Mitch ‘Wolfman’ Dixon reviews his race and the rest of the wolf pack from the recent Nowra to Sassafras n Back Handicap. Windy. The only word to describe a handicap race with up to 60km/ winds blowing across the parcours. With some of the riders feeling it from the previous day’s TTT this would be a tough day in the saddle and provide some very interesting racing.
It was an out and back course gaining about 400m at 1.5% into the wind, so to steal another sport’s cliché – it was a game of two halves. Brutal on the way out and fast on the way back.
113 masters riders were split over 8 groups. Grahame “Decs” De Carvalho and myself, aka The Wolfman, were allocated to Group 5 but milling around at the start we were told our group had just left. Is that now two races in a row that Decs has missed the start? With the wind howling straight in our faces there was no point chasing our group so we joined Will McLaren in the faster Group 4. Some good organisation saw steady progress as we rolled past dozens of stragglers trying to battle on either solo or in small groups. We even managed to roll off the right way – into the wind – after an early slip-up. The blustering wind left nowhere to hide and selections were soon made. Our 18-man bunch was down to 8 but proving to have the form as we caught plenty in front of us. Unfortunately Will had mechanical troubles and had to retire even though he was looking strong. The wind got stronger as we reached the more exposed turnaround, even blowing us to a near standstill and making it impossible to ride in a straight line. I think we were looking forward to the turnaround more than the finish line.
Rod Lay and Chris Miller were in Group 3 behind us and at the turnaround were hot on our heels. This sparked our big units into action and with a tailwind providing assistance and morale we rocketed home at an average of 45km/h. Always present but not quite able to make up the ground we kept Chris and Rod at bay. As we motored on, those who could muster some extra speed jumped on and we swelled back up 19 riders. Still passing those who were cooked we were effectively motor pacing with speeds regularly hitting 50-60km/h.
With one last turnaround before the finish we caught sight of the lead group well in front. 5 riders out of Groups 6 and 7 had managed to stay clear and finished a whopping 5min in front. They must have got a better handicap than Coxy from Peloton who somehow managed to score Group 7 and after finding himself pulling the entire group decided to solo it for 50km until we picked him up. We rolled in behind the winners and thanks to some handy teamwork from Decs to pull a last minute turn I jumped clear to pick up 6th place and some prize money and a big cheque! Chris and Rod were 30s down and scratch a further 48s back. Chris was our fastest finisher in 16th. In the 90km Elite race perennial club hero Jake Kauffmann was 4 fastest finisher only scoring the chocolate coins.