A big turnout of club members characterised the 11th of September race on Long Swamp last weekend, with well stocked fields for grades from A right back to D in the able hands of Gary Sisson, our host for the day.
The milling crowd on the start line included Phil Thomas, fresh from blinding magpies with a collection of lights on his helmet that may be referred to the RSPCA, a fresh looking Weston family, Swannie (recently signed to Team Katusha judging by his outfit), and Wilf carting two and a half kilos of new grey beard as a handicap.
An exasperated “grade yourselves” from Swannie announced the scratch race, with competitors standing around, hoping not to be the first to artificially handicap themselves out of contention. B filled quickly with A grade legs, C with B, D with a group of sensible riders and A with the riders not quick enough to place themselves elsewhere as the other squares were full.
The A grade bunch were sent off first, with a reportedly steady pace as the group spent the first three legs of the course in a tight bunch with no obvious weak links. All that changed after the last turnaround as the pace was noticeably upped, culminating in an attack by Rob Tindale on the Imbota Forest hill which allowed him to put 10 metres into a gasping bunch, with Mick Hoult doing his best impression of Cadel Evans – 5 metres off the back and head tilted to one side as his diesel gasped for fuel pressure. Once over the crest, Mick quickly rejoined the A grade bunch who had collectively decided to leave Rob hanging out to dry like a soiled bedsheet before swamping him on the final climb to the finish line. Andrew Kirk, Brent Weston and John Scott-Hamilton emerged the fastest from that climb with Andrew Kirk recording a decisive victory over the ever impressive Brent.
The B grade race was a completely different affair, with shadow boxing and feinting apparent from the start line as “Ice Cold” Billy Mara related in the bar afterwards. Despite Billy’s outwardly cool and urbane demeanour (it’s rumoured he’s so cool he was the sound engineer on Miles Davis’ “Birth of the Cool”, the first bouncer at CBGB’s in New York, the Clash’s wardrobe manager for “London Calling” and Justin Beibers hairdresser) you could tell he had enjoyed himself. Individual efforts and leg testing amounted to little with the eventual winner Nick Myhill finally victorious over Roger Munday and Phil Thomas.
The usual suspects lined up for C grade – Jacketless Mick Sozou, Dean Bourke, Chicka Russell and Dave Rubie were joined by Sam Jenner and Aylie Allen, Aylie’s bike a stunning French number in red which stopped traffic and generated a lot of attention. Mick Sozou, eager to capitalise on his newfound celebrity led the bunch out quickly from the start, quickly relegating Sam off the back and putting Dave and Aylie into distress by the time the bunch was traversing the false flat to the first turnaround. Aylie dropped first, quickly followed by Dave as they hit Imbota forest. Mick, Dean, Chicka and Wilf then proceeded together until the final climb where Wilf and then Dean were dropped, leaving Mick and Chicka to contest the sprint. Chicka unleashed his patented Chicka Chicka Boom to take the race, a legacy he credits to years as a track racer. Aylie, who struggled with rhythm over the first half, executed a much faster last two legs to overhaul a dispirited Dave over the course of the race and impressively finish within sight of the winning group, leaving Dave to win two swoops from the magpie patrolling the cutting while wishing he had Phil Thomas’ Christmas tree helmet.
A smaller D grade field including Phil Bookalil, Ray Phillips, Jackie Weston and Freya Weston headed off last, with Phil Bookalil quickly stamping his authority on the race, exploding the field and riding solo to victory.
In a magnanimous display, Nick Myhill and Andrew Swan then pushed their combined Coffs Harbour winnings over the bar at the bowling club to be converted into beer, which was eagerly consumed by a happy and grateful crew. Overheard in the bar were plans by the intrepid Grafton to Inverellers to attack Ben Lomond at dawn in the morning, and Ray understating a “slight wobble” in his rear wheel, which turned out to be not so much a wheel as a loose collection of parts that were vaguely arranged in a wheel like shape. Thank goodness for spoke tools.