Once all had familiarized with the conditions of the course the pace immediately ramped up and without further ado, Bamford sprung from the group to set the tone of the next few laps, however the field did not want to give too much rope, all knowing what Mark is capable of.
Meanwhile back in the field Duncan Murray could be heard, attempting to rally the group to form unity to shut the gap down. After the catch was made, numerous attempts were made to pinch a break however all attempts were nullified with none appearing to have the ingredients required for success. Then it was Brenden Skerke’s turn, along with Damien Ingram and Paul Mashford, the trio being touted by the spectators on the hill as real prospects. However Carolan, Mouldey and Matt Driver took over, only they were countered by another attack by Bamford which quickly gained some distance before being monitored by Hutton who had bridged his way across. This looked to have some legs, however little unity was witnessed and Hutton was sent back to the main field.
Then a powerful group looked to form off the front among the canefields of the back straight. Mark Hogan, Hubbard and Ingram managed to sneak off the front and were then met by Bamford. The foursome looked to get the distance required for a genuine breakaway but unfortunate for the them, their timing could not have been worse, as it coincided with the catch of the C grade field which stifled the momentum and forced them to sit up as they negotiated the slower peloton.
3 laps to go and heading into the back of the Course, Matt Driver had trickled off the front. Everyone was wise to his recent form, yet complacent enough to give him some distance. This is when Damien Ingram seized an opportunity and bridged to Driver looking to make a partnership. Quickly distancing the field, the pair made their way out of sight, however no further than a kilometre on, Matt pulled the pin, leaving Damien to his own devices as Driver drifted back into the chasing pack.
Then a herculean effort by Ingram up past the official box, resulted in a gap forming rather quickly. It was clear that the field wasn’t backing him to stay the distance and no immediate reaction was evident.
Back in the group, Skerke must have noted the warning signs and was attempting to bridge, however, with little assistance, his task was all the more difficult when Duncan Murray succumbed to a puncture and it appeared the Graham Grant, featuring strong early, was suffering from cramp.
And Ingram’s gap was appearing to grow. Crossing the finish line for the last lap, the pain was written all over Damien’s face. Was he going to be able to hold what was now a 35 second lead over the last 7.5kms? The group now having to contemplate if they were going to give it one last dig, or race for second place.
Rounding the back corner with 4kms to go, race radio was reporting a slowing of the leader’s pace but they were unaware if this was fatigue or comfort on his behalf. The field had now, for the first time in 2 laps, started to see the Damien on the same stretch of road, providing the vital carrot necessary to lift the tempo. However rounding the final corner for last accent of Greenhill, even though the distance had narrowed to 150m, the wily CREATURE (Ingram) had brilliantly out foxed the talented field, who had left their run too late with Ingram demonstrating plenty of diversity to comfortably take the chequered flag in a magnificent effort holding off all comers over the last 20 kms of a cracking bike race. Brandon Hutton and Tiago Torres, second and third respectively sounding out a huge warning that in the not too distant future, a possible changing of the guard could be in the wind. Strong rides from Mark Bamford, Keiran Mouldey and Linc Carolan where all noted over the testing course.
UP AND COMING YOUNG RIDER – KANE HODGE EMERGED OVER THE GREEN HILL RISE fighting out a titanic struggle against evergreen Grahame Allen to record a breathtaking win to give Kane his first success in this extremely competitive Grade. Kane had been sneaking into notice over the last few months appearing stronger every time he goes around, and it was no mean feat defeating the experienced Allen, with Alex Starmer third. However the race had many twists and turns before the Son of Al sprinted to victory.
The race contained new faces to the club in the form of Territorian Tim Wolf, Victorian Michael Virgona and Alec Starmer plus the induction of Ethan Chamberlain, the young rider elevated after regular successes in C grade. Race Away and Grahame Allen with John Duel were very quick to show that the seven hills of, NOT ROME but Gordonvale weren’t a factor as they were very prominent early in the race. Through the second lap at a solid clip, the leaders over the Hill were: Duel, Mal Lindsay, Alex Stamer and Kane Hodge. However the race suffered its first casualty when Greg Hutton’s puncture turned into a side wall blow out, thus seeing the affable PIE MAN JOIN the fans on the hilltop.
