The Armidale cycling club Mt Yarrowyck “Hell of the North West” as been run and won and the stories, exaggerations and outright lies can now be published:
Wilf, having arrived relaxed and ready to race, was forced on a hell-raising drive back to Armidale for the official papers before the race could commence. Flustered , he made it with time to spare but it didn’t inspire confidence in what was a perfect day for racing – beautiful weather, a light southerly wind and a road designed to beat the hard out of the hard men and women who decided to race “the big one” or silly enough just to race the toughest bits of the course (all the hills and none of the flats on the 40km and 20km courses).
When Wilf re-appeared, we took one look at his squared off rear tyre and openly wondered whether he should race at all. Ayllie Allen had start line jitters and took some cajoling to start with the 30 minute group, others wavering on the line opted to race 40 so hers was a brave decision.
The 30 minute group (Ayllie Allen, Dave Rubie, John Williams and Ben Perkins) were rather startled to see they only had a 5 minute start over last years winners, a veritable “super group” of the best handicap riders in the club (Peter Creagan, Chicka Russell, Bob Murison, Mark Haydon) augmented by Barry Jones. Five minutes seemed hardly enough to stay away over the initial climbs, let alone the whole course. Dave and Ayllie took up the majority of the work, coaxing John and Ben over the first 20km at a steadily increasing pace. Realising they were still away with a handy lead, Ayllie and Dave then stepped up the pace, taking advantage of the tail wind and riding at a fast clip, hoping to at least stay away until the 50km turn around and hoping to be able to take advantage of tiring groups to help with the head wind on the way home. Their efforts resulted in dropping John but being caught themselves 15km from Bundarra.
The Creagan group had formed a tight working unit, like Gilligans Island (they had a skipper, a professor, a movie star and whatever Mary-Ann was supposed to be, although the billionaire and his wife were sadly absent), swapping lines with the casual comfort of a group used to working together. By the time they had caught the lead bunch it was clear that Bob Murison was near the limit while Pete Creagan and Haydos were squeezing another 1 or 2km an hour out of their pace line. Ayllie and Dave sat on for 4 or 5 kilometres, trying to judge whether they had the legs to stay with them, but the effort proved too much: shedding Ben Perkins, then Ayllie, then Dave as the group entered the final climbs into Bundarra.
The Creagan group rounded the turn at Bundarra with a handy lead, followed by Dave, Ayllie and Ben Perkins in a survival group that hoovered up Bob Murison as he was dropped at the 60km mark by Creagans Crew.
The 20 minute group (Wilf Keller, Jason Blanch, Roger Munday and David Ezzy) were split on the early climbs by Munday and Blanch, who dropped Wilf and David Ezzy. Their efforts came to little as their two man group stood little chance of catching the Creagan group without extra helpers. However, the 16 minute crew came to the rescue: Lachie McPhie, Darren Croft, Phil Thomas and Bob Weston picked up Wilf and Ezzy and dragged them back to Blanch/Munday which finally put a smile on Wilfs face after the early day mishaps.
The 10 minute group rode exceptionally well with 5 riders (Sam Horwood, Col Maciver, Peter Wilkinson, Andrew Swan and Creighton Dobel), with Wilko riding very fast, Maciver playing “Mr Consistency”, Creighton Dobel from Inverell powering along on the flatter sections, and Sam Horwood also contributing well. They picked up the 16 minute group after 30km and then started to make good progress with all 8 riders working well together. Special mention of Chris Jones here who started with the 16 minute group but then rode very well in this bunch.
Off block with 5 minutes over scratch, Ray Griffin,Mitch Carrington, Terry McDonald and John Saunders failed to make much headway on the groups that preceded them and were blown apart by the scratch bunch. Mick Hoult, John Scott-Hamilton, Josh Apolony and Brendan Jones were given an almighty task to make up the 30 minute shortfall and were still behind at the 50km mark. Iron Mick Hoult took on the majority of the work, even offering a gentle push to Josh Apolony’s saddle on some of the more difficult climbs as he appeared to falter.
The final climbs proved to be decisive, as riders who were just able to hang on in the gentler portions of the course found their legs wanting as the road turned skyward again.
At this stage of the race, the faster groups finally made some ground as the brutal feeling headwind started to bite. It was barely a breath of wind but felt like a gale on some portions of the course. The combined 14/10 minute group formed up into a larger bunch and started making genuine headway into the lead groups, only to be strung out on the final climbs. Peter “there are no mechanicals” Wilkinson managed somehow to rig the explosion of his front tyre (a handy trick if you know how) and spent some minutes on the side of the road swearing at it. Once replaced, he charged back up the road again with a full head of steam to no avail, his group having long gone. Apparently it’s impossible to motivate more air into a blown tyre by yelling at it, but it took Wilko to experiment and give us the definitive answer to that question.
Peter Creagan, having blown Bob Murison, then worked with Mark Haydon and Chicka Russell into the last 20km, first popping Chicka, then Haydos and riding to a solo victory with a handy lead. Col Maciver outsprinted Roger Munday for 4th, a mighty effort given the struggle he was having to stay in touch as they approached Yarrowyck.
John Scott-Hamilton suffered a slow leak and dropped off the scratch bunch, electing to ride slowly to the finish line. The Cannibal had found the pace challenging but was staying with the scratchies until the tyre decided to give up.
Surprising the scratchies, Josh Apolony faded on the last hill, then put in a 45km/h sprint past an unwitting, grinding scratch group – a pace they couldn’t match at that stage of the race. Apolony rode off to the finish alone to record fastest time of the day at 2h 29m 13s
A nervous group of 40km riders, many of whom had never raced at Yarrowyck, were lead out by Jo Waugh, given a start of 15 minutes over the scratch bunch. She was followed 3 minutes later by Leo LeJambre and John Henshall, with a big bunch at 10 minutes including Carolyn Lupton, Dewald “Hungries” Burger, Tori Saunders, Sara Spokes, Jeremy Bartlett, Taylia Hough and Jackie Weston.
At 6 minutes the bulk of the regular C grade riders from Armidale (Jacketless Mick Sozou, Dene Bourke, Mark Jones) were joined by a smattering of juniors and inter-club riders: Britt Sisson, Harrison Munday, Kyle Schuman and Joel Bartlett. Off 4 minutes we had Lewis Chapman, Blake Schuman, Dylan Sunderland, Tom Palmer and Dean Bartlett.
Finally off scratch Kieren Lewis, Gill Burgess and Dave Munday had a big job ahead of them on paper – with the 6 minute crew being regular racers in the Armidale club they should have been able to form a decent working group. Jo Waugh, by now well used to starting by herself, set such a cracking pace that half of the 10 minute group never saw her wheel. John Henshall and Leo LeJambre formed a good working team until the last part of the race where John eventually dropped Leo. The 10 minute group split early, with Jackie Weston, Dewald Burger and Mick Sozou being dropped only a couple of kilometres into the race, Carolyn Lupton suffering from several dropped chains hampering her efforts.
The scratchies soon pounded through the field, collecting odds and sods of each group as the wind on the return leg started to take it’s toll. Taking full advantage, Harrison Munday, Tori Saunders, Lewis Chapman and Britt Sisson managed to stay with the scratch riders until Keirin finally broke free and put a solid 30 seconds into the chasing riders, winning the race and taking fastest time of the day.
Updated with a short description of the 40km thanks to Dewald – although feel free to add any personal observations if you rode that race.