Although the racing wasn’t anything like as tough as riders had experienced on the 2018 Grafton to Inverell earlier in the day, the strong winds and cold temperatures really tested every one of the 23 riders who braved the elements for a 45km three-lap scratch race on long swamp yesterday afternoon.
There weren’t too many volunteers for A-grade but eventually eight riders were convinced to get things underway. Even though this wasn’t a handicap race, Mick Harris volunteered to have a handicap, and the video shows he set off 50s in arrears of the the 7-strong A-Grade bunch. B-Grade rolled off the line a little later and then there was a bit of a delay until C-Grade finally went with Paul and Olive circling back to wait for Matt before heading out into the wind.
By the end of the first lap in A-grade Mick had made the catch and was driving things hard at the front with Houlty doing his fair share as always. There was a bit of a kick 100m after the turn onto lap 2 which caught Swanny and Jason out. Jason chased hard for a couple of kilometres but the strong crosswinds and, with the might of the Harris engine stacked strongly against him, he gradually drifted back, although his solo times for the last two laps were impressive.
Bill Mara appeared mid-course having missed the start but clearly not his morning Weetbix, lapping strongly with Scratch for a while, sociably spending time with the leaders and then Swanny, as that pair embarked on a chase.
Meanwhile back in B-grade things were no less tough. There were some strained legs on the first hills and an early split resulted. By the end of the first lap, five riders were established at the front and they ended up lapping at a good pace until the end. Pat Ferris again looked strong along with Peter Hosking, Alex Thomas, Phil Thomas and Rob Tindale. Jo Wauch gamely started with B-grade and then paired up with Paul in C who had lost Olive and Matt after a tough first lap.
Mick Harris and Houlty continued to drive things at the front in A grade, notably with a resurgent Kirky for company who seems to have hit some form just ahead of the Invergowrie road race. The trio powered along in the crosswinds with consistent timing and some monster turns from Mick. In the end he still had the legs to jump away from Houlty on the final climb of Dump Hill with Kirky just dropping off the pace on the last ramp.
Pat Ferris felt he had the legs on the last lap and launched a bold solo attack on Imbota with 5km remaining. He pulled away into the wind and despite hard chasing from the other four in his group, held his lead. Peter Hosking just managed to get the better of Alex Thomas in a strong finish to round off the places in that grade and, having run out of competitors, Paul Whitford finished the job off with a well-earned win in C grade.
Congratulations to Mick Harris, Pat Ferris and Paul Whitford on their victories and well done to everyone for competing in tough and challenging conditions. Thanks also to Kirky for his sign duty and to everyone he convinced to help with the marshaling on the day.
|Rider||Grade||Place||Lap 1||Lap2||Lap 3||Finish||Avg|