In-spite of a late charge with back-to-back wins by Carl Hooten in the last 2 rounds of the competition, Rob Hale has been crowned Armidale Cycling Club Road Racer of the Year 2018 after a hard-fought 30km handicap race on a windy 30km Dangarsleigh course.
The warm spring weather saw 32 riders taking up the gauntlet that had been thrown down by Rob from his Gold Coast training camp. But there were no easy rides on course as 30+kmh gusting SW winds placed a premium on large groups working together, and had the smaller groups fighting a losing battle with the weather gods to reel in those ahead of them.
The club was delighted to welcome 2 new riders, and Jane Simmonds & Ali Flynn combined well to put in a spirited ride as the Go riders. 2 minutes behind a trio of Jacqui, Olive and Andrew May set about the chase, with Olive fine tuning her form ahead of the upcoming Interclub Junior Racing.
At 6 minutes an experienced group of 6 riders were next off the line, with in-form Carl Hooten, defending RROTY champion Chris Stace, always ice-cold Billy Mara, flying Greg Flynn, diesel Dene Bourke, and Iron-Man Alex Thomas relishing the task at hand. They were followed by a strong quartet of Nathan Paul, Rob Tindale, Mitch Jones & Pete Hosking at 10 mins, and how these groups worked together would hold the key to how the days events unfolded.
Following on were smaller groups at 12, 14, 15 mins, with Block at 16 mins; and as they battled the winds and each other on the outbound leg they struggled to make inroads into the larger groups ahead. It was also great to see Mick Harris (and his Dads flappy shorts) back from his adventures on the MTB worlds circuit sporting the national colours; but the stripes on your jersey would count for nothing as Scratch chased the groups ahead in vain.
The strong cross-tailwinds on the outbound leg meant that by the time Col reached the turn with the requisite GoPro, the lead groups were already on the return leg; but Strava flybys shows the 6 minute group holding onto a 2:30 lead at the turn on the 10 minute group, with the 12 min group of Kirky, Flappy, Clinto & Hessy another 1:30 back.
Strong work by 2nd placed RROTY rider Pat Ferris and Jason Simmonds had their trio taking time out of their immediate chasers, but at the turn controversy struck as Jasons wireless gears malfunctioned and robbed their group of a key rider as Pat homed in the groups ahead and the RROTY points he needed to claim the title. Was there a hacker at play out on course, or did Jason have his gears wireless signal tuned into Triple J? As the GoPro footage was inconclusive we’ll never know, but the change in fortunes brought Robs group back into play, and having combined with the Block trio they formed a potent peloton as they turned into the headwind for a tough run home.
The strong headwind on the return leg played havoc with the groups, with riders being shed at regular intervals. At the front of the race the lead group continued to work well but the climb up from the monument saw the lead group finally splinter, and it was a trio of Alex Thomas, Carl Hooten, and Billy Mara who pushed on to contest the finale. And in an impressive throw for the line it was Carl who took the honours, with an excellent second place for Billy, and Alex rounding out the podium a few seconds back.
Back in the fight for RROTY honours, Robs group had reeled Pat in by the monument and although there were a couple of half-hearted efforts to break loose this group would roll together to the line where the sprint honours were taken by Jonny with Rob marking Pat all the way before finishing with a flourish behind the Eagle.
It was all academic though as riders from the 6 & 10 minute groups held sway to take out the top placings, with great teamwork and strong rides all round. Scratch chased hard with Mick Harris recording the fastest time on the day, and Dave Munday hot on his heels. But the day belonged to Carl with an impressive win, and well done to all riders for competitive racing in challenging conditions.
It was all smiles for Rob Hale as he took out a well deserved RROTY title, a worthy winner in a hard fought contest. Congratulation also go to Pat Ferris who pushed him all the way to take out the runner-up spot, and to all riders who took part in this years RROTY competition.
Finally, thanks again to Col for running an excellent race, Pat for the signs, and we’ll see you for a 30km graded scratch race on Dangarsleigh next weekend.
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