Well it was a huge, action packed, weekend of racing with Argonaut riders travelling to Tasmania and Bathurst to compete in the first NRS race of the season (Mersey Tour in Tassie) and the NSW Hill Climb championships/Bathurst racing. An interesting twist this year was that these events were held on the same weekend and this had a significant impact on the racing at Bathurst, with most of the big teams sending riders to Tassie for the Mersey tour instead of Bathurst.
In the weeks leading up to these events all riders were training hard and the indications were that there would be some top results as well as a stream of PB’s. However, race days don’t always go as planned and while there were definitely some great results there was also some bad news with two riders sustaining broken bones.
Looking firstly to the racing at Bathurst. The NSW Hill Climb champs hold an important place in the cycling calendar for many Canberra based riders and it provides a great, early season opportunity to test the climbing legs and measure up against many of the other top riders across NSW.
The U19 grades are usually hotly contested, however with the field decimated by the clash of race dates (Mersey is the first of the U19 national selection races), the remaining competitors were given a great opportunity to pick up a medal. In the U19W event ACTAS riders, Lucy Kirk and Alex Nicholls made the trip and both came away with medals, Gold for Alex and Bronze for Lucy. In the U19M race Sam Sautelle, of the Tradies Racing Squad, was keen for a good hit out as he returns from a period out of competition. Sam looked lean and ready as he waited on the start line and scorched up the climb to post a time of 9:34 to claim the silver medal. Winning times in the U19M in previous years have been down around 9min flat so Sam isn’t too far off the mark early in the season.
After the juniors were finished it was time to turn attention to the Elite and Masters level riders. It was here that we missed a certain medal with Lisa Keeling being unable to start due to some administrative issues with the race entry. For those unfamiliar with the NSW Hill Climb, the times posted are usually extremely close to climb times for Black Mt and based on the results Lisa would have been a clear winner on the day.
Lyn Vasudeva was the lone starter in the WMAS6 category but that didn’t stop her putting in a solid effort. It can be tough in these masters categories with small fields but all credit to Lyn for getting in there and racing.
Moving into the mens elite field, Jamie Young and Avi Vasudeva toes the start line for the Tradies while Brad Drew and Rob Fisher representing Steves Speed Shop. While non of these boys vied for top places there were still plenty to race for. Avi has been coming into some good form lately and he improved last years time by half a minute to post a 10:32, and by the sounds of things there is more time to be gained next year. Brad has been training really well over the last 12 months and while not known for his climbing he posted a very respectable 11:31. Jamie and Rob’s times were 13:03 and 11:49 respectively, which considering both have had interrupted lead ups to the race was pretty good.
Next up were the men’s masters categories and defending champion Sean Moran was super keen to claim the title for a second year running. However to do so he would have to fend off fellow Canberra riders Al Seiper and Mick Tolhurst. After blasting through the middle, steeper section of the climb, Sean had made up time on Mick and was looking good to claim the victory, which he did on a time of 9:08.07, which was the 3rd fastest time of the day, beaten only by the winners of the U23 and Elite men’s categories. So with the morning session done, it was two Gold’s for Argonaut riders and one ‘could have been’.
Photos from the start of the hill climb can be found at https://picasaweb.google.com/jasonm.home/NSWHillClimb2012#
After lunch it was time for the criteriums. First up were the women’s grades and Lisa finally got her chance to unleash some power. Early in the race a lone rider established a small break, dangling around 100m off the front of the pack for several laps. Shortly after she was joined by another rider and things were starting to look more serious with none of the girls in the pack willing to waste too much energy chasing this early in the race. Shortly after Lisa decided to jump across to the leaders with a solid burst up pit straight. Once she had joined the leading duo it was essentially all over for the pack and these, now three, leaders proceeded to extend their advantage, with Lisa’s teammate Megan Bagworth effectively keeping the bunch under control. On the ‘pits berg’ climb each lap Lisa looked very comfortably and interestingly this was where the other girls looked to be trying to make their moves. Coming into the final lap a strong move was made up the climb and Lisa covered it with ease and the went to the front up pit straight to put more pressure on and see whether she could drain their sprint power. Coming into the home straight Lisa’s tactics had succeeded in taking care of one rider but Amber Jenkins was able to still come past in the final sprint to claim victory while Lisa claimed second place.
