Ah, the attraction of Casey Fields on a warm morning when there is next to no breeze.
Just as a fresh cow pat in a paddock will attract a mass of blowflies, the perfect conditions have seen a big field of riders front up for the D Grade race. I’ve primed myself well the night before with the customary intake of red wine, but with The Undergraduate away on schoolies, The Associate Professor has put a ban on pizzas for the weekend, thereby taking away my main source of sustenance.
Somehow on Saturday night, I managed to study the Strava form guide; John Beech only rode 63 kms; so he will be fresher than his normal fresh self, while Andrew Peterson rode 130 kms and has already indicated that he will only be racing to improve his tan lines. There’s a few new faces at the starting line; which always makes me nervous. I have a quick word with my fellow Cycling Sledge rider, Ronald, telling him to be aware of the attacks on the first lap.
As Bill fires the blunderbuss to get us underway, I’m looking around to see who is going to jump first. Surprisingly, nothing happens and it is a quieter than normal first lap. I’m imagining Ronald cursing me for feeding him a whole lot of drivel about the opening lap. I wasn’t far off the mark however, as Les Toth moves to the pointy end and cranks up the pace just after the completion of the first lap. Seriously cranks up the pace!! Geez, my heart rate is off the planet, the legs are screaming and Les isn’t letting up. I double check the race numbers to make sure I’m not in C Grade – unfortunately, I’m in the right grade and to make life even more difficult, JB hasn’t come out to play yet! This is going to be ugly.
Finally, Les decides to let someone else have a turn at the pointy end; but the pace doesn’t slow. Other riders are in on the act and maintaining this insane pace. Eventually, I find myself out in front and decide to drop the pace (actually I couldn’t maintain the break neck speed and had to slow down; but it made for a good story). Sure enough, I get swept aside as other riders decide to step up the pace again.
While all this is happening, there are even some attacks just to make the race more interesting. Richard Kempster is the main instigator, while JB unleashes a few just to get us all panicking. At one stage, JB and two others open up a mini gap on the bunch and it’s time to shut them down. Here we go again – chase the break, get back on, then another rider will attack. Rebekah Gardner is unfazed by the proceedings and moves to the pointy end to show us oldies how it’s done.
Les decides to move to the front again and winds the pace up even further. I’m now in the hurt locker, chewing on the handlebar tape and getting gravel rash on my tongue as it drags along the bitumen. Dropping out of the race is a serious option, but somehow I convince myself that this is only a dream and it will soon be over. JB takes over from Les at the pointy end and the Cardinia Climbers duo are doing their best to make sure we will have nothing left for the sprint. Richard defies the fast pace by unleashing another attack and somehow we drag ourselves up to his wheel.
I’m counting down the laps and as we head up the 1 in 70 Incline, I can see the D Grade sign waiting for us. Sure enough, we get the bell and for the first time in our race, the pace slows right down. Everybody is watching what Les is going to do; even though he is out in front for a change. I’m horribly boxed in and my only hope of getting a chance to sprint is if a gap opens up for me.
As we make our way around the course for the final time; Les maintains a steady pace out in front. When we hit the 1 in 70 Incline, the sprinting starts and a gap opens in front of me. Perfect, I thought, and start to make my move, however the gap closes just as quickly, forcing me to sit up. I can only watch on from a distance as Les sprints away, however Cameron Chivers and Scott Reed are making up ground. Somehow, Les held on to record a well-deserved win; with Cameron and Scott making up the podium.
A great effort by all riders – it was a fast and safe race without any issues. Thanks to the club officials, volunteers and photographer who helped make the day’s racing possible. See you all next week.