The inaugural Battle of the Bridge series has been compared to Edison inventing the light bulb, the move into the industrial revolution and TV moving to colour. The change in the racing landscape was captured over four battle scarred rounds and on Sunday it was all decided in the final sprint to the finish line.
Looking back to the start of the series, the first race of the series a D grade race at Heffron Park was marked with Sean Beaumont of MWCC crashing after the finish line that he was victorious in crossing, spilling his own blood on the course for his club. It was a mark of things to come and fitting that the final results were to be decided by the A Grade sprint finish, 4 rounds and another 19 races later.
Every memorable story has a villian, it started with Judas betraying Jesus in the bible, the Joker and Batman and with this series, Northern Sydney and the grades that their riders rode in. A club so lacking in any self respect they seemed to content to never be in the mix in A and B grades but were content to sweep the fields in C and D grade, although maybe I think too highly of NSCC and in fact it is a realisation that, it is the highest level of riders that their clubs can produce?
By the end of the series, Randwick Botany were like Old Mother Hubbard going to her cupboard of acceptable Euro length socks. They were simply too short, oddly matched and werent able to mix it in any grade. Some riders may look for an interclub transfer but would anyone take them?
SUVelo often like to betray themselves as the cool, inner city racing club but with the popularity of someone ordering a semi decaf, extra strong chai soy latte, with the coffee on the side at a crowded coffee stand the hype faded once it came time to cash the cheques. The skinny leg jeans and artistic moustache could only get them so far once the real rock and roll started.
On to the actual racing on Sunday. Coming into the final round MWCC had been the dominant club when one looks at the number of wins collected, the issue being that MWCC only picks the fruit at the top of the tree, the club almost has an ethos of ‘nothing counts, unless it is a gold’. So while they win plenty of races, their disinterest in podium positions had let the other clubs sneak into contention and it was this philosophy of second and thirds pay the bills that had resulted in Northern Sydney leading the series on the final race day.
The day commenced with the Womens race and as the series had progressed Monica Dalidowicz of MWCC had proved that she was the strongest rider in the field. She had won the previous two rounds and once again she waited until a few laps remained and then simply went solo to the finish line, the SUVelo ladies tried to work together to bring her back but the gap simply increased. At the conclusion of the series it has been clear, there is no challenger to the power of Monica. The first half of our’Wicz” dynamo.
- Monica Dalidowicz MWCC
- Claire Menzies SUVelo
- Yvette Hill-Willis SUVelo
The D Grade race was a mixed affair with plenty of riders mixing it up, surprisingly NSCC hadn’t entered an A grader into the field in order to snare some points. The riders ebbed and flowed throughout coming down to the mad last lap dash. The result was a clean sweep for SUVelo with the MWCC riders fading in the final straight.
- Courtney Walton SUVelo
- Paul Curjak SUVelo
- Pat Brophy SUVelo
Next up was the usual NSCC stitch up, which is otherwise known as C Grade. The tactic from NSCC was clear, get a rider that they have been hiding in some Russian doping program for the previous few rounds and then unleash him in the finals. So as soon as the riders roll out from start line this rider with some mutant Tony Martin TT genes goes off the front and sets the pace as a solo rider out the front. In most C Grade races and with C grade riders, this is known as suicide. Invariably the rider lasts about 3 or 4 laps before completely imploding and not being able to finish the race. This was no ordinary C grade rider and no ordinary race, watching this rider continue to extend his lead, I now know what it felt like when Darth Vader revealed that he was the father of Luke Skywalker.
To their credit NSCC played the team card very well and obviously the smooth talking car salesman Lee Watts had the rest of the field thinking that a lemon was up the road, while they camped at the front of the bunch with 3 or 4 riders setting the tempo. As the laps ticked down, so did any chance of the group bringing this rider back because as the laps ticked down his lead was actually increasing as this Eastern Bloc rider stomped his way to victory. The result was more than half a lap victory to Jack Hawkins and then the crowd gathered in disbelief as the rest of the field lined up for the sprint to watch NSCC comfortably take second and third positions and possibly all the way down to fith. A clean sweep for NSCC and applause for the new era of clean cycling.
- Jack Hawkins NSCC
- William Patterson NSCC
- Tom Clayton NSCC
The briefing was then given to the final two races of the day – A and B Grade with Northern Sydney holding a three point lead in the series. Any steps on the podium for NSCC was going to spell victory for NSCC and while no one was expecting them to win either grade, they never do – they did have a chance at second or third.
