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Heffron Park, NSW, December 3, 2002

Pile-up ends promising evening's racing

By John Sunde

Drama and just a little bit of chaos reigned over Tuesday night racing at Heffron Park, as one of the largest bunch pile ups seen at the circuit brought the 15 lap race to premature end 2 laps before the sprint.

Another sweltering Sydney summer day greeted a record 97 riders for the 30km graded handicap. Unlike the first few weeks of racing the blustery winds were absent, so a hot and fast race was about to unfold.

Some notable entrants for this week's race included Sydney Olympic Triathlon silver medallist, Michellie Jones and Rod McGee, brother of Tour de France stage winner Brad. Rod was doing his bit in A grade, along with FDJ-NSWIS teammate Chris Sutton, who was keeping the rest of the A graders honest.

Following on from last week's energetic start, B grade got racing underway and quickly established a fast tempo to have C grade in their sights after only 6 laps of the race. With riders thriving in the calmer conditions, the bunches were still largely intact when B grade swept past C grade with 5 to go and 50+ riders began to size up their options of an outright win.

A grade had started with a more modest 19 riders, which had dropped to 11 by halfway as the 44 kph average took its toll on the field. Despite the pace (and an extra lap slipped in somewhere), A grade was running out of laps to catch B+C, and with four to go the gap was still around 40 seconds.

Then pandemonium set in. Coming down the straight with 3 laps to go there was a loud bang of a puncture, followed by the sickening crunch of bikes and bodies going everywhere. Interestingly at this point, the race was still very much on as Dr Bob Hampshire and Tony Iannicito where intent putting down the hammer to hold off A grade.

Unfortunately their enthusiasm was short lived, as one lap later after A grade had threaded its way through the carnage it was clear that it was all over with bikes and riders still littering the course.

Initially, the biggest concern was for the rider lying flat across the course who turned out to be none other a very sorry and sore looking Frank 'the bank' Conceicao. Someone then quickly reassured everybody that apart from 2 painfully dislocated fingers he was OK, as it appeared he had landed on his wallet. There were also concerns that he may have injured his cheque writing hand, but the bicycle industry has since breathed a sigh of relief.

Not so well off was Bicisport rider, Stuart Miller who spent the best part of the night being x rayed, stitched and plastered up after someone's chainring left him with a nasty imprint in his forearm and a fractured hand. On top of that, Stuart is also nursing a sore neck after more than one rider rode over the top of him. A big thank you to East's rider Dr John McKenzie who was on hand to provide trackside medical assistance and was instrumental in ensuring the injured were fast tracked through POW Casualty in extra quick time.

Any fall is unpleasant and when it happens 10 wheels back in B & C grade with 3 laps to go on a straight piece of road, it is also completely unnecessary. No one wants to spend the night in emergency, miss work or more importantly miss training, all because someone's ego got in the way of their ability.

Suffice to say, there are 2 other riders also nursing cuts, bruises and sore bones this morning and hopefully common sense will prevail so the incident isn't taken any further. The behaviour from 1 rider which occurred immediately after the incident is best left forgotten.

It's worth remembering that classic bike racing quote 'there's no room on the inside!'

An unhappy end to what was up till then a great nights racing. Were the 11 A graders going to close the 40sec gap in the remaining 2 laps or were the revved up B grade mixture of masters strongmen and wily juniors going to stay away?

Unfortunately we'll never know, but the prize money has jackpotted (hopefully not less medical expenses?) for next week's final handicap of the year.

The final race of the year is the highly rated (UCI ranked?) Xmas Trophy Race on 17 December.


Images by John Sunde


Australian results from the past week

Footscray CC - Nov 23
Mildura-Coomealla CC - Criterium
Mildura-Coomealla CC - TT
Randwick-Botany CC - Sat
Carnegie Caulfield - Nov 24
Illawarra CC
St Kilda CC
Lidcombe Auburn CC
Carnegie Caulfield - Nov 26
Eastern Suburbs Criterium
Mildura-Coomealla CC - Nov 26
Canberra CC Criterium #5
Footscray CC - Nov 28
Gold Coast CATS CC


Complete Australian results for 2002