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Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club
Heffron Park, November 11, 2003
And now for something completely different!
By John Sunde
The 30km graded handicap format for A, B & C grades which has been run successfully for almost 20 years at Eastern Suburbs weekly club race at Heffron Park was discarded for this Tuesday night's racing.
Instead, a handicap event was run for B & C grades while the 24 A grade starters held a separate scratch race, both races still over 15 laps and run at the same time. Confused? Then try riding it. The handicap event consisted of 73 riders split more or less evenly between B grade (36) and C grade (37) and got under way first. So far so good.
The only consistent element of the night was the wind, this week coming from the south and making it light work around the back section and a struggle down the home straight. This was evident after the first few laps when the C grade bunch seemed to be losing riders regularly - which also indicated there are still a number of C grade riders sneaking in under the handicapper's form guide.
B grade eventually managed to build the tempo after they realised there would be no A grade to cart them to the finish in the closing laps, but it wasn't till the last 3 laps that B grade caught site of a vastly reduced C grade bunch, who with 2 to go still looked like they were going to take the first 5 places up for grabs.
Both grades came together at the bell, but by then C grade powerhouse, Peter McDonald had already escaped on his own. Even the 20-up gallop for the other places couldn't close the gap in the sprint and it was left to Peter Fitzpatrick, who had what can only be described as a 'quiet' race, to lead in the bunch.
Meanwhile in between all this, an impressive A grade field had disintegrated itself into a final selection of only 10 riders. Who needs a handicap? The early pace was set by Rod McGee (FDJeux/NSWIS Parramatta) and last week's winner Steve Fitzpatrick (St George). They were then joined by Chris Sutton, Stu Campbell, Jose Rodriguez, newly crowned Aussie MTB champ, Josh Fleming and Laurie Vignes who was showing improved form after his B grade effort the previous week.
After that, if you weren't in the break, you weren't in the race, with one notable omission being Liam Kelly. Somehow the fragmented A grade bunch managed to weave their way around the course in between the handicap event, but it was all pretty clear cut in the sprint, with Rod McGee outsprinting his NSW track team mate Steve Fitzpatrick.
A Grade - 30km scratch race 1 Rodney McGee (FDJeux/NSWIS Parramatta) 2 Steve Fitzpatrick (St George) 3 Jose Rodrigeuz (Easts) B & C Grade - 30km Handicap 1 Peter McDonald (Randwick Botany) 2 Peter Fitzpatrick (St George) 3 Justin Case (Caravello) 4 Ian Russell (Lifecycle) 5 Andy Mathews (Randwick Botany) 1st B Grade (not in the top 5) Trent Illiffe (Easts)