Scottsdale Slam Handicap – 22 July 2023

The Scottsdale Slam.

 A 44-kilometre roller coaster in the picturesque hills of Denmark. From the start line the course climbs for roughly 16 kilometres; gentle at first but towards the end there’s a real sense of Little Red Engine:  I think I can, I know I can.  Having chugged away to the top of the course at the Alpaca Farm, there’s a brief plateau before the first of three descents. After hitting speeds of 50 to 60 kilometres an hour, a brief climb back onto another small plateau around Happy Valley before shooting down a longer sinuous descent. The final grind on the outward leg peaks at Silverstream vineyard before falling to the turnaround at Woylie Road which strategically misses Cujo’s lair. And then the reverse. Up, down, up, down and up again to reach the top of the course at Alpaca and the welcome knowledge of 16 kilometres of descending to the finish at Rockcliffe.  The fastest part of the course is the first three or four kilometres coming off the top, consistently maintaining speeds of 50 to 60 kilometres an hour before the gradient settles down and then it’s back onto big power to maintain speed. 

Being a handicap race, riders set off in groups of commensurate ability at intervals which ideally lead to everyone finishing at more or less the same time.  The ‘Go’ group of Lucy Wellstead and Jill Bascombe led the 18 riders away, followed 5 minutes later by Steve Maguire, Brett Turbill and Craig Lewington. At 8 minutes, a strong trio, Paul Gibson, Mark Guerin and Andrew Lefort, set a cracking pace up the hill in pursuit of the earlier groups. Denmark duo, Kea Mumford and David Beckwith left at 14 minutes with the task of staying ahead of a powerful 18-minute group comprising the Staude brothers, Mike and Leon, and Matt Bascombe. Sandwiched between these two groups was another duo, Paul Clifton and the ageless Jimmy Watmore. At the fast end of the field were newcomer, soon to be Walpole local, Colin Rose, and Vince Bascombe. Sean Ralph, visiting from Perth was off scratch, however, unfortunately, his day was curtailed early with a puncture.

Quite a few of the groups loaded the engine box up with coal, put the foot flat to the floor and set out extremely hard from the start line to conquer the first climb ahead of their pursuers. For more than a few of the competitors, opting for this strategy meant there was a price to pay later in the race as their engines overheated, legs seized and lungs expired, allowing the groups which had held a steadier pace to roll past them. Often the secret in handicap races is to maintain a steady tempo that all the group can cope with to maximise numbers, and to use those numbers to overwhelm the hares.  

While this course did not feature the famed and feared Teardrop, there was no shortage of elevation with the road rarely making peace with a spirit level. The 465 vertical metres enough to put a bit of hurt in the legs, and with most of that over by the second time the riders passed Alpaca, the fast downhill to the finish then became a real test of strength and stamina.

In a testament to great handicapping, most of the riders participating were coming together from Alpaca down to the finish.  The gaps had visibly narrowed in the climbing sections of the course and then those who were able to maintain higher speeds on the downward slopes gradually picked off those in front. With just a couple of kilometres to go Matt Bascombe and Jimmy Watmore collected Mark Guerin and were sitting a 100 or so metres ahead of Team Staude.  A further 200 metres in arrears were Beckwith and Mumford, with Steve Maguire, doing his best to hang on. At a kilometre out the front three had become five, with the chasing group closing in rapidly. In the final sprint for the line, Mike Staude caught Matt Bascombe by surprise, winning the five-up sprint for, as it turned out, second place. 

Paul Gibson, having ridden away from his partners to record a convincing win, was able to watch the flurry of action with a cup of tea in one hand and a scone in the other. From this point riders came over the line rather rapidly, relieved to have completed a fun day out on the bike having hit a Goldilocks patch in the winter weather.

The race also had several informal cups on offer. The Bascombe Cup was won by Matt taking honours from wife Jill and son Vince. Vince, however, also collected some bragging rights having the fastest time and being the fastest junior.  The Staude Cup was held aloft by Mike, edging out younger brother Leon. In the battle of the locals, the Denmark Cup, Mark ‘Snapper’ Guerin just edged out Beckwith and Mumford (fastest female).

Albany Cycling Club wishes to extend its thanks to Rockcliffe Winery for hosting us once again, to the marshals who handicapped, controlled the start/finish line, looked after the major intersection at Alpaca and did the turnaround. In particular, thank you to Keith Symes for his work setting up the signs for the day. 

The next event is the Lowlands Gravel Race, a cracking event. Three 10-kilometre laps around a fun gravel loop. It was hugely popular last year and we’re looking forward to a big crowd again.