Ron Rivette Memorial – graded scratch races at Balliang.
A solid total field of 35 riders braved the weather forecast to contest 4 graded scratch races, the local Bacchus Marsh racers dominating proceedings and taking the lions share of podium places.
Perhaps Shane Miller is a human after all…baby-faced Steven Lane matching him on the hills and outgunning him in the final sprint.
Just 5 riders were willing to take on A Grade, and after a reluctant start into the inclement weather, they settled into a “warm up” before testing each-other in dragged out endurance intervals.
Into the wind you either worked like a Trojan or were dismissed out the back rather quickly and likely not to rejoin.
Matt Bowman is having a stellar year, even his climbing ability, once his only achilles heel has improved to the point he was still in contention at the turnaround. Phil Cartledge is no stranger to pain and long dragged out efforts are his bread and butter, however Phil is also no stranger to bad luck and a puncture in the sprint for home left him to limp home 4th.
Tony Mirabella had his game face on, and also his polka dot jersey in an attempt to either psych out his challengers or channel his inner mountain goat. While having raced the day before, Tony was sharp in his work and only really eclipsed in the final sprint.
But the day belonged to Steven and Shane who were the main animators of the race and in the final analysis a class above the other 3 gritty riders.
1st Steven Lane
2nd Shane Miller
3rd Tony Mirabella
4th Phil Cartledge
A huge field of 16 braced on the start line, not so much in anticipation of the pain to come…but the imminent downpour of icy cold rain.
With such a large field it was soon evident that there was also a considerable range of abilities.
The stronger riders kept the pace solid on the front for the first 10 kms and turning into the wind the race was put into the gutter in an attempt to split the bunch, however some redline racing from the back of the bunch kept things together until the true test of the day loomed on the horizon, the climb up Granite Rd.
Approaching the left turn into Granite Road and Richard Robocop Taylor moves up from behind midfield to corner with the leaders. He is followed by Dean The Phantom Wells and Grant Smokey Dawson. The slight downhill before the Granite Rd climb sees Robocop launch from the front to try and split the race open. Phantom follows and soon takes over the lead up the climb. Looming up with a big surge of his own, Darren “Earthmover” Terry takes the lead in the race to the top. Phantom kicks again and leads the race over the crest, but the damage has been done behind and the peloton has been strung out. Phantom keeps pressing ahead as is soon joined by Earthmover, Robocop, Owen (…does he have a nickname?) and Smokey. The Phantom is worried about being the only non-Bacchus Marsh rider, but the Bionic Man (Peter Kiel) had crossed with Smokey.
Over the high point of the climb and the leading six pile the pace on. There is a gap to the rest of the field, but now is the time to press home any advantage.
The speed is close to 70 kph as the six race down the hill swapping turns – not smoothly because of the pace down the descent. As the road flattens out, Earthmover dares a glance behind and calls out that there is a chase bunch coming. The six keep working together to the turn around, knowing that the cross/head wind on the longer climb up the east side of the Granite Rd hill should be to their advantage.
Just after the turnaround they see the chase bunch – just two riders, Fifi and Vic Mason (G&SCVV) – who are only a few hundred metres behind. A larger bunch of riders from the original 16 starters in B Grade are a few hundred metres behind Fifi’s duo. Then a few individual riders from the original bunch are spotted, then Popeye is seen carrying his bike…
The leading six use their combined strength to surge back towards the Granite Rd hill. Swapping turns and racing tightly they keep the pace steady and work strongly together. Up the climb…which seems to go on forever from the east…and it is Robocop who looks like he is dancing. Is he planning something?
No one is really struggling, but a well timed effort could unhitch at least one rider. Over the first crest and Robocop does try a little surge which is soon countered by the others.
They fly down the step section of the hill back towards the right turn into Staughton Vale Rd with everyone looking to see who has strength. The right hand turn gives some relief in the form of a long down hill run with a tail wind. Smokey, Owen, Phantom and Earthmover do the pace work along this section with Bionic Man and Robocop sitting out the back watching each other.
Swinging back onto Bacchus Marsh-Balliang Rd for the long run to the finish line (the first time) the lead group has it’s first casualty. Phantom and Smokey were taking turns stretching the group out in the cross wind and Robocop was at the tail of the group in the gutter when he gets a flat.
