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Springvale Necropolis, October 29, 2002

Midweek racing gets off with a bang

By Malcolm Sawford

Racing round the necropolis
Photo: © Mal Sawford
Click for larger image

Melbourne weather was very kind for the historic first race at the exciting new circuit at the Springvale Necropolis. After a year long search to find a new venue for midweek racing things were sorted out in time to kick off the season in the first week of Daylight Savings. With the temperature in the mid twenties for the first time in months, and clear blue skies, the circuits through the picturesque grounds were shown off beautifully. A good turnout of spectators watched A and B Grades race around a technical 2.5km flat circuit, while C and D Grades used a 1.2km circuit around the Avenue of Roses featuring a gradual rise up the back straight.

Young stars Michael Downing (Le Tour Cycles) and Pete Johnstone fought out a tight sprint for the honour of being the first winner at the venue, with the youngest member of the extensive Downing clan claiming the win by half a length after a close race where no riders were able to break free of the attentive bunch. Veterans Bill Upston and Ray Smith followed the pair in with Melissa Sandford not far behind to take the Women's win.

C Grade saw good attacking rides from may riders, not content to risk their chances in a bunch finish with known sprinters like Darren Cathie to contend with. Alex Reinheir and Paul Marp combined midway through the race to open up a gap, but when Cathie bridged the old hands in the field combined to neutralize the move.

A late solo move from Ross Edwards looked good, but his increasingly desperate appeals for race officials to give the '3 to go' call indicated he was starting to struggle. He was finally reeled in on bell lap, to see John Cartwright counter attack and round the last corner with a small gap. The gap wasn't quite enough, as Darren Cathie earned his way back to B Grade with a finely judged sprint. Doug Reynolds also pipped Cartwright on the line, with Marcel Musco rounding out the podium.

Sun Tour Podium Girl Cheryl Hickman (Bicycle Superstore) didn't miss the podium by much in claiming the win in a hotly fought women's division.

Out on the big circuit, riders were keen to make good use of their fitness built up over a long road season, with small breaks constantly going clear in attempt to find the right combination to stay away. A 6 man move 20 minutes in looked threatening, but the bunch worked well to bring them back at the half way mark.

Bruce Will waited until the early attackers showed signs of tiredness before launching his attack, with Ross Jones (Jones Cycles) along for the ride. When Martin Bole powered across the trio quickly moved clear with about 10 minutes to race.

At the finish, Bole opened a gap on his breakaway companions and took out a good win, and will have a run in A Grade for his efforts. Will did enough to finish ahead of Jones, while the bunch was lead home by Columbian fast man Mauro Restrepo around 20 seconds later.

A start studded field fought out the premier A Grade race, with track stars Darren Young (Terry Hammond Cycles), Todd Wilksch (Fitzroy Cycles) and Tim Bennett ready to pounce if things came down to a sprint. After 2 laps to familiarize themselves with the new circuit, the pace of the A Grade bunch through the first corner was dramatically faster than the B Grade bunch that was on the circuit at the same time.

Bike handling skills were put to the test, with MTB star Murray Spink (Jones Cycles/Giant Bicycles) having to rely on his off road skills on more than one occasion; overshooting corners and bunny hopping curbs before rejoining the bunch.

Chris Bradford (CBD Cycles) and Under 17 rider Simon Clarke (Bike NOW) were constantly on the attack, with Dean Johnstone (Jones Cycles) doing his best to set up a good camera shot for chief photographer and wife Ann! A late break featuring Clarke, Wilksch and Bradford had a good gap at the bell, but the huge motor of World Masters Road Champ Justin Davis (O'Mara Cycles) towed the bunch back up in time for a bunch sprint.

Wilksch took the win by 2 bike lengths from Austral Wheelrace winner Young, with Chris D'Amelio claiming a good 3rd place in Elite company. Local favorite Warren Knevitt (O'Mara Cycles) took the final spot on the podium.

Racing continues every Tuesday night on the circuit, which seems certain to be a popular successor to the much loved AFL Park circuit. All riders had positive reactions to the circuits, which offer smooth, fast, car free roads in a much more scenic and sheltered position than the old Antartic Park! Our thanks go to the Trustees of the Necropolis for making the facility available to Melbourne's racing community. The Police Road gate (Melways Map 80 G6) opens at 6pm for race starts for all grades at 6.30. All holders of current Cycling Australia licenses are welcome (don't forget to bring your licence or reciept!) and non-members can have a go by taking out a three-race licence for $39, deductable from your full membership if you decide to continue racing.


Images by Mal Sawford


A Grade (55 mins+ 3 laps) 22 starters
1 Todd Wilksch (Horsham CC)
2 Darren Young (Mersey Valley CC)
3 Chris D'Amelio (Bairnesdale Riviera CC)
4 Warren Knevitt (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
B Grade (55 mins+ 3 laps) 20 Starters
1 Martin Bole (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
2 Bruce Will (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
3 Ross Jones (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
4 Mauro Restrepo (Carnegie Caulfield CC) 
C Grade (45 mins + 3 laps) 22 starters
1 Darren Cathie (Dirt Riders CC)
2 Doug Reynolds (Blackburn CC)
3 John Cartwright (St Kilda CC)
4 Marcel Musco (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
Unplaced Women: Cheryl Hickman (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
D Grade (40 mins + 3 laps) 21 starters
1 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
2 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Peninsula CC)
3 Bill Upston (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
4 Ray Smith (Carnegie Caulfield CC)
Unplaced Women: Melissa Sandford (Carnegie Caulfield CC)

Australian results from the past week

Canberra CC - Ally Nish Memorial Handicap
Carnegie Caulfield Crit
Illawarra CC
Murwillumbah CC
NSW U19 & Masters Crit Champ's
Randwick Botany CC


Complete Australian results for 2002