NULLAKI HANDICAP – 20 MAY 2023
Ingredients: One glorious day, twenty odd bike riders, some curious cattle, a 16% watt bomb climb. Instructions: Combine, stir thoroughly, wait for ninety minutes and you have the makings of an awesome event, the first race on the new Nullaki course for the Albany Cycle Club. For those who might be unfamiliar with the Nullaki, Eden Road is wonderfully scenic, quiet and mostly flat as it wends its way through peppermint forest alongside Wilson Inlet out to Anvil Beach.
Run as a handicap event to give all racers a chance at standing on the top step of the podium, riders set off at carefully calibrated intervals based on likely average speed over the course. Starting off ‘go,’ Lucy Wellstead and Shirley Thurston established a good solid pace that was going to make it challenging for following groups if they could maintain it. At 13 minutes, Andrew LeFort, Liz Cooper, Ben Jackson and Paul Terry were in hot pursuit but certainly knew that they had some work to do to close the gap. Thereafter the handicap gaps started to shorten up, with Kea Mumford, Mike Garland, and Russell Hart at 18 minutes, Paul Gibson, Marius Coetzer and Brendan Holmes at 20, Matt Bascombe, Paul Clifton and Dave Beckwith at 22, and finally the heavy hitters, Vince Bascombe and Ryan McLaren at 30 and Brett Dal Pozzo, needing to hold 38kmh for the 45 kilometre course, at 31 minutes.
With strategically placed marshals at the gate manning the button to ensure smooth passage out to the peninsula and more marshals ensuring that some curious cattle didn’t cause chaos and catastrophe, the groups passed through, and on the road to Anvil Beach there didn’t initially seem to be any noticeable gains being made between the groups. However, from the climb out of the carpark turn around and onto the descent to Nullaki Drive, there was a perceptible difference in the descending speeds and the gaps started to fall with the bigger riders like Bascombe and Beckwith using their power to keep speed high and eat into the advantage of the groups in front of them.
The main elevation in the course was on Nullaki Drive with a series of short, sharp bergs to be climbed in both directions. The cumulative effect of repeated hard power efforts started to take its toll and after the turn for home, there was appreciable diminishing of gaps to the point where groups were now in sight of each other. The highlight of this part of the course was the aptly named Strava segment, 16% Watt Bomb – referring to the steepest pitch on the course and a real leg killer. Short, sharp and ferociously steep, the 400 metres of this climb put all riders under pressure and ensured a nice accumulation of lactic acid in the legs at the top.
Having conquered the mountain, there was no let up as it had to be ‘gas on’ for the remaining kilometres if groups wanted to catch the front runners and claim the victory. At the front of the race, Wellstead and Thurston still enjoyed a healthy gap, but Cooper and LeFort were closing in. Behind them, once back on Eden Road, Beckwith and Bascombe mowed down the Gibson group and then, the now combined bunch, collected Mumford and Garland not long after. Paul Gibson tried to get off the front, but this attempt at escape was immediately shut down and the group settled to work together for the final few kilometres in search of the win, and to hold out the approaching duo of Dal Pozzo and Vince Bascombe.
That proved to be the last catch of the day, with Cooper and Lefort just outlasting the encroaching horde, but the win had already gone to Lucy Wellstead, holding onto some terrific form post SeVeN the week prior. Shirley Thurston rode an excellent race for second and Liz Cooper outsprinted Andrew Lefort for third. Brett Dal Pozzo was fastest on the day, completing the 45km course 1.09.19 at 38.8kmh. Vince Bascombe was the fastest junior stopping the clock at 1.10.21, which equated to 38.2kmh. Evergreen Kea Mumford had the fastest women’s time of 1.21.14 at 33.kmh.