Next up was the elite mens crit and in past years this has been a fast and furious affair. This year things were different with the GPM Wilson team completely controlling the affairs once the early break established with no fewer than three GPM riders. From this point on, any attempts to chase by riders in the pack were quickly shut down. Once such attempt to bridge across by Sean Moran looked like it would succeed, however he came unstuck on the top corner of pit straight and regrettably his race ended with a broken collarbone. After that there was little change to proceedings and as expected the GPM boys in the lead group started firing riders off the front and while each of these was brought back it had the desired effect of tiring their break companions out and Josh Taylor from GPM was able to take out the sprint victory.
Next up was div 4 and div 3 races, with the last race of the day being the div 2 crit, which featured the Tradies boys along with Brad Drew and Paddy Quiggin for the Speed Shop. Unfortunately for Brad his race ended within the first half a lap with a puncture. The Tradies boys looked comfortable with Andrew Lake, Sam Sautelle and Avi Vasudeva all staying close together and in good position in the front third of the bunch. Heading through the half way point there had been a number of attempts to get a break going but nothing would stick. The pace appeared to be hard at times, but not for long enough to really break up the pack and it looked inevitable that it would come down to a bunch sprint. Coming into the final sprint preme Paddy decided it was time to test out his track skills as he rode up the grass bank of the Pits Berg climb but he was able to stay upright and coming into the last two laps he was holding good position near the front while the Tradies boys has been pushed back and were starting to scramble to move forward, however they were squeezed out of it and in the end it was left to Paddy to try and bring home a win for Canberra. Half way down the finishing straight he pulled out and kicked and briefly looked like he might claim the win, however a late burst by Dirk Roshier was enough to claim the win with Paddy claiming third place.
In Sunday’s Blayney to Bathurst most of the focus was on the 162km but my interest was firmly on the 110km event. This event was the first opportunity of the year for many riders to test their race legs in a big, fast moving pack. Reports from the race were of several crashes and tons of near misses, mostly caused by riders not looking before moving sideways into gaps that don’t exist. The first 10kms of this event are always fast and furious but after things settled down Lisa, Brad, Paddy and Avi were all still in the lead group. A break established and Avi and his Tradies teammate Sam bridged across to this and were looking good. Alas, like last year the break came undone in sight of the main climb and it was at this point that Avi and Lisa were held up by a crash, while Sam made the selection over the top with the front group. Sam would eventually go on to claim fourth place overall in the sprint (and first U19 rider), finishing just behind race winner Ben Kersten. Avi and Lisa came in only a few minutes down, with Lisa claiming second female across the line. Avi finished 11th in the elite (23-34years) and Brad came in only a few places farther back. The word after the race was that Paddy had come down and indeed he came across the line a while later, not hurt but thinking about what could have been.
Turning attention towards Mersey, I can’t give too much of an update as I wasn’t there but as the first NRS race of the year it was going to be interesting to see which riders had the early season form. There appears to have been some technical problems with the results, possibly regarding stage two so, stage and overall results are a bit unreliable at the moment. The most note worthy events were Will Lind finishing 18th in the stage 1 TT, then riding in the winning break in stage 2 to finish 10th on the stage and 8th on GC. Matt Linden had also made the break however a puncture ended his chances, especially when the spare wheel he was handed only had a 23t cog, which made the last climb a brutal affair. Dave Gillies did quite well to finish with the main pack after only recently making a return to racing.
Stage 3 was run in quite poor weather and from what I could gather via twitter a small break established and was basically handing off the front for most of the race. Heading towards the end the leading team (Budget Forklifts) upper the pace and brought it all back together, with a Genesys rider taking out the stage win.
Unfortunately, Sean wasn’t the only rider to come away injured on the weekend as Matt Linden fell heavily in wet conditions on stage 3 at Mersey. Early reports are that he has fractured his leg, which he also did this time last year in a fall at Bathurst. Please join with me in wishing both Sean and Matt a speedy recovery from their injuries and we hope to see them back on the road soon.