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Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club
Tuesday night racing at Heffron Park is back
By John Sunde
Tuesday night heralded the start of Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club's 21st season of criterium racing at Sydney's popular and demanding Heffron Park circuit in Maroubra.
All the usual suspects and ingredients seemed to arrive right on cue. Firstly the howling north easterly picked up to a steady 60kph just before the 6pm race start. The usual pleas for a favourable grade were being negotiated, with the old favourites like "I've only ridden twice all winter" and "but, I've just recovered from surgery" getting plenty of airtime. Race Handicapper Frank Conceicao would have none it though and almost everyone ended up where they should have. That was until Grafton to Inverell top ten finisher Nathan Rollanson was spotted trying to line up in B grade. Fortunately Eastern Suburbs newly formed Operación Oporto was hastily convened and Nathan was quickly despatched back to A grade.
The feature of Tuesday night racing has always been the balls out handicap format which requires A grade to catch B and C grades within 1min 30sec over 30km. Throw in 12 corners over 2km, a 60kph head wind and 15 A grade riders chasing much bigger bunches of 25 and 35 respectively and it's not hard to see why most riders rate Heffron Park as a challenge.
Quite a few new faces for the seasons first race and most quickly discovered that going it alone in the early laps doesn't pay off at Heffron. B grade got racing underway at an almost leisurely pace which did pick up but never once had the cohesion which threatened to put serious time into C grade. No surprise then that after only 6 laps A grade had caught B grade and the real chase began.
Within a lap a select group of six riders, Troy Glennan and Robbie Cater (FRF Couriers), Liam Kelly (Sydney), Tim Willing (Midland), Brisbane visitor Jono Cantwell (Lifecycle) and how did I end up here?, Paul Rowney (Easts) had broken away and settled a smooth tempo which left the remainder of A and B grade doing their best to try and stay in contention.
Up front the 35 strong C grade bunch were doing their best to use their sheer momentum to stay away for the overall win, but with 2 laps to go their race for overall honours was dashed as the A grade break continued their relentless drive for the line. In the mayhem, three C grade riders, last years Trek Series C grade winner Peter O'Connor (Easts), junior rider Tayla Aitchinson (Southern Cross) and Scott Simpson (Easts) managed to latch onto the back of the break.
In the gallop, Liam Kelly led it out in the gutter, hoping his 'team mate' in the Multiplex kit Tim Willing would come through the gap. Like a lot of best laid sprint plans, the plan came undone when an in form Robbie Cater burst through the gap to storm home for the win, picking up where he left off in the last race of last summer. Jono Cantwell claimed third demonstrating that accomplished riders can master any course, while Tim Willing was left to pull the grass out of his derailleur and Paul Rowney cruised in for fifth wondering if a few less beers at the weekend would have improved his finish.
The three C grade escapees were led home by Peter O'Connor who also seems to have picked up exactly where he left off last summer. The win makes it his 4th consecutive C grade win and when the Handicapper takes off his red/blue/white tinted glasses, even he would have to admit a B grade start is well overdue.
At the back of the field, the honours for early season B grade supremacy and bragging rights where still up for grabs, with all the familiar faces still there - Easts trio of Scotty Callum, Craig Dempsey and Nick Rathborne, Caravello evergreen Antonio Iannacito and St George stalwarts Kevin Nichols and John Sunde. The early move came from Pete Reid (Easts) who underestimated the headwind and was promptly attacked over the last pimple by John Sunde in what looked the winning move, only to be caught in the straight by a very fast finishing Nicky Rathborne.
A reminder that Tuesday night racing starts promptly at 6pm. You'll need a current Cycling Australia licence and an Australian Standards approved helmet. If you're planning on racing on Saturday afternoon at Heffron Park, don't forget the change of starting times to 4pm and 5 pm for Randwick Botany club racing.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Dave Bateman
Images by Rocky Fortuna
A Grade 1 Robbie Cater (FRF Couriers 2 Liam Kelly (Sydney) 3 Jono Cantwell (Lifecycle) 4 Tim Willing (Midland) 5 Paul Rowney (Easts) B Grade 1 Nick Rathborne (Easts) 2 John Sunde (St George) 3 Kevin Nichols (St George) C Grade 1 Peter O'Connor (Easts) 2 Tayla Aitchinson (Southern 3 Scott Simpson (Easts)
Local results 2006