After 10 days of gale force winds and storm activity across the Southern Tablelands, nine sturdy riders gathered, just east of Goulburn, to contest the Fred McClelland Construction Graded Scratch Race.
The rugged Mountain Ash Road hadn’t been used for racing by the cycle club for over 12 months, and was expected to be challenging.The limited number of racers determined that C and D Grades would start together, followed by A and B Grade three minutes later. So Wayne Bensley, Peter Jackson and Nadine Moroney led off over the Gundary Plains being chased, after the interval, by a strong contingent with Paul Parlett (A Grade), plus Mick Beard, Mick Redman, Andrew Stewart, Angus Taylor and Phil Hanson from B Grade.
With Parlett and Beard pushing the pace over the initially flat terrain, the second bunch rapidly closed the gap on the leading group, however as a consequence of the pedalling intensity the second group also began to splinter with a number of the B Grade riders beginning to separate from the main bunch.
On the first significant climb of the route, Parlett and Beard initially passed Jackson from the lead group and eventually also caught Bensley and Moroney to establish a dominant race position.
As the racers began to spread, the course now entered more rugged terrain with large descents and climbs over the ranges and creek valleys heading towards Bungonia Village. Out in front Parlett and Beard continually swapped lead and follow roles to maximise their riding co-efficiency in the testing conditions and managed to extend their advantage over the other riders by the turn, just short of the village.
Behind, Bensley and Moroney were joined by Stewart while the other riders remained separated forcing them into the arduous, undesirable situation of a solo racing.
The established positioning remained unchanged as all riders had competed the turn. The racers now faced considerably more climbing on the return leg with two significant ascents, the first after crossing Springponds Creek followed, several kilometres later, by the largest single hill with approximately 3.5km of climbing.
Stewart, utilising his aptitude as a climber, now began to claw an advantage in front of Bensley and Moroney, while further behind Redman and Taylor slowly gained on those in front. With Parlett and Beard maintaining their lead, the race action was now starting to unfold behind them, on the first of the two noted climbs, as the middle five racers pitted themselves against the gradient while also jostling for position with each other.
This is a climb of varying steepness with a couple of kinks in direction to keep the uninitiated rider guessing as to when the crest might arrive - to relieve the all consuming pedalling effort! It becomes test of a rider’s finesse to establish and sustain a regular peddling rhythm which, hopefully, also maintains them in contention with their rivals.
On the climb Stewart managed to sustain his lead position, however a split suddenly occurred between Moroney and Bensely with the latter faltering against the demanding uphill pace. Bensley was now also caught and passed by Taylor and Redman.
Several kilometres further on, at the start of the subsequent and largest climb of the course, Stewart, Moroney, Taylor and Redman had come together to tackle the ascent.
While this was happening Parlett and Beard, at the forefront, crested the final climb and continued to work in unison against the prevailing head wind back across the Gundary Plain before Parlett surged ahead to take line honours while Beard grabbed the best result for B Grade.
The race was still to be decided for other placings. However as the four riders in the second bunch continued upwards on the major climb, each individual focused on the demands of the road and rider immediately ahead.
A shift in momentum saw Moroney start to lose connection with the other three – this beginning as a gradual widening of the gap between the cyclists, which could have possibly been abated with an increased effort subject to remaining energy levels, but in the end leaving the rider alone to tackle the ongoing climb.
Over the top Stewart, Taylor and Redman utilised very close knit riding to help mitigate the energy sapping head wind across the flats until the finish line at last came into view. In the final 300m Stewart battled with Taylor for a slight edge as the contest drew to a conclusion and in a desperate effort Stewart surged forward to take third place with the Taylor and Redman not far behind.
The riders left on the course remained separated and individually battle the strong head wind until the finish, with Moroney taking C grade honours and Jackson D Grade.
All up it’s an excellent winter’s race day on a demanding course which has tested each and every racer. Next weekend’s racing sees the Goulburn Cycling Club travel to the Southern Highlands to contest an event on the Canyonleigh Road.