The Club Championship Road Races were once again held on an out-and-back course between the Standley Chasm car park and a turnaround point just short of Larapinta Drive. Each lap was 18 kilometres with four, three and two laps allocated to A, B and C grades respectively. Under fifteen would race over a single lap and under thirteen would turn around six kilometres for a single a twelve-kilometre lap. The latter was shortened to 11.5 kilometres to allow for a safe turnaround point. Under seventeens were down for a two-lap race run with C grade, but the standard of those present was so high that all rode in A grade.
The Standley Chasm course is deceitful. I’ve ridden it twice now in the club championships and each time it has taken me in. To the eye the course seems undulating but essentially flat. In fact the road drops 90 metres on the outward leg from the Standley Chasm carpark to Larapinta Drive. With a northerly at your back the gentle decline drags you towards the turnaround. Not a bad thing, but on race day it fools you into thinking your legs are on fire. But the truth is the only fire in your legs the burning pain that increase each time you drag yourself back up the hill into the wind.
Consequently every race was one of attrition, without a single sprint finish across five categories.
Jai Basso was the only entrant in the under 13 category. That might sound like an easy win, but I did not envy him the solo ride back from the six-kilometre turnaround. He would have been glad of Jack and Caleb’s company that far, but the tough ride back into the wind for a finishing time of 32:01 was all alone.
Jack Farrell and Caleb Thornton contested the under 15 category. They headed off with Jai for company. The trio were still together when the B-grade race passed them, but the return leg decided the race with Jack riding away from Caleb to finish the 18-kilometre distance in 38:46. Caleb was not too far behind, coming home in 40:32.
With only Richard Farrell and Andrea Martin in C grade it was decided that they would start with the B-grade group, comprising Laurie Berryman, Stew Clark, David Thornton and Steve Yates. C grade could sit on as long as they wanted, with the caveat that if one rider chose to drop off the back of the B-grade group, then the other had to do the same.
We stuck together out to the first turnaround, with the B-grade riders sharing the work as expected. Stew decided to make things interesting by using Sam Typuszak as the turning point, giving him an extra dozen metres past the witch’s hat to cover and no doubt making Sam a little nervous.
I didn’t see it happen, but I learned later that Andrea and Ritchie dropped off as we started back up the hill and into the wind. The next time we saw them they were heading into the finish to start their second and final lap. By then Andrea had proved too strong opened a gap. There was no coming back for Ritchie and they would eventually finish with Andrea crossing the line in 1:07:52 and Ritchie in 1:13:34.
Meanwhile Stew was trying to unsettle the B-grade bunch at the turnaround again, this time by locking up wheel almost taking a detour into the dirt. Despite this the group stayed together, and would do so until the last time through the Larapinta Drive turnaround. I was second wheel behind Dave as we headed south into the big dip that preceded the turnaround. Suddenly Stew came flying past with Laurie tight on his wheel. Using the steep decline to good advantage he wound the speed up over 60 km/hr and Dave and I were caught flat-footed. A gap opened and grew and although we chased hard out of the dip Laurie took advantage of the tow, attacking on the climb to hold the lead Stew had established. Dave and I dropped Stew after turning, but Laurie was away again quickly and despite an all-out effort we could not reel him in quickly as I had hoped.
Flashback to the first two laps. After returning through the dip the road grinds upwards for a long stretch. Laurie had led on this section each time, and each time he had pushed hard, wearing us all out and setting up a psychological advantage for the final lap. I couldn’t help thinking how much he’d hurt me those first two times as we tried in vain to close the gap. I thought with two of us working together and plenty of time we had a good chance of catching him, but it was not to be, and he grew slowly but steadily further ahead as approached the finish.
Laurie held on strongly to finish in 1:34:11. I made desperate attack on what I thought was the last incline to drop Dave. Thankfully he’d had enough as there was one more small hill to crawl up before I limped across the line in 1:35:08. Dave and Stew arrived soon after in 1:35:38 and 1:36:40 respectively.
The A-grade race was on for young and old. Owen Chenhall, Kym Hansen, Michael Harrison, Clive Hickey, Bohdan Typuszak and Max Yffer had started a minute ahead of the B-graders, and we had consequently seen a snapshot of their race in progress as we approached each turnaround. I was a little delirious at the finish so my recollection of the order of things may be a little off, but I remember seeing Bohdan off the front on one lap and Clive on another. Otherwise I think they stayed together for quite a while, until the course wore them down towards the end.
Kym Hansen pulled out after three laps. He had an incident with a wayward phone, but I don’t think that had any impact on his race. Owen was struggling with the pace and was the first to drop off. He was followed by Max who would subsequently be held up by a slow leak. A couple of re-inflation stops and the extra effort to keep a flabby tyre rolling was enough to allow Owen to pass him before the finish.
Meanwhile the trio at the front of the race broke up on the final leg. Michael proved the strongest, crossing the line in 1:55:29, followed by Bohdan in 1:56:50, Clive in 1:58:57, Owen in 2:02:20 and finally Max in 2:08:04.
Congratulations to all the winners and all who competed. It was tough day’s racing with temperature rising early and the wind and the parcours not making things any easier, but I think everyone who took part in enjoyed the day. Certainly everyone looked happy to reach the finish! Thanks are due to all the volunteers: Sam at the turnaround, Alli and Ange at the finish (who happily skipped a planned study session, allowing me to race as well as direct), and commissaire Ben Gardener. Apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone.