With the constant rain around Sydney in the last week and presently, the chances of a race on Sunday seemed remote on Friday. However as with the previous week at North Head for our crit race, our club sponsor Weatherzone ensured that the skies were blue and the sun was out for the time it takes to ride to the race, race and ride home. Now being the only monthly road race in metro Sydney and on a course that is known as a hard mans course hence Roger Shackleton and Dave Watkinson heading out to Eastern Creek instead of coming to our club race we know that it usually has a pretty high stand field throughout all the grades. However when race day sponsor Pest Control Solutions wanted to ensure that the last road race for the year was indicative of a club with the name ‘Manly’ we didn’t expect them to organise a rider known as the ‘World’s Best Lead Out Man’ Mark Renshaw of HTC and soon to be Rabobanks main sprinter to sign on and challenge our A Grade riders.
All grades had a solid field, with two B Grade bunches that were filled with the flying carrots of Central Coast Cycling, a large C grade and a growing D Grade. However all eyes were on A Grade and how they would handle a rider who was snubbed by the Aussie selectors for apparently not being suited to tough one day courses – Renshaw was out to show his toughness on his impressive Specialized McLaren and ready to show that he can handle the tough one day races – even those of the standard of our club race. The A grade rolled out with a few of the National Road Series riders wanting to get to the front and perhaps get themselves a pro contract that pays money, we had the Bike Bug riders and Jake Kauffman resplendent in his new Drapac kit setting a steady tempo. A few in the crowd wanted to know if finally we would see Jake Kauffman beaten in a sprint at West Head?
Back in D Grade the one lap of West Head is always a test for our newer riders and those who are getting their fitness up to scratch. The group stuck to together for most of the circuit and had a good learning experience and it wasn’t until the last turnaround and a quick trip up the last little berg that the field split up, with three riders going clear. In the end it was one of the many Millingtons – Jake Millington (CCCC) streaking clear of the field and earning his big payday and ensuring that it was worth the trip up from the Central Coast, the young rider who had a good 30 years on the his fellow podium getters Dominic Zumbo (Bicisport) and Craig Wotherspoon had a bike length on second place. I hope dad didn’t take too much of Jakes Hawaii Five O winnings.
C Grade were sent out on their 2 laps which is often a very long test of endurance fitness for a number of C graders, as two trips up the wall burns many sets of legs. A very solid sized field ensured that there were some places to rest but also plenty of chances for the stronger riders to hide. In the end it was Dan Blacklock who stole the cookies and took the victory over Zac Sellers and Mark Thomas in a very strongly contested C Grade who even included a few riders who were hiding from their B Grade promotion, however having the President in the bunch means that names and numbers have been marked.
Big numbers in B Grade meant that the groups were split into two larger packs as we wanted to share the Christmas Spirit and gave out double the number of podiums for B Grade. One B Grade pack held most of the contingent from the Central Coast Club, the flying carrots had most of the group marked and their strength in numbers meant they were able to control the tempo and bunch. A few of the riders had thought about stepping up to A Grade but revised that upon consideration of the field depth in A, however the charity of the handicapper will have to be reviewed as in the first B peloton – we had the Central Coast taking out 1,2 and 3. It almost appeared to be a club race for them. Well done to Adam Kimberley on third and Stuart Binns in second and not to be outdone by his young son – Justin Millington (CCCC) picked up first place and another big pay day.
The second B grade bunch held some hopes that perhaps we could get some Manly riders on the podium in our club race. This bunch had a mixture of clubs and it was a three rider breakaway that was clear of the bunch, made up of a SUVelo, Randwick Botany and thankfully a Manly rider that would share the spoils. In the end it was local knowledge as Trevor Smith (MWCC) waited until the final drag before rolling clear and in the end looking pretty comfortable as he had added another recent victory to his belt and now gets to suffer in A Grade. Podium was 1st – Trevor Smith, 2nd Richard Broom and third – Darren Byers.
Back in A Grade – Renshaw had the words of Aussie Selector Matt White in his mind as he looked to show he can be there at the end of a tough one day race. A last minute decision before race start to make the race 3 laps as opposed to 2 seemed to suit him and a number of other riders within the grade, as the riders were coming towards the end of the second lap, Cycling Royalty Cadel Evans decided that he also wanted to ride out to West Head during the race! Unfortunately Cadel as usual was towing a bunch of other riders behind him and a number of support vehicles which meant that A grade would not be able to pass safely during their race, a last minute decision to bring the race back to 2 laps, lead to some confusion within the bunch who thought the call of final lap and finish up had simply been a miscount and two riders who had decided to sneak away being Ed White (SUVelo) and Andy Crawley (MWCC) suddenly were faced with the biggest results in their careers. The history books will show Andy Crawley as the victor on the day with Ed White in second and Jake Kauffman in third with Mark Renshaw safely back in the pack. The intricacies and details of the race will be lost but the results will stand and the stories will grow.
It isn’t often that you have a Tour De France winner on course, combined with the main sprinter of one of the biggest teams in the world, while we were disappointed that we didn’t get to see Renshaw wind it up – the safety of all riders and the future of races out on the course relies on us keeping everyone safe and rules in place. We will send Cadel an email and tell him next time he wants to ride West Head he should do it at the clubs next road race on the 8th of January. Thanks to all riders who came out and we hope to see you all in the new year or even at our Cyclo Cross race this Saturday at JJ Melbourne Hills Memorial Reserve with sign on from 8am and racing from 8:45am – cross bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, roadies, single speeds are all eligible to race the cross circuit.