The lead group is down to five and a pact is soon made to split the money six ways (including Robocop) and just to race for the trophy and glory…’when we turn back onto the home straight after the square lap! Until then, we keep working and sharing the load…’
Someone has broken a glass bottle less than 500 metres up the road form the finishing line. The lead five is reduced to four as Smokey punctures.
Keeping the rolling turns working with and across the wind, the group make there way towards the finish. At the second last corner as they turn back into the wind and Earthmover nearly loses his rear wheel. He shouts out that he has a flat too. He eases to the back of the bunch and hopes to just make it to the finish. Owen, Phantom and Bionic Man take turns into the wind and then rounding the corner into the home straight all head to the middle of the road to keep clear of the glass, wherever it is.
It’s quickly agreed that they race for the win ‘after the glass’.
They see Popeye out picking it up, but they cross to the wrong side of the road to avoid it anyway.
Owen is sitting up front, Phantom rolls up on the right, Bionic Man is on Owen’s left, Earthmover is sitting behind. Phantom starts ramping the pace up and when he goes to sprint there is nothing! Owen and Bionic Man are fighting it out and Earthmover has decided to try his luck in the sprint after all.
Down to the line and Owen just edges out Earthmover with Bionic Man a close third. Phantom rolls in fourth.
Some way back, the best of the rest, Fifi is the only one really interested in a 4 man sprint for 5th.
A great day for Owen after having come so close to winning the inaugural Ron Rivette race in 2014. Owen had been very strong that day and ended up being rolled in the sprint home.
A very deserving winner of the B Grade race and trophy. It was clear to everyone how much the win meant to him at the presentations.
1st Owen Tudball
2nd Darren Terry
3rd Peter Kiel
4th Dean Wells
10 starters for C grade departed the Balliang Hall at a respectful pace, which continued through the early part of the race, until the left bend and up Staunton Vale hill, where the field remained intact but legs had been tested.
And so it was, until the pinch up Granite road where the selection began.
Granite road completed and the field was now Graeme Parker, Terry, Veronica Micich (looking comfortable), Shane Cook (who had assessed that he did not even need to remove the leg warmers) and Louis Nuspan (newly registered and out to see what racing is all about) – the rest a little further back in ones and twos.
A puncture on the Granite road downhill scuttled Graeme who was feeling good after his brief break off to S.A..
Shane, Louis and Veronica had a break at the turn from Mal Rock, Tony Herbert and Terry. Tony was off and Mal and Terry made the junction to the leaders. Back up Granite Rd. Mal breathed his last (or so it seemed) and the four leaders battled up the rises where a little pressure from Shane at the top set the tone for the rest of the race.
Shane leading with Veronica and Louis battling on behind, then Terry who thought at least ‘I’ll have fourth’ but to his surprise Mal and Tony make the catch as the last loop begins. Shane is well gone and facing the wind alone holds no fear. Lou, who has taken his first race in his stride, has managed to shake Veronica who is visible up the road but not going to be caught.
So three sets of weary legs head into the last km chasing fourth and what a contrast. Mal with two 53 chain wheels and Tony looks like he has two 39’s spinning two to everyone else’s one.
Robert Young battled on with the course (read hills) not to his liking – despite living in Ballan – and Greg Curnow never gives in but is yet to find his usual form. Colin Johnson from Eastern showed himself early, but Granite road hill took its toll.
So justice was done with the three best riders taking the honours.
1st Shane Cook
2nd Louis Nuspan
3rd Veronica Micich
4th Terry Collie
For his gritty fight backs throughout the race and sheer determination?, Tony Herbert took out ride of the day.
With a small field of just 4 riders all guaranteed prize money, the only questions were what order for the podium, and would everyone finish to claim their “appearance money”?
On a windy day and with a reasonably challenging hill these were not necessarily givens. With such a small bunch the four had to work well, particularly into the wind to stay in contention. However the Granite Rd hill proved decisive.
The four were soon split into single riders as the differences in strength and ability was soon made evident.
Terry Robinson and John Wilcox riding strongly not only up the climb but also descending stretched the distance between first and last to an insurmountable length.
Despite “all in” chase efforts the group never came back together and they crossed the line individually.
1st Terry Robinson
2nd John Wilcox
3rd Ray Hodgson
4th Ross West