Elleker Graded HCP Report – 26 Aug 2023

Albany Cycle Club’s final race of the season attracted a large contingent of riders. Separated into NRS, Continental, Pro-Continental and World Tour groups, the same objective united all riders – get to the line first. Using a graded handicap format which featured larger groups and the NRS riders doing one less lap, participants had the opportunity to engage in some of the strategic aspects of bunch racing that are not normally a part of the handicap ‘dash for cash.’
In the Continental bunch, things started sensibly enough with turns being swapped in an orderly fashion and a solid pace being maintained. However, Alex Poulton got a bit carried away with the free speed his skinsuit was providing him and threatened to shatter an accord before the ink was even dry on the paperwork. A little bit of ‘teacher voice’ brought him back to his senses, peace was restored and the group settled in for the hard chase to catch the NRS team out in front.
Back in the Pro-Continental group, however, it was more of a Caesar’s court, than a cohesive group with more than one rider prepared to play Brutus. Given this group contained a past Collie-Donnybrook winner and two of this year’s Collie-Donnybrook podium one would have thought there was more than enough horsepower to comfortably reel in the groups ahead. However, in a race scenario where the early laps needed to be the cooperative model for all to aspire to, there were surges, attempted escapes off the front, sulking at the back and general disharmony; none of which was helpful in either holding off the lone World Tour rider, or catching the group in front. In fact, such was the level of discord that no number of blue helmets could quell the situation and the group made exactly no inroads into the groups ahead.
Behind this rabble, Brett Dal Pozzo, the solo World Tour rider, had no argument with his legs and gradually closed the 3 minute gap between himself and viper’s nest that was the Pro-Continental outfit. Joining them on the last lap, he sat in to watch the shenanigans before launching a late attack hoping for some minor glory. Hot on his tail, was Mike Staude, who , while quick, wasn’t quick enough to get over the top of Dal Pozzo. In any case, the podium crumbs were long gone and the sprint was simply for minor personal glory – the A and B grade titles.
The race for overall honours had been won in exciting fashion some minutes prior. The Continental group had worked steadily over the first four laps, holding the group together and maintaining a consistent average speed. Sensing a need to to get on with it in order to catch the NRS group who had also been very consistent in their lap times, the pace was upped and in short order riders were dropped unable to work harder than they had been. After this surge brought the NRS peloton into sight, a sense of calm returned, and it became a matter of wearing them down prior to the finish.
At about three kilometres to go, the gap was down to just a few hundred meters and the catch was imminent. The NRS team, sensing some heavy breathing at their rear tried to up the tempo, but the Continental bunch was at full noise by this stage and rapidly closed things down, surged past and started to set up for the sprint.
In the hurly burly, Paul McMurtrie, who had almost been ejected from the group due to the furious last lap pace surfed the wheels and took a memorable win. Second step on the podium was Ryan McLaren and Liz Cooper from the NRS group took a well-deserved third, the C grade championship and the title of fastest female rider on the day.
Thanks to the volunteers who looked after the corners, the start finish line, and the setting out and picking up of signs. Your help is invaluable and appreciated by all the riders.
This event closed out the 2022/2023 season, one where the club welcomed many new members, saw some former members return to events and saw an overall increase in participation in the range of events offered. We look forward to kicking off our new season later in November.