Norfolk Road is a regular on the ACM race calendar, and much loved by those who enjoy hurtling downhill with the wind at your back – which would be most of us of course! The race had a slightly different twist this evening as it was run as a Graded Road race, which meant the huge bunch we usually try to hide within turned into just the riders in your grade. In total 53 riders presented themselves to the Race Manager this evening. A few of the regular riders were absent, possibly resting weary legs after their efforts on the Tour of Wairarapa at the weekend.
‘A Grade’ (the fast boys) were the first to leave, then each grade at one-minute intervals though to ‘D Grade’ in the main race. Finally, the short course riders started after everyone else. Graded races can be quite tactical with some riders opting to take as few turns on the front as possible while others work with their group consistently. Everyone hopes to be there at the sprint, but so much can go wrong before that. Pinch points in this race occur from a number of sources: when a rider attacks off the front of their bunch; up the slightly steeper sections of incline; if you get hung out in the wind when it is blowing a northerly; and at the turn when, if you happen to be the last rider round the cone, racing can feel like a bungy cord that has just snapped and dropped you out the back door. When this happens, it is a long way back to the finish wondering if the grade behind you will catch and if they do, realizing you are not allowed to work with them, you can only sit at the back and follow along.
In ‘A Grade’ Erik d’Arbois was the first rider to successfully attack off the front to create a solo breakaway. However, by about 8 km into the race Mark Langlands crossed the gap to join up with Erik. At the turn Erik and Mark were about 500 metres in front of the ‘A Grade’ peloton. The racing was not done and dust however, as the peloton worked together and had caught the breakaway by the 25 km mark. So ‘A Grade’ approached the finish for a bunch sprint which was taken out by Mark Langlands.
Although the speed increased a few times on the way up Norfolk Road there were no serious attempts to form a breakaway in ‘B Grade’. The pace was reasonably high on the way up, and predictably increased on the return journey, but the bunch remained intact. Unfortunately, three riders were disqualified for crossing the centre line approaching the sprint finish. Thus, tonight congratulations go to overall grade winner Andrew Linton and to Belinda Fuller first woman.
A similar story (minus the disqualifications) played out in both ‘C-Grade’ and ‘D-Grade with both races ending in sprint finishes. Congratulations go to Chris McBride winner of ‘C-Grade’ and Donna Burkhart first woman. In ‘D-Grade’ congratulations go to Greg Baillie overall winner and to Donna O’Sullivan first woman.
For the short-course riders, their turnaround point is near the one-lane bridge. A couple of these riders had to hold their line as they got caught by one or two of the bunches in the main race. It was great to see some of our juniors had hooked themselves onto the back of a bunch and finished strongly. Congratulations to Jono Didsbury overall winner and to Karen Blade first woman.
Thanks to the Deb and John Allen for the post-race refueling and hospitality. And as always to our race officials without whom we cannot race.
Full results can be found:
- Everyone needs to sign up with Kirsten to offer themselves for marshalling duties.
- Next week the race starts at Gladstone Church, travels south to Whakarua Road and then returns to finish at Gladstone Church.