Through lap three, Grahame (greyhound) Allen once again this time in the company of Mick Mehonoshen were the lamp lighters, however two more riders feeling the pinch were Nathan Bursztynwicz in need of the hit out and Damien Newton now leaving just eleven riders, other riders not far from the action were Tim Wolf, Gavin Butler, Michael Virgona and Nick Loukas who also looked a contender doing his share of the bullocking (ed. not to be mistaked what Gavin is usually dishing out). Three lap mark and Alex Starmer riding strongly was joined by Kane Hodge and the pair pinched a small gap, however ever watchful Allen, unsure of where Starmer fits into the equation was quick to bring the leaders back to the bunch.
With two circuits to go, B grade swept upside D grade with Allen and Mehonoshen back in the lead and with Loukas looking ready to strike it was race on. At the bell, a mere seven and a half kilometres to go Nick Loukas, after topping the rise attempted to sneak a break on the decent, however shortly after Nick was hauled in by the remaining group. With a large portion of the crowd heading for a good vantage point to watch the race come off the Pine Creek Road, it was touch and go right to the foothill of the climb when Kane Hodge appeared as the one to catch, and try as Grahame Allen might he could not real young Hodgey in and they were followed home by Alex Stramer, Tim Wolf and John Duel. However, the race certainly belonged to Kane Hodge.
Even start here, with Al Hodge rolling in control early in an even tempo, all riders comfortable through the early stages. Sitting close to Al’s wheel were Sarah Kaehler, Julie Scharf, Paul Mitchell and Justin Bell. However, the entire field of twelve were reasonably compact through the opening three laps of their six lap journey. With the Trojan horse Hodge again topping the ridge at the crest with Kath Deed on his wheel. Neatly tucked away and looking to move forward, were Gerard Walsh, Adam Ewart and a recent addition to the riding ranks in Cairns’ Hillary Bell.
Al Hodge working for all, finally takes a sit as Sarah Kaehler, relishing the course and distance, stamps her mark over the hill and leads, with Gary Perkins not really enjoying the climb, bringing up the rear but hanging on in there. Michael Reid, more a sprinter than a climber, retired from the race vowing when work allows, to get more miles in the legs. So, Sarah Kaehler the champion endurance rider looked an enormous chance as she and the chase group disappeared from view on the final lap. Dangers to Sarah at this point were, Mark Procter having a booming season and Canadian, Hillary Bell, also riding one heck of a race. Gerard Walsh, Adam Ewart and Al Hodge not giving up the fight as was Paul Mitchell. Into view for the finish and Sarah Kaehler had the very in form, Mark Procter right on her wheel and Procter drew away to take the honours from Kaehler, with Hillary Bell a stunning effort in third place. Fourth over the line was Gerard Walsh, followed by Al (the Trojan) Hodge, Adam Ewart, Paul Mitchell and Kath Deed. Julie Scharf put up a stirling job after working hard early, the hills just got the better of her over the concluding stages as Julie rode alone over the line with that infectious smile we now all associate with her.
The Warriors four took off on their five lap race, initially vowing to stay and work together however after two laps down Jeffrey Hartley and Tony Nastasi appeared to have mastered the Green Hill rise slightly better than Michael Etherington and a new comer, Kirk Binnington. So, from then on it was Nastasi and Hartley who once again found themselves vying for honours, as Michael still probably reeling from his brilliant sprint win in the last criterium finding the hills too much joined us on ‘Spectator Hill’. To Kirk Binnington’s credit he huffed and puffed his way up the hills in his first ever race and instantly became a crowd favourite.
So it was the last two laps, Doc or Tony, or Tony or Doc? At the bell, Nastasi had pinched a few seconds on Hartley but anything can happen between these two riders. However, over the concluding stages Tony Nastasi slowly edged away from Jeff Hartley to take the win with a major gap back to Kirk Binnington third. We love the warriors division and look forward to the next clash of the titans.
It was a wonderful venue for racing and viewing, and massive shout out to the A grade winner for organising the event and to all the magnificent volunteers. To quote champion boxer Jeff Fenech WE LOVES YOUS ALL.
Race images courtesy of Mundi Allen and John Duel