Thirty nine riders raced over 5 grades in nearly perfection conditions on the Darnum Circuit on Saturday. The highlight of the day's racing conducted by the Warragul CC was another first time winner in E grade -the girls are racking up the wins.
The talk all week was of a group of “gun riders”, the Zoom Video Cycling Team, who were coming down from Melbourne to take on local hero Shane Stiles. Stiles has taken on all comers this year and beaten them all but this week he was nowhere to be seen when the competition arrived.
Luckily Brenton Jones stepped up for the locals and showed the boys from Melbourne how we do it. A break comprising Jones, Adam Versteege and Michael Brown was established early in the proceedings and try as they might, the others were unable to reel them in. Nick Youngs tried valiantly to bridge across to them but rode more than half the race in “no man’s land” between the break and the chasing pack.
Brenton was just too quick for Adam in sprint taking the win for the locals. Michael was third with Nick in forth. Graeme Parker and Pete Finlayson rode well in the chasing group and were not outclassed by the Melbourne boys.
Plans were hatched pre-race by B grade heavyweights Rob Monk and Jayman Prestidge. They made a pact to collude and attack the bunch repeatedly. The duplicitous Prestidge though had other ideas.
Monk tried repeatedly to break up the race early with first Pete Whelan and then Colin Aitken working with him. Prestidge reneged on agreements and sat on the back or blocked the chasers.
Aitken attacked again on lap 5 and Rob Preston had a lap off the front too. Prestidge was the only rider to not contribute at all to the chase efforts. His main contribution in the bunch was to provide an annoying moving road block to anyone wanting to escape or chase.
Joe Patrick made a small break on the final lap but was caught at the butter factory. Pete Whelan attacked on the final hill and immediately had Prestidge in trouble. Someone needed to chase Whelan and Prestidge was too wiley to do the job himself. He turned to George Tambassis and said “Chase him Georgie”. In a move that we’re sure won’t be repeated soon Tambassis, like Jayman’s domestique, gave chase with Prestige locked on his wheel.
Wheelan was swamped in the run to the line as Tambassis spent all his pennies closing the gap. Keeble and Prestige sprinted for home with Thommo waiting to have the the last crack at them. Prestige was fresh from sitting on the back most of the race whereas Keeble had been his usual workhorse self all race. Prestidge had too much in the tank and took the sprint from a fast finishing Thommo. Rob Preston finished third and Rob Monk forth.
A smaller than usual C grade field raced over 5 laps. Youngster James Blyth was the major aggressor in the race. His tactic was to sit at the back for four of the five laps and continually attack at the start of Sturs Road and along the Darnum Shady Creek Road. The rest of the bunch was happy to let him roast, and thanks to sitting up a few minutes into each attack, did not cook too badly.
Leigh Hauxwell was keen to try and ride the rest off his wheel along the Darnum Shady Creek road also, but withoiut success. Some attacks up the hills past Fonterra were not successful either.
It will always be difficult to get away from any group that has Ross Henry, Graeme Patrick and Paul Yeatman in it. They will chase hard until they can chase no more.
Hauxwell in his third race made it two wins from 3 starts by attacking the bunch on the final hill and riding away to victory. At one point he was a managable distance off the front and the next thing anyone knew, he was 50m off the front. James Blyth went after him first and managed to just hang on for second. Then followed Yeatman (who says his legs were left at home) and Henry.
Terry Kelly had done his dash in D grade. He’s won 4 of the last 5 races and is promoted to C grade next week where he can use his many years of racing experience against that lost. John Davine will certainly be glad to see the back of him. Davine and Kelly again broke away from the rest on the final lap. Davine worked his way around the final bend with Kelly locked onto him like a caravan on a car going on holidays. Kelly was going to follow at whatever speed Davine was going but he was not going to go past him. Davine slowed and so did Kelly. This allowed Louise Clarke and Xavier Prestcott to get back to the leaders with 200 meters to go.
Then Kelly opened up the sprint and it was all over. Kelly first, Davine second. Lousie continues to impress taking out third from Xavier. Frank Benstead was not far behind in fifth.
E grade raced over four laps. Racing was tight from the start with everyone doing their share of pace making.
On the final lap a split formed with Cazz Clarke, Mathieson Jenkin and Adele Whelan breaking away from Colin Maninitveld and Renee Patrick before Sturs Rd.
The leading trio worked together to maintain their advantage but Maninitveld and Patrick rode strongly and were back in touch as they rounded the final corner.
Cazz was too quick for Colin in the uphill drag to the line. She took out her first race win in grand style. Col was second with Matheison third. Then followed Adele Whelan and Annie Pryjmak.
Next week’s race is at Shady Creek. There is some talk of a hilltop finish. The sprinters are hoping this is just talk.
Image courtesy of the Warragul CC