After a thrilling final round of the Club Championships on Saturday 13 September, the series concluded with joint winners in both A and B grades.
Mitch Bullen and Geoff Straub were joint Club Champions for 2008, after finishing equal on 18 points apeice. Dave Jenner and Reece O’Hara shared the B grade title, also finishing level on 18 points, while Gillian Backhouse was the C grade winner with 19 points.
The final leg of the six round series was a criterium at the Traffic Education Centre, and featured some excellent racing.
A grade began with a large field of 14 riders, and got off to a shaky start when after three laps Mitch Sozou touched a pedal on the road going through the chicane. In the ensuing confusion the bunch split with Straub, Bullen, Sozou and Dave Munday getting a jump on the rest of the field. Several riders managed to rejoin the leaders, including Mick Hoult who came from last place after being forced off the road during the chicane incident.
A second group including Rob Tindale, Pat Ainsworth, Pat McMillan, Peter Wilkinson and Andrew Swan tried hard to stay in the race but realistically had no chance of getting in the points, and were taken off the track in the final stages.
On the final lap, Straub and Bullen broke away from the others, with Bullen unleashing a devastating sprint to take the win. Straub finished in second place, just ahead of Hoult and Sozou with Munday the only other finisher in fifth place.
Bullen and Straub have consistently shown their quality throughout the season, at all levels of racing from club though to State events, and were deserving winners of the Club Championship title. Sozou is a young rider who has also competed strongly, finishing in third place in the Championship.
A large field lined up in C grade, and put on a very competitive race. Competition leader Gillian Backhouse went to the front strongly in the middle stages of the race and caused a split in the bunch. With five riders now in tow, Backhouse kept the pressure on until the final lap, but in the end could not dislodge the sprint specialists. In an exciting finish, Angus Swan took the win by half a wheel from Lasse Mikkelsen, with Cody Burton close behind in third place. Backhouse finished in fourth after her efforts in the lead, with Rogan McPhie in fifth place.
Although Backhouse had already secured the overall win before the final round, the result allowed Swan to join Burton on equal points (15) in the runner up position, with Mikkelsen just behind on 14 points. These four riders are part of a rapidly improving group of juniors, with all four having won races during the series. All are very close in ability and have the potential to become strong riders for the club in coming years.
On most days, it would be hard to beat the competition displayed in the A and C grade races. But B grade did just that, in undoubtedly the most exciting club race for many years.
This was the most closely contested grade, with three riders having the chance to win the series going into the final round, including criterium specialist Dave Jenner, 15 year old Reece O’Hara, and the always competitive Peter Creagan.
Jenner had been showing improved form, winning Rounds 4 and 5, which put the pressure on the other two to do something special. The special moment came just after the half way point of the race. Timing his move to perfection when Jenner went briefly to the rear of the pack, O’Hara launched a brilliant attack. While this tactic rarely succeeds at this level, on this occasion he built up a very handy lead of a couple of hundred metres and dug deep to stay in front.
Jenner set off in pursuit with Creagan and Greg Murison, leaving the rest of the bunch behind. Working together they slowly ate into the gap but the pace was costly, with first Murison and then Creagan dropping off, leaving the chase to Jenner.
For a while it seemed as though O’Hara might hold on to the finish, but Jenner caught him with one lap to go. With both riders spent from their efforts, O’Hara led up the hill for the final time, before Jenner led out down the finishing straight. O’Hara came off his wheel for the final sprint but just missed out on the win by the smallest of margins.
It was a brave effort from these two riders with both doing justice to the club motto of “never ever give up”. And while a dead heat may have been the best outcome, it was fitting that the result meant that they finished on equal points to be joint winners of the grade.
Creagan never stopped trying to finish in third place, both in the race and the series.
At the end of the day, there were some fine performances from riders in all three grades, enjoyed by all in attendance. It was a great conclusion to an excellent Championship series.
For all the details, see the Club Championships page