable break and see you all in the New Year showing off those goodies from Santa…