The “ageing rockstar” Damon Krongold from Beller with all the winners from the Women’s Feature Race

It was another massive day down at SKCC where the entire spotlight was on the women for the Neo Metro / Beller sponsored Women’s Feature Race. It wasn’t just the girls that were hot with the temperatures on course around 40 degrees it was extremely tough conditions for all racing, volunteering and spectating.

Amy Bradley far right looking very confident before the start. She is back to her Club Champ form of 2010

All the big guns came out to play for the Neo Metro/ Beller women’s feature race with the generous sponsors offering $750 in prize money just for the women’s race – club champ Jenny Mcpherson stepped out of retirement, Europe-bound Jo Hogan (VIS) USA bound Bridie O’Donnel, Emma Mackie(Crino Cycles/Nutrixxion) & Belinda Goss (Nutrixxion) were there to get in some final races before heading overseas, Nicole Whitburn (Liv/Giant) fresh off some impressive racing at Bay crits and TDU, along with the newly formed women’s teams Total Rush, Bicycle Superstore/Torq and SKCC-Giant.  It was to be one of the best women’s fields ever at South Melbourne.

Things heated up quickly in the race, with the first strike of the day coming from the in-form Chloe ‘Ranga’ McConville (VIS). Nicole chased her down before Jo Hogan immediately launched a solo move that looked threatening. After getting 2nd at the Women’s GP series in a breakaway the day before, she’s obviously in fine form, yet the bunch was content to let her gain an advantage as long as the home straight. Not content with this, several tried to bridge the gap, with Amy ‘Noodle’ Bradley (Total Rush) getting the closest, however she was brought back by the bunch a couple of laps later.

This helped to close the gap to Jo however  the tempo in the peloton increased as the chase was taken up by powerhouse Bridie O’Donnell who spent several laps on the front driving the bunch. Some hard chasing by Belinda, Nicole & Emma closed the rest of the gap and as soon as Jo was caught, VIS team mate Chloe McConville tried to get away again but was quickly brought back. This didn’t discourage her as she attempted multiple times to get a gap to no avail.

Lysiane Belton (TFM) leading the charge in Women’s B Grade

In a race full of sprinters, the remaining 10minutes of the race were spent with the non-sprinters attempting to get a break on the bunch. A couple of threatening breaks formed before being shut down however the damage was done and these surges in speed splintered the field with several finding the pace a little too hot and falling off the back.

Coming down to the final laps, it was Emma Mackie who set up the lead-out for team mate Belinda Goss, however on her wheel was J Mac, Jo and Nicole all looking for the big win. SKCC-Giant tried to derail the lead-out coming up the outside of the final back straight, but didn’t quite have the firepower to take over. Grace Phang (SKCC-Giant) and Tanya Matthewson (Total Rush) used this to move up into a good position and coming in to the final corner it was still anyone’s race.

Showing that she’s still got what it takes, Jenny Mcpherson powered home to take the top step of the podium over Belinda Goss followed by Nicole ‘The Goddess of Thunder’ Whitburn.
With legs like that no wonder Jo Hogan just signed a Pro contract & is a superstar. GreenEdge made a huge mistake to overlook her.

In Men’s A grade the temperature had climbed even higher as they rolled off, once the neutral lap was completed the bunch was single file and the pain was being felt throughout the bunch. The north wind down the back straight was just plain horrible. Nick Bensley (Sole Devotion) attacked numerous times until he got away but was left half a lap in front with no one willing to go across and join him until the bunch finally brought him back. Cameron Lester and Adam Murchie were always active, aggressive and dangerous.

Nick Bensley (Sole Devotion) driving yet another break

The weather was just too hot to make any break really stick and it looked like a bunch sprint was going to be the order of the day. The infamous O2 Networks train was starting to take shape and the fight for the tail end of it fierce. Nick Bensley learnt that it is prime real estate and people are prepared to fight to the death for it. Nick was knocked off his bike but managed to keep it upright but the force of the blow caused his shoulder to dislocate and he had to try and balance it with one arm and one unclipped bleeding leg at 55km’s an hour; a truly amazing feat.   

Enjoying the day but oblivious to the war happening on the course

The sprint to the line was vicious but the class of Nick Walker (Search 2 Retain) was just enough to get the win ahead of Patrick Drapac (Porsche Drapac) with Shannon Johnson (Kosdown) 3rd, Current Club Champ Chris Tymms 4thwith big Azza Sailisbury fighting his way for 5th.

All the winners from Men’s A Grade – From Left, Shannon, Azza, Patrick, Chris and Nick

Women’s B grade was a pretty mellow affair as all eyes were on big gun sprinter Lysiane Belton (TFM) and B Grade superstar Renee Nutbean. Fiona Neuwirth who was unlucky to puncture last week was looking for redemption. The pace was off a bit today due to the heat and no one was willing to have a real attack so it was left to a sprint finish.

Lysiane looked good coming into the last lap but got caught wide on the last corner and that opened the door for Renee Nutbean to take the win which must put her in contention for a promotion to A Grade. Michelle Lacey snuck in for 2ndwith the fast finishing Fiona Neuwirth 3rdand Lysiane Belton just behind her.

The Torq girls chilling after the race

Men’s B Grade was a cracking race and the pace was high and the boys weren’t scared to attack. Super Star Jo Hogan used it as a warm up before the Women’s Feature Race. Brad Speller was aggressive all day and looked the goods and the crowd wasn’t sure if Ernie Arriagada was marshalling or not as he sat last wheel the whole race.

Damon Krongold (Beller) & Jeff Proven (Neo Metro). NEOMETRO is in their 5th year of Series Sponsorship and joined for a second year by Beller Real Estate in supporting women’s cycling.

A massive break went which was started by Canard which contained Jesse Fergie, Dean Gregorevic, Cameron Winton, Simon Frost, Ritchard Longmire and Andrew McKeller. The 6 worked extremely well together and opened up a huge gap. A second chase group formed led by Erik Holt to hunt down the 6 although they stayed away they never got close. Becoz was left red faced as they were unrepresented in both.

Bridie O’Donell chases down former teammate Jo Hogan who was up the road. Bridie, Nicole Whitburn, Amy Bradley & