Narrikup Spencer Road Handicap – 10 June 2023
The colosseum of nature. None of this soft as butter, hermetically sealed, air conditioned, temperature controlled indoor stadiums offering a confected sporting experience. Nothing beats the primacy of athletes wrestling with nature; riding with the writhing elements. Clouds hurtling above, a pelting rain and a ground level tempest throwing sticks, bark and nuts into the faces of competitors.
Such was the experience of the twenty competitors at Albany Cycle Club’s recent Narrikup Handicap. A short, hard and hilly race made all the tougher by howling headwind that had to be dealt with in the first half of the race before the turn around offered some relief. Unfortunately, despite all of the climbing, none of the hills offered much ‘value for money’ in terms of the descents. Any speed to be had, had to be earned on a course that offered no respite in either direction.
The go group of Shirley Thurston, Lucy Wellstead, Jill Bascombe and newcomer, Mike Sillifant, were looking to repeat the heroics of the Nullaki race where they held off the rampant chase groups and took the win. Alas, a puncture and illness reduced the group to two well before the turnaround and the hillier course proved a more challenging proposition. Off five minutes, Liz Cooper and Andrew LeFort were the next group to go, their task made more exacting by the size of the group. At nine minutes, the Denmark trio of Kea Mumford, Mike Garland, and Mark Guerin were confident that they might just have enough time on scratch if they rode well. The twelve minute group, Mike Staude, Brendan Holmes, Paul Gibson and another newcomer, Frank Bate split the large Western Suburbs contingent, with Colin Ashton Graham, Greg Newton and David Beckwith following at 13 minutes. The last two groups, Brent Schoof and Vince Bascombe at eighteen minutes and Brett Dal Pozzo, off scratch at nineteen minutes were the last to go.
The headwind and hills took their toll with a number of groups splintering as riders struggled to stay in contact with each other and others found that their legs had taken an unauthorised RDO. In the thirteen minute group, Ashton Graham found himself climbing the hills with dual handbrakes engaged and graciously moderated his pace to keep together with his tardy companions. It was only at the turn around with the ominous whoosh of an approaching bullet train that he dropped the shackles and accelerated away to try and, if not outrun the train, at least be in a position to keep pace with it.
Further forward in the race, Staude and Bate were showing their legs were in pretty good shape gradually picking up the groups ahead of them and, in passing, giving them no chance to latch on. However, their pace was no match for Bascombe and Dal Pozzo who, having repelled all boarders, went to the front with about 6km to go and stayed there. Dal Pozzo took the win and coveted silverware, completing the course in 57.52 at 37.9kmh. Vince Bascombe, the fastest junior, just a few hundred metres back in second, completing the course in 36.5kmh. Mike Staude rounded out the podium with third place. Kea Mumford, fifth, was the fastest female with an average speed of 30.8kmh.
Thanks to the volunteers who put out the signs, manned the turn around and the start/finish line. A special thanks to Ryan Mclaren, ACC Treasurer who is heading back to Perth to start a family. You’ll be missed.