Fantastic conditions greeted the 20 starters in the Coburg Road Race Club Champs on Saturday 15 October. With the Men’s, Women’s and Junior’s titles all being hotly contested, it was sure to be a hard day in the saddle. The 8km iconic Kinglake climb would mean that there was nowhere to hide on the 64km course that took in over 800m of climbing, but provided enough flat-ground and descending to make it an open affair. After plenty of trash talk on the start line (led by Adrian Chew, no less), the race rolled away from Whittlesea Showgrounds and down Plenty Rd, under control to Arthurs Ck Rd.
It didn’t take long for the racing to start in earnest, as Team Kosdown’s Kos Samaras assumed his normal position at the head of affairs. The massive diesel motor that is Glynn Matthey also showed his strength in the crosswind. The first hills through Arthurs Ck then started to split the bunch – with the Women’s contenders (Rae Lesniowska and Janette Kodaih) and Junior’s contenders (Chris Lyell and Jono Sammut) content to ride their own races. Indeed, Chris and Jono were so absorbed in their own battle they decided to add a few extra kilometres to their race, when they missed the Greens Rd turn in Arthurs Ck. Taking the scenic route to Hurstbridge didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm though.
An early attack by Sam “Boonen” Lilley caused the pace to rise a little, but clearly the main bunch had its mind on the Kinglake climb. Although, the first cracks were starting to show for some of the riders as they reached the nasty pinch on Hildebrand Rd Hill on the Strathewen Rd.
The race rolled on through St Andrews, much to the bemusement of the market go-ers, with Kos and Top Gear’s Stephen Thompson swapping turns on the front. Then things got serious…
“The Dragon” that marks the entrance to the Kinglake climb is well known by everyone who rides in this part of the world. Nearly 10% for 600m is more than enough the get the climbing legs working. The bunch hit the foot of the hill at high pace thanks to a timely surge from Adrian Chew. However, such was the strength of the field that much of the bunch held together over the burg and sped on to the main climb.
As soon as the race reached the foot of the climb, it was on! Team Kosdown’s resident mountain goat, Jason Laird, smashed the early parts of the climb at around 27-28km/h – showing why he’s a previous Baw Baw winner. The pace soon forced a selection. A group consisting of Jason, Stephen Thompson, Phil Smith and defending Champ, Simon Welsh, pulled away – with poor old Stephen Thompson from the Top Gear team surrounded by three Kosdown riders. After the early fireworks, Simon Welsh, moved to the front of the bunch and kept a high pace – but it wasn’t enough to prevent Phil Smith from making a couple of attacks as the group worked its way up the climb. As the lead group hit the last 2km of the climb, the increasing pitch motivated another attack from Phil. Simon followed, but the subsequent counter-attack from Jason Laird caused a split. Jason and Stephen opened a gap, with Simon hot on their heels and Phil further back pushing through the pain barrier. The leaders completed the climb in under 18min.
In the Women’s Race, the battle was on up the climb as well. Defending champ, Rae Lesniowska, has a strong history in the sport of cycling and she’s performed at a very high level over the years. She’s been known as being one of the fastest up the Kinglake climb on our regular Sunday jaunts and the pre-race speculation was that Rae would take the lead there and possibly hold it for the remainder of the race. However, it seems that challenger Janette Kodaih’s winter Cross Country Skiing training provided her with a strong set of legs and, combined with some tactics nous, she made the break on the climb. It would be mad chase across the top of Kinglake for line honours.
The decisive move in the Men’s race came on the sharp hill out of the Kinglake. In a move reminiscent of Armstrong, Jason Laird, looked around at his opponents and launched a brutal attack on the 10% slope. Stephen and Simon couldn’t go with the acceleration and had to pin their hopes on pulling back the gap on the flat between Kinglake and Kinglake West. However, Jason was riding like a man possessed. 18 months ago Jason was badly injured when hit by a car – his rehabilitation has been long and painful. 18 months of frustration were released on the road on Saturday. Jason rode the race of his life to stay away from the chasing duo. Even when the gap closed and it seemed that his breakaway would be shut down, Jason found something to pull away again. For around 20km, Jason rode solo to claim one of the most inspirational Club Champ victories ever. Anyone who knows Jason would not have been surprised by his performance on the climb, but it was his gutsy effort along the flats in the crosswind that marked this as a breakthrough ride.
In the Women’s race, things were coming down to a crunch finish. Rae showed some fearless descending to significantly close the gap to Janette. It looked as those we might be in for a sprint finish after all. But Janette dug deep and produced a strong finish to claim her first ever Club title.
Meanwhile, the two members of the Coburg/Kosdown Junior Development Program were slogging it out for the honours in the Junior’s Race. In the finish, Chris Lyell held on to become the 2011 Club Junior Road Champion and claim bragging rights over good friend, Jono Sammut.
We would like to make very special mention of the volunteers whose support enabled this great race to happen: Jo, Dave, Jono, Frank, Bob and Andrew. Without the support of folk like this, we simply could not run these races. So, thank you!
Men’s Road Race Championship
- Jason Laird
- Simon Welsh
- Stephen Thompson
Women’s Road Race Championship
1. Janette Kodaih
Junior Road Race Championship
1. Chris Lyell
Now our minds turn to the Coburg Crit Series, followed by the Club Crit Championship and Track Championship in March 2012 and the Club IRTT Championship in April 2012. So, for those of you who missed out in the road race, now’s the time to start training to turn the tables…