The command to releash hell at roll out spread amongst the riders because from the start both grades, the pace was high and riders were being shelled from the first lap. After the first lap in B Grade a number of riders had already retired to the stands and the scenes were soon being repeated in A grade. This wasn’t going to be your normal crit race, more a battle of attrition as both MWCC and SUVelo in both grades sent wave after wave of attackers as soon as any previous attempt was brought back.
Jesse Coyle and Dave Evans were animating A Grade which was soon split into two camps – those A graders who know how to race Heffron and those A graders who don’t normally go around corners. The pace was relentless and even when SUVelo had a rider dangling off the front in the final laps, the other riders were treating him like a mouse and the were waiting to pounce.
Meanwhile in B Grade similar battles were being fought. The main danger man was Tai Hunyh of Northern Sydney who must have felt like he was in One Direction, because any move he made, had a number of riders latching onto him and not wanting to let go. As a result this gave a number of other riders a chance to shake things up and keep the pace high as the number of riders watching from the sidelines continued to grow. Mitch Dixon was the policeman for MWCC up at the front, his freshly shaved legs has given Wolfman a few extra watts.
The torrid pace in B meant that it was going to come back to a final lap sprint since no escapees had been allowed to stay away. While Tai went to open up the sprint from the corner hoping to get an early jump on the riders, everyone was waiting for this and he simply got swamped at the finish. It was a fast finishing Steve Lupton of MWCC who would chalk up the MWCC victory, yet another one for the club ahead of Pedro Gomez of RBCC. Yes RBCC were at the event and did have riders competing. I hadn’t ignored them in this report, they simply hadn’t done anything of note in any grade until Pedro appeared at the finish line.
- Steve Lupton MWCC
- Pedro Gomez RBCC
- Matt Hale SUVelo
With no NSCC riders on the podium in B Grade, the script was set for a scintillating finish that felt like a John Grisham thriller with so many twists. Two laps to go in A Grade and the scores were Northern Sydney on 37 points, MWCC on 34, SUVelo on 35 and RBCC on 8 points.
Looking at the diminished field, the crowd was doing the maths and calculating possible podium riders as they came flying by. Alex Nazarewicz of MWCC was the overwhelming favourite, but lets not forget Jesse Coyle or Nathan Bonaris of SUVelo. Harrison Bailey of NSCC who had recently returned from a stint racing in the US was always looking comfortable in the bunch and he has Heffron form.
Norths had to have a rider on the podium, any position would be enough to claim victory. The elite bunch entered the final corner and came in at speed onto the straight. Alex Nazarewicz opened up his sprint very early, perhaps a little too early for the MWCC officials nerves, he didn’t appear to be dropping the other riders but then he found another gear and kicked free, Alex Nazarewicz the other half of our ‘Wicz Dynamo” takes the win and for a few fleeting moments MWCC are leading the series!! Then like Greg Norman at the US Masters, victory is snatched away as Harrison Bailey of Northern Sydney comes steaming over the line ahead of Nathan Bonaris of SUVelo.
- Alex Nazarewicz MWCC
- Harrison Bailey NSCC
- Nathan Bonaris SUVelo
Northern Sydney has triumped, evil has defeated good. Spectators were quick to point out that the scoring system should be completed on the same basis as Olympic medals, there was a sense of injustice in the air. While the riders gathered their breath, MWCC challenged NSCC to a duel. A one lap sprint, club leader versus club leader. Let history show that no one from Northern Sydney was willing to step forward and accept the challenge that had been laid down in front of them. They will forever now be known as ‘McFly’.
The final results
Gold Silver Bronze
Manly 11 1 2 37
SUVelo 6 5 8 36
NSCC 3 11 8 39
RBCC 0 3 2 8
After 20 races, one club won more races than the other three combined. They don’t need a trophy to tell them who the greatest is. At the other end of the table, RBCC must be feeling like a lonely orphan at the bottom, winless after 20 races, nothing but a bit of pocket change to take home. Northern Sydney the historic victors in the inaugural series.
Already the plans and plotting for next year have begun. There is possible expansion of the series. Calls for changes to scoring, handicapping and rider eligibility. What won’t change is the friendships and the battle stories that have emerged from the series. Riders being introduced to new racing venues, the club rides to and from events and the public knowledge that NSCC are a bunch of sandbaggers.
Until 2017, chapeau Northern Sydney CC the victors of Battle of the Bridge
Photos in this report are from Stu Baker