With the aptly named Teardrop and three other climbs of varying length and steepness, the recent Denmark Handicap proved to be a gruelling day out for members of the Albany Cycle Club. On a day which threatened pestilence and a degree of climatic mayhem, but which actually offered up the first sighting of the sun in recent memory, fourteen riders relished the opportunity to pummel the course into submission.
Starting from the Silverstream cellar door, the course took riders up the mostly subtle incline of Scotsdale Road before turning left at the Alpaca Farm and heading across the ridge to the Teardrop, so named for its shape and the snow lined climb of ‘Passo de McLeod’. Having collected tissues and dried their eyes at the top of the climb, riders headed back across the ridge and on out to the turn-around two descents further out Scotsdale Road. On the return journey, riders had to negotiate the climbs back to Alpaca before the long descent to the finish.
Lucy Wellstead and Shirley Thurston were the first riders away, setting a solid pace and working effectively together. They were followed off the start line by Liz Cooper and Paul Terry, now familiar combatants; they too realising the value of sustained cooperation if they were to hold off the riders starting after them. A cluster of Denmark’s finest followed, but perhaps familiarity led to a certain level of malaise in their chase. The remaining group and two solo riders were spirited in their pursuit from the gun and it wasn’t long before there were cracks and casualties.
At the front of the race, Thurston gradually pulled ahead of Wellstead and by the start of the McLeod climb had established a solid lead. In the chasing groups, Mike Staude and Jim Watmore bombed down the fast descent of Pt Hillier Vista, establishing a break on their companions. They maintained a solid pace up the climb, expecting to be caught by Paul Gibson, a solid climber, but he had dropped off to help teammate Richard Miller. Across the ridge Watmore and Staude caught group Denmark. Meanwhile, behind this group was Perth rider and aspirant Denmark local, Nathan Brown, followed by the express train that is Brett dal Pozzo, both charging hard in the chase.
The descents out to the turnaround gave the chasers the opportunity to see the leaders and assess their chances – the consensus being that Thurston was looking good for the win if she held her form. Unfortunately, after the turn, punctures claimed both Paul Terry and Mike Garland. Terry was able to repair his and ride into the finish with Mark Guerin who had stopped to assist. Garland’s was more terminal, and he was forced into the sag wagon.
Early on the descent down Scotsdale, Dal Pozzo had run through the field and had acquired Watmore and Staude as passengers on the train. They hung on for as long as possible but eventually fell off leaving Dal Pozzo to chase down the remaining two riders out the front. Ultimately it was Thurston who had her Kiesenhofer moment, riding super strongly out the front for the entire race, holding off all challengers for a sensational win. Liz Cooper in another strong performance finished second with Dal Pozzo a fast closing third.
Thanks to Silverstream Wines for hosting the event and all the marshals who stood on windy corners. The next race is the Syd Harper Handicap on August 28th at 2pm.