Good racing conditions but a noticeable 17kph southeasterly made the going harder on the way out but ensured a rapid and exciting return on the open sections of the hilly Long Swamp course for the 20 Armidale riders yesterday. With Jo Wauch in charge of proceedings on we had the added incentive of a Valentines Day trophy for fastest time and with Col opting for a spread of 7 different handicaps with relatively short gaps between, there was to be no hiding in the bunch this week.
From the off, riders worked well in the smaller groups with Ray the lone target off Go. By the end of Lap 1, Ray still had a good lead of 28s but the 6m and 7m:30 groups had combined on the course and were now just 30s behind, Phil Thomas seemingly unaffected by the hills was again showing good form along with Alex Thomas and Clint Bourke. With Keg Legs steaming to the front on the downhill section of Lap 2 it was looking bleak for Wilf who was agonisingly just out of touch at the turn. When the lone pair of “Big K’s” Lachie and Ice Cold Billy Mara hit the half-way point, the clock showed a gap of 2m:30s on the riders immediately ahead indicating they hadn’t managed to make any inroads on the bigger bunch ahead with Jeff Flatt in turn a handful of seconds off them.
Out on the course, block had caught their own 1-minute target of Col, Tinny and a strong-looking Paul Williams as they went over Imbota at one-third race distance and after a bit of shouting and counter-rotation carrying on, had intelligently combined into a group of 6 which settled down to a good rhythm and by the turn were breathing down Jeff’s neck at just 7s but still over 3m:30s off the leaders. The 4-man scratch bunch who’d started with a 1m handicap on block, were together and now 39s behind at the turn.
The second lap saw a gradual drawing-together of riders and narrowing of time gaps but the race was still intriguingly strung out over the course with little indication of how it might end. Billy had caught up with the front-runners and Houlty was powering along to the point where it seemed quite possible that his group would also make contact before too long. Indeed, on the wind-assisted run-in to the final climb the remnants of the leading pack were within sight but with Keg Legs on the front, they were holding a good gap. There was a wonderful moment when Dene, who’d slipped off the back of his group on the previous climb, heard the block riders approaching behind him and rapidly ramped his pace in readiness. Unfortunately he’d underestimated their speed and instead of tagging on the back, he watched them charge straight by at over 50kph – sorry Bourkey!
With the leaders determined not to capitulate on the final climb, the question was now whether scratch could make further inroads on the 6-strong block+ group and in doing so claim Jo’s fastest time trophy. The assumption was the trophy would be claimed by one of the scratch riders at the start, but Houlty had other plans and along with Paul Williams he powered on up the final ramp of Dump Hill with no sign of backing off. The scratch engine room had become a bit depleted by now although H and Dave Munday were giving it everything to close the gap. H gave an Armstrong-Ullrich look at Dave at the bottom of Dump Hill, clicked up a couple of gears and launched into an impressive final attack that almost caught the block+ stragglers at the line.
As it was, Clint found further strength as the road headed skywards and came home to win by a very comfortable margin of 13s over Phil and Billy with Alex crossing for a well-deserved 4th. There were some solid rides throughout with many recording PBs and average speeds in the region of 40kph for the course. The video footage would show that H did indeed claim fastest time and the Jo Wauch Valentine Trophy but notably Houlty was only 18s behind and just 5s slower on the second lap than the fastest scratch rider. It’s not often that a block rider comes close to winning fastest time.
Well done to Clint and H and thanks again to Jo for doing the signs and running the race, complete with the extra trophy incentive. Next week we stay on the road for a return to handicap racing on the Dangarsleigh course.
|Rider||Place||Handicap||First Lap||Second Lap||Race Time||Time Gap||Avg|
|MUNDAY Harrison||10||0:13:30||0:22:47||0:22:28||0:45:15 FT||0:01:08||40.18|