Autumn sunshine and blue skies brought riders in numbers to the hilly Long Swamp course on Saturday for Round 3 of the 2015 Road Racer of the Year competition. 27 riders raced 3 laps of the course in an extended distance of 45K to stretch the legs in readiness for the 100K Mount Yarrowyck next weekend.
Col had combined science with the black art of handicapping, knowing that this course in particular tends to favour certain riders he’d checked prior race results for each rider and produced an updated handicapping sheet which would prove to be uncannily accurate for the majority of riders.
Bob and Ray went off Go with a healthy margin of nine minutes on a group of four chasers that included a promoted Jo Wauch and a returning Jim Cook and Haydo. Blanchy, in the company of Wilf and David Cook, was back on his road bike and elected to self-promote to the eleven minute bunch which will no doubt cost him dearly next week. The big news at the back of the field was the demotion of Kirky to the chopping block which fired him up no end, and as he set out with a three-minute advantage over scratch there was fire in his eyes (or it could have just been the residue of last night’s Shiraz).
Bobby was half-way home on his first lap when he passed the outward-bound scratch group and turned with 1m:36 over Ray and almost 6m on Dave Jenner and Haydo. Kirky was motoring at this point and in good company with Col, Tinny and a strong-looking Jeff, they’d punched out a 24m:30s first lap. Scratch had only clawed back 33s of their 3m handicap at the turn which caused Kirky to give them a cheery wave as he headed downhill on lap 2 and continued to work his way up through the field.
By the end of lap 2 Wilf had made his way up to 2nd on the road, joining with Dave Jenner and Haydo but still just over 3m behind a consistently lapping Bobby. 30s behind them, Blanchy had been caught by the 14m trio of Bourkey, Wilko and PC who combined very effectively and were within 3s of their first lap pace. Just 1m:30s behind them was the Kirky bunch which now had Rhys on board, with scratch also exactly 1m:30s behind them but now 7 in number having picked up Tinny on the return climb of Imbota.
At the completion of the final outward leg, the groups were within potential striking distance of each other at the turn with the race very well poised and impossible to call. Scratch started to realise the danger and slowly ramped things up but up ahead Kirky had sniffed victory and with some good allies in Jeff and now Blanchy, they were pushing hard to maintain the gap. Bobby and the other lone leaders were picked off one by one by the Blanchy bunch which lost Bourkey to cramp on the final charge up Imbota but with PC and Wilko continuing to deliver, they hit the front and were leading as the final climb loomed into view. When Col emptied the tank on the final run-in to the bottom of Dump Hill it was Kirky’s group that then took over the lead with Blanchy latching onto his wheel as he hit the climb, ruthlessly ending the hopes of PC and Wilko who later came out with the classic line, “…if it had been a 44k race, we’d have won!”
By now Scratch had finally awoken to the danger but it was a case of too little too late. Despite a hot last lap in which they pulled back 1m:12s, the gap was too much and as an exhausted Kirky crossed the finish line, the chasers were still 19s behind. Blanchy dug in to grab 2nd place with Jeff taking a very well-earned 3rd.
A huge thanks to Theron and the King family for stepping in at the last minute to put the signs out and run the race which was done impeccably. Nice touch with the flags at the finish line which certainly stood out better than just cones, and well done to our resident handicapper Col who demonstrated his mastery of the dark arts as 14 riders finished in the first 60 seconds.
At the top of the RROTY league, Kirky has established a four point lead from Jeff Flatt with Wilf just one point further back in third place. Although we don’t like to unnecessarily boost his ego, that really was an outstanding ride from Kirky, ably assisted by a strong-looking Jeff Flatt. The calendar shows we have a crit at the TEC next Saturday before the Yarrowyck races and then we’re back on Long Swamp in two weeks’ time for Round 4, possibly with Andrew Kirk sitting back in Scratch once again.