On Saturday it was back to the Lancefield 30km loop for the Hawthorn Cycling Club Road Championships for 2008. This year the event was run by Vincent Haveaux, who must have some high-up contacts as he had somehow arranged a sunny 25 degree day with a warm northerly wind, as opposed to the standard cold southerly that usually greets us on this course.
It was an all-in mass start. Elite/M1/M2 having to complete 90kms, M3-6/Women 60kms, and juniors 1 lap. "You'll sort yourselves out" was the reply from race commissionaire Peter Cayley when we were all given the green light to start.
The first 10-15kms were sedate.. a few people up the front who were rolling turns before the inevitable race-pace started. One short attack before Cobaw was quickly shut down, this was a nice warm up for what was to come. The left turn towards Newham didn't pop as many riders as usual, the pace was on but so was the tail wind helping everyone up and over the rise. Into Newham Stu Vaughan upped the pace to test some legs. Kev Murphy was also on the front putting in some efforts. Everyone closed it down but it had put a few people in trouble early on. Onto the first rise out of Newham and Simon Quinn sets a higher pace on the front - as an elite he was closely marked.
All still together as we entered the fastest section of the loop, the 6 or so kms before Roachford. No movement from anyone, I think everyone was planning on surviving lap 1 before making any moves. That quickly changed in a matter of seconds. I was sitting third wheel with Paul Ambry and Stu Vaughan ahead - either they both surged or I backed off.... either way they rolled off the front of the bunch. I waited and waited for another M3/M4 rider to close it, nobody took up the task. I swung over and let Kev Murphy roll through, as he did I asked if he wanted to close the gap with me. I'm sure I heard a "NO" from him, but I must have been mistaken as no more than 10 seconds later he attacked the bunch trying to bridge across. I boarded the rear-wheel-train and accepted the tow across. We got half way and Kev pulled up, not wanting to leave the job unfinished I kept on the gas. Kev had dropped back but AndyVS came around him and was bridging to me alone. I eased off a fraction for AndyVS to come through and we swapped turns until reaching Paul and Stu... They looked happy to have the company and it was show time from that point on.
We all knew our strengths and worked those to our advantage. Up over the Roachford KOM and bombing down into Lacefield to complete lap one I could see two chase groups - the first of which we were holding a nice 20 second lead over. Lap 2 saw us increase the gap to the safety of 'out of sight'. Paul was digging into its own bag of hurt so we did what we could to keep him ticking over. He came unstuck from the break around 5 or 6kms from his finishing distance and we bid him a fond farewell.. by dropping him! After the race we were told he did manage to stay away and claim 1st in M4! Awesome survival into that wikked head wind to the line!
Onto the final lap and Stu asked if there was room on our train for another passenger, hell yes there was, so he continued on for a 'recovery lap'. I was felling better as the race went on so I made sure we weren't sitting on Stu for any length of time. Andy VS and I were dreading the final lap off the front but I was felling good and more than happy to drag anyone around the course for a final lap. The V-Train required a little shunting early on lap 3 but he soon resumed normal transmission. The wind had shifted around to the east giving us a welcome respite into Cowbaw and Newham. AndyVS and I had agreed early in the break that because we were in different categories that the goal was to keep away from the rest of the bunch rather than race each other. The last 15kms were some of the best. Quiet country roads, the sun was still shining, the wind was almost easing, there were a few hills left (yay), and we had kept the field off our tail. Rolling over the line I can assure you it was a dead-heat across the three of us M1/2/3. 1st place M1 me, 1st place M2 AndyVS, 1st place M3 Stu, 1st place M4 Paul! A great haul by the break and a great race with a small bunch of committed riders.
Other notable rides across M1/2/3 were Cam Woolcock pulling away to finish alone in 2nd place M2 with Harry "The Electrician" Fricke also solo'ing in a few minutes later for 3rd M2. And after being whipped by The Bandit up the early part of the Doncaster hill last Thursday, I think he was foxing and saving his form in this race for a good NC handicap allocation...! :)
Laurie's Event Photos (top stuff!)