By Katherine Stannard (with apologies to Banjo Patterson and Clancy of the Overflow)
I found this when I was cleaning out the cupboard the other day – while it is a race report from another time and another place it could be describing the twists and turns of almost any race. I thought you might enjoy it.
First, a little bit of background; the Grafton Inverell is a single day, graded, 240km race from Grafton, at sea level in northern New South Wales, up over the Gibraltar range (a winding climb of some 18km) to Inverell, some 600m above sea level. The year that Steve and I did the race Phil Anderson (aka Skippy) was invited to be the race starter. We were racing for our Northern Suburbs Club who were sponsored by the Clancy’s supermarket chain. The rest, as they say, is history….
As we marshalled on the start line
in the early morning light
There were twenty Clancy’s riders, maybe more
And as “Skippy” gave the signal
The recreational rides organisers had the idea to add some variety to our Sunday rides by planning a trip starting a bit further away from home and on roads not regularly used by our club members. Thus the ride from Mangaweka was conceived.
To make the logistics easier, a bus was hired which picked up the approximately 40 riders for just over an hour journey to Mangaweka.
And on time at 8:15 the group set off up the (rather nice climb) towards Rangiwahia. The previous days of heavy rain had brought down a large number of slips and the soft Papa Rock (that muddy greyish sandstone) covered the road. Pretty soon both bikes and riders were were evenly plastered with the stuff.
Last Saturday saw the running of Bike Manawatu’s equivalent of Paris-Roubaix, the Essex Cup around the Pohangina Valley loop. The course goes straight up the Valley to Pohangina Village and out the other side on the unsealed Pohangina Valley West Rd. After turning right at Churchill Drive, the race then turns right onto Pohangian Valley East Rd and then back to Ashhurst.
A relatively small, but hardened group of riders turned up to taste some dirt and enjoy a dry and fairly windless race.
Two riders, Tamara Ross (Wanganui) and Thomas Stannard, started off ‘limit’ being given a 14 min start on the next bunch of three riders, Katherine Stannard, Toshi Yamauchi, and Michaela Walker (Wanganui). Another 12 minutes back was the largest bunch on ‘block’ containing Ross and Jordan Castle, Jake van Lienen, Cody Simpson, and Ross Rainham. Last to start, off ‘scratch’ were Paddy Daly and Steve Stannard, another two minutes back.
What a lovely ride we had on Sunday 13th October from Mangaweka back to Palmerston North. The weather, albeit a bid windy (very windy actually) was dry, there was a great turn out of people of varying strengths and all appearing to be enjoying the lovely countryside and company of others. It is a shame therefore that again I feel the need to write an article expressing my frustrations (I’m putting it mildly) about rider selfishness.
Shortly after leaving Cheltenham and as the wind continued to blow, there were a few people in our group (two groups having merged at this stage) who were struggling to keep up and as I tend to do, I moved up to the front to ask that the speed be cut back. To my annoyance, the group continued on at the same speed and I decided to drop back to ride with and support one of our colleagues. We rode the last 25 kilometres by ourselves, without any other cyclists in sight, they perhaps clearly more interested in coffee than helping a fellow cyclist. I certainly don’t mind doing this if there is only 2-3 kilometres to go, but how could a group of experienced cyclists and yes, there were some very strong and experienced cyclists in this group, leave someone to struggle on their own, especially with so far to go. Out of a group of approximately 30 cyclists, I would have thought it quite appropriate that 3-4 riders drop back to help those that are struggling.
As the handicapper in last year’s Joe Allen race I was a bit embarrassed that we had a top-notch scratch bunch who worked like Trojans, but didn’t get anywhere near winning. It made it worse that I was in the scratch bunch with a bit of form!
A good handicap race is one where all the bunches come together in the last 5 to 10% of the race distance. The Joe Allen is a bit different, because the last third of the race is downhill or flat, so providing there is no strong cross wind, many B and C riders would be able to hook onto scratch as they come through and be in the mix for the overall win. This year’s race was a bit closer to that ideal…
The limit riders (D grade) were a small group, and although they had half an hour on scratch, the group size and wind direction (Sth Easterly) meant that they’d be caught at some point on the way home.