Race Report – Syd Harper Handicap 2021

5 Sep 2021

The final race in the Albany Cycle Club’s road season was the Syd Harper Handicap.  A relatively short gallop at 35 kilometres, it attracted a solid field of riders. As has been typical of recent club events, the weather threatened malevolence, but other than the gentle zephyr of a headwind on the return leg, it turned out to be close to ideal. Unfortunately though, the puncture curse continued, claiming one contestant in the later stages of the race.

Stephanie Bennett and Lucy Wellstead were the go group and established a solid pace on the way out towards the turn at Frenchman’s Bay. Last race winner, Shirley Thurston and Jill Bascombe were next off at twelve minutes, setting out in a hurry to close down the front runners. Likewise, the big eighteen minute bunch of Marius Coetzer, Paul Gibson, Matt Bascombe, Ben Murphy, Brendon Mencshelyi and Jimmy Watmore set off in a hurry, with Watmore pushing the group along. Mike Staude and Ryan McLaren, having negotiated a lengthy, multiclause agreement to work together were given the green light at twenty minutes and set off with the aid of a reasonable tail wind. Complex legal documents soon amounted to naught as Staude promptly dropped McLaren on the Quaranup climb before remembering the penalty clauses, and a detente ensued thereafter enabling them to close in on the groups in front by the turn around. The last two groups on the road featured a selection of the strongest, fastest riders over the season and at twenty three and twenty eight minutes respectively, had plenty of work to do to catch the front of the race.

After the fast descent into Frenchman’s Bay, riders then had to negotiate the long climb back out and here the damage was done by those with good climbing legs. Steph Bennett had accumulated a handy lead at this stage, but that was being eaten into rapidly by Watmore, and those who were chasing him. Ominously, chopping block, Michael Gardiner and Brent Schoof were looming, as were the three scratch riders not far back.

Off the top of the climb, Staude and McLaren were still working together and had collected most riders. However, what had been a faint rumble in the distance now became a full-throated roar as the scratch group of Brett Dal Pozzo, Craig Wiggins and Beau LeFort came thundering through. Riders scrambled to latch on with degrees of success, some lasting just a few hundred metres, others a little longer before the big three were left to fight out the win. Wiggins unleashed his sprint, for which the others had no answer, to claim a well-deserved win. LeFort finished second and Dal Pozzo collected third place. Most of the remaining riders followed them in very short order, a tribute to the excellent handicapping from Colin Ashton-Graham.

Thanks to all the volunteers who marshalled, set up the signs and did the handicapping. Thanks also to Anton at Six Degrees for sponsoring the post-race analysis.