The ACT hill climb championships is perhaps one of the toughest races of the year, with competitors racing against the clock of the longest climb in Canberra, Corin rd.
The race conditions this year were a touch more challenging than previous years with a headwind welcoming the riders for most of the course and with the strength of the wind increasing as the morning progressed it was going to make for an interesting race.
The first riders to start were the U15 and U17 riders, with Declan Prosser the only rider to break the 50min barrier to claim the gold medal. Well done Declan
The U15/17 boys were followed by the U19 riders and with last year’s winner and course record holder, Ivan Michelin-Beard, opting to start in the U23 field it was all set for a new rider to take the crown. First away was Nathan Booth, who has been riding well over the last few months. He was followed by Karl Michelin-Beard and the talented Suzuki-Trek rider Phil Jermyn. Nathan looked to be setting a solid pace early and with Karl experiencing some stomach issues on the climb it meant that it was all up to ‘Fast’ Phil to see whether he could overhaul Nathan on the climb. By half way up Phil had successfully reeled in Nathan and was making good inroads towards posting a fast time. By the finish line the gap had opened up to three and a half minutes with Phil crossing in a time of 32:38, just over a minute shy of Ivan’s record from last year. Nathan held on to finish second, while Karl rounded out the placings.
Next up were the masters categories and these can provide for an interesting mix. In the men's field the Masters 1, 2 and 3 categories usually contains some of the ACT’s best climbers with Michael Tolhurst, Al Seiper and Steve Blackburn all having posted super quick times on this climb in previous years. The recent talk has been that Al Seiper is in blistering form leading into the Tour of Bright and he showed this today, posting the third fastest time with a 30:32 to take out the MMAS 1 & 2 category from his Velo teammate Michael Tolhurst (31:44). Canberra CC rider Matt Linden rounded out the top three with a time of 33:09. Steve Blackburn was always going to be the man to beat in the MMAS 3 & 4 race and he managed to just squeeze in under 32 minutes (31:59) to win by almost 4 minutes ahead of Paul Welsh and Vikings rider, Ross MacPherson.
It’s no wonder those Velo guys are a force to be reckoned with in local races, with these guys posting the 3rd, 4th and 5th fastest times of the day.
Ross MacPherson shortly after his medal winning performance in the MMAS 3 & 4 race.
The MMAS 5 & 6 event can be a pretty cagey affair with lots of secret training going on to sharpen up the hill climbing legs. It was therefore not surprising that this event produced the closest finish of the day with Canberra CC rider Michael Carr taking the gold a mere .6 of a second ahead of Vikings club president Simon Claringbold. The close finishes didn't stop there with Paul Walker narrowly edging out Matt Larkin for third by a mere 4 seconds.
Matt Larkin finished strongly but was 4 seconds off the medals
The Men's 7 & 8 and the Women's masters categories are usually quite lean on numbers and there was no change to that this year. Deciana Speckmann was the sole competitor in WMAS 1 & 2 category but she used the race as an opportunity to post a solid time and further develop her climbing for the upcoming racing at Bright.
The elite women's event is always an interesting affair as you just don’t know whether the top girls will be out or whether the AIS selection camp will keep them occupied. Like last year it appears the new ‘boot camp’ style training those girls are going through was enough to keep them busy but it gave some of the other local talent a chance to shine. Lisa Keeling, from the newly formed Sirens team, took the opportunity by the horns and screamed up the climb in a time 36:23, which would have been good enough to top some of the AIS girls who raced here two years ago (in better conditions). Given Lisa has only recently returned to racing this was a fantastic effort and shows all of her hard training of late has been well worth it.
In the end Lisa was the only female rider to break 40 minutes for the climb and she won her category by over 4 minutes, with Jessamy Hoskings coming in second (40:46). The bronze was taken out by Tegan who made it two out of three medals for the Sirens. Well done girls.
The Men's U23 field was second last away and this is usually a hotly contested affair. This year was no different with last years U19 champion, and course record holder, Ivan Michelin-Beard deciding to test his legs in the U23 ranks in preparation for his move to that division next year. He was joined by his Suzuki-Trek team mate, the highly talented Brendan Johnston and Port Macquarie rider Kevin Hawes, who is no stranger to racing in the ACT. Each of these riders looked to attack the starting sector pretty hard and by half way up Johnston looked to have pulled pack around 10 seconds on his young Suzuki-Trek team mate. However, it was Hawes who was giving the climbing demonstration of the day and he had gained between 30-60 seconds on the pair by the half way point and he continued to extend his lead on the second half of the climb going on to take the win in a time of 30:10, just under 2 minutes clear from Ivan Michelin-Beard (32:09), who accelerated in the top half to ride clear of Johnston (33:37), who held on to take third ahead of Callum Heiner.
Ivan Michelin-Beard coming up to the finish to claim Silver in the U23 category
Last up it was the elite men's field and as with the women’s race it can be hit and miss each year as to whether the top climbers will come out to play on race day. Last year Will Lind let loose with a scorcher, just missing the course record but the earlier results had shown that the slight headwind was going to make it difficult to challenge the record (held by Paul Crake). However, each of the 16 riders in the elite field set out with just one goal in mind, reaching the top in the fastest possible time. Canberra CC rider Kenneth Webster was one of the first riders off and he looked to gap his fellow competitors early on, passing several riders from the earlier categories. Kenneth would eventually post a time of 34:37 and it certainly showed he is ready to step up a grade in the local racing scene. Jimmy Barker was a welcome starter in today’s event and despite not racing much over the last few years he showed why many consider him such a great talent as he set the second best time (32:08) to claim the silver. With many of the other riders looking to set PB’s there were a number of riders who could have been mistaken for wishing for some motorised assistance as the race favourite screamed past them. Will Lind set a blistering pace in the lower part of the climb and by half way up the climb he had already passed a significant number of riders. However, the slight headwind was making for difficult going and perhaps pushing a bit too hard early cost him a previous few seconds but Will crossed the line with a time of 30:25 to take the gold by 1:42 over Jimmy Barker, with Andrew Schloeffel rounding out the top three a further minute back.
The hard luck stories of the day went to Tim Ainge (snapped chain on the start line), Brad Drew (Derailleur malfunction) and Jeremy Drape who were unable to complete the course.
Finally, congratulations to Kevin Hawes and Lisa Keeling for posting the fastest times of the day for the men's and women's fields respectively. Well done
ACT Hill Climb Championships – 2011 Results
Note: Results and times have been taken from the official results on the Vikings forum (here). If there are any mistakes (including spelling of names) please report them to the race organisers.