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Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club

Heffron Park, Maroubra, NSW, December 12, 2006

Robbie Cater storms home on a night of surprises

By John Sunde

It's all a blur
Photo ©: David Bateman
(Click for larger image)

Robbie Cater (FRF Couriers) notched up another impressive win when he outsprinted all the big hitters in the final handicap event of the year at Heffron Park. He will start Sunday's Cronulla International Criterium with a heap of confidence when he lines up with some of Australia's biggest names in pro cycling and also carry the favourite tag into next Tuesday's big end of year Heffron finale, the legendary Eastern Suburbs Trophy Race.

It was a night full of surprises with the biggest surprise a reformatted handicap which pegged back some of the generous time gaps which C grade have enjoyed in recent weeks. Next surprise out of the bag was a host of C grade riders promoted to a start in B grade and that was without even a note from their Mum's, but the surprise which made everyone think Xmas had arrived early, was the $300 envelope for first place. A quick check of recent currency fluctuations in the Portuguese Escudo revealed nothing, nor was there any sign of a recent spike in sales of expensive carbon racing bikes to support this sudden change of generosity, however everyone embraced the new concept of fair handicapping and good prizemoney wholeheartedly.

Heffron Panaroma
Photo ©: David Bateman
(Click for larger image)

The change in attitude and application from the riders was noticeable from the minute B grade got racing underway with the majority of riders all willing to participate and keep the pace rolling. Matt Carter (Easts) made an immediate impact on his return to B grade and is already showing the grit and determination which was a hallmark of his riding when he raced at an elite level in the 1990's. B grade's bubble was burst barely seven laps into the race when a formidable A grade field swept past them buoyed by the favourable southerly and overcast conditions and of course highly motivated by the three green $100 bills tucked away in the handicapper's pocket.

The combined A and B grade field settled into a high speed chase to close the remaining gap to C grade, which they accomplised with just on two laps to spare. No nasty headwind attacks tonight, just consistently solid turns coming from the usual A grade drivers like Troy Glennan, Jose Rodriguez, Tim Willing, Matt Fleming who were more than supported by under 23 international Shaun Higgerson.

The final laps were unquestionably the best racing witnessed on a Tuesday night for some time, perhaps even since the days of Barney St George and Bob Rasenberg.....rider and spectator comments like "best night of racing for a long time", "great spirit in A grade", "handicapping was perfect", "B grade actually swapped off in the correct direction", "A grade was very smooth," all favourably endorsed the handicap and grading.

Jose Rodriguez leading
Photo ©: Stuart Baker
(Click for larger image)

Unfortunately the only blemish on the evening was from a bunch of ratbag juveniles - whose mum's obviously don't know what their kids are doing - when they repeatedly bombarded the speeding bunches with everything from sticks, cans and rocks to a netball. It was certainly a case of the 5 D's of the dodgeball mantra - Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge. Perhaps some more vigilant marshalling will address the issue and prevent the post-race melee which nearly deteriorated into a scene from the terraces when Sporting Lisbon lose to Benfica.

The expected jump on the last lap didn't really eventuate, despite Shaun Higgerson's punishing turn down the straight at the bell. When the pace backed off momentarily a few riders who hadn't been sighted all night suddenly started to sniff out an easy ride to the finish, but a final move from Liam Kelly sent them straight to the back again. Into the last turn a flying netball baulked a few in the lead group who were now well and truly strung out heading into the straight. With a headwind sprint the leaders were spread out the width of the course with first Jose Rodriquez diving to the right of Robbie Cater, then Tim Willing diving to the left, but it was Cater's ever improving finishing strength which held out to the line.

Jose Rodriguez goes left
Photo ©: Stuart Baker
(Click for larger image)

It needed a photo to separate Rodriguez and Willing for second with the eyewitness accounts giving the place to Willing who enjoyed another strong night of racing. Liam Kelly was right in the mix till the end and came away with fourth although judging by his yell when he crossed the line you might have thought he had won. Newly promoted to the international ranks for Sunday's Cronulla crit, Anthony Spurgeon was left to rue about the flying netball and settled for fifth.

Behind the sprint, the important battle for B grade honours was unfolding when the remainder of the field lined up for the B and C grade prizes. There were a couple of early moves most noticeably from recent schoolboy winner, Ben Elliott who seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time, but he had no match for Easts stalwart Warwick Edwards who puts in the hard yards week in week out and this week came up the deserved King of B grade. In the scramble for C grade honours Randwick Botany's Steve Foster continues to show his improved form when he won his first C grade race.

Rumours are already spreading about the new level of generosity including free beers after next weeks Trophy Race. It must be Xmas. It will certainly be Xmas for whoever wins with the Trophy Race with a $400 first prize up for grabs and an impressive $1500 prize list which covers the top ten placegetters in the 20 lap Trophy Race and the top five in the 15 lap support C grade race.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by David Bateman

Images by Stuart Baker


A Grade

1 Robbie Cater (FRF Couriers)
2 Tim Willing (Midland)
3 Jose Rodriguez (Clarence St Cyclery)
4 Liam Kelly (Sydney)
5 Anthony Spurgeon (Caravello)

B Grade

1 Warwick Edwards (Easts)

C Grade

1 Steve Foster (Randwick Botany)

Local results 2006