Club racing on Saturday was at Bena on the old highway past the former Bena School with riders racing high intensity Criteriums in graded bunches. To add to the stress levels the riders had to battle a strong and gusty north west wind so riders were keen to find a wheel to follow at the exposed end of the course. The club had several visiting riders swell the race numbers so there were A, B and C grade for the seniors whilst the juniors raced a handicap. A grade raced 45min plus 2 laps, B grade 35min plus 2 laps and C grade 25min plus 2 laps.
In the classy A grade field the pace was on right from the start. Shane Stiles (Warragul) and Will Lumby set a quick early pace however that soon lead to Rob Monk (Warragul) losing contact with the bunch. Brian Sing (Perth) had a puncture and rode back to the start line on a flat tyre. He was able to get a wheel change and get back into the race. The field was ripping through the 1.75km in 2.30min. Meanwhile, Austin Timmins and Harrison McLean were having bike trouble and dropped out. At around 35min Thomas McFarlane and Brian Sing slipped away and opened up a 200m lead. At the bell lap Will Lumby set out to chase them down but just as he was about to make contact they lifted the pace had raced away to contest the sprint. Thomas took the honours ahead of Brian whilst Will claimed third ahead of Brett Kennedy (Warragul) and Shane Stiles.
In the B grade race the field kept a steady pace clocking in laps at about 3min 10 sec which meant that the bunch remained together. However, after about 25min the pressure was applied by Steve Allen and Leigh Stott and this saw Ollie McLean, Kevin Feely and Nicole Summerfield (Warragul) lose contact. Steve and Leigh had a handy break at the bell and there was no-one able to mount a chase. In the dash to the line it was Steve taking the win from Leigh. The bunch sprint was lead home by Darcy O’Connor in 3rd then Gavin Slavin, Neil Walker (Warragul), Kevin Feely, Chris Rowe, Nicole Summerfield and Ollie McLean.
The C grade field headed out a 2min 15 sec pace and that soon saw Greg Bradshaw and Dane Hebert in strife. The solid pace also saw Kerry Pritchard lose contact at around the half way mark leaving just Mark Bensley, Bernadette Fitzgerald, Kobi Merchant (Caulfield Carnegie) and Damina King to swap turns. By the bell lap Damian had lost contact and Mark was doing everything to shake the girls however his efforts were in vain and the uphill finish saw Bernadette kick away for the win ahead of Kobi and Mark. They were followed in by Damina, Kerry and Dane.
In the junior race over 6 laps (10.5km) the lone scratch rider, Thomas Fitzgerald gave up a 6min start to Sulli Herbert and Nick Blogg, 5min to Harry Herbert, 3min to both Zach Stubbs-Taylor and Jack Allen whilst Kaleb Jans was at just 30 sec. Sulli Herbert put in a strong first few laps and left Nick behind, however, younger brother Harry was also pedalling well. At 1 lap to go Harry had caught Sulli and Zach had opened up a lead of 100m over Jack whilst the back-markers were closing in. In the dash to the line Sulli was not going to let brother Harry have the win and the uphill dash saw Sulli win by 5m from Harry in a time of 25.09min. Jack Allen did a big chase on the last lap and finished over the top of Zach to take a narrow 3rd. Thomas Fitzgerald took 5th and fastest time (21.033min) just ahead of Kaleb whilst Nick having his first outing at club level battled on for 7th.
Next Saturday Club racing will start at Dumbalk and use a new circuit. There could be several riders missing as the Ararat junior tour is on however, the new course and a handicap race for the seniors should change the complexion of the club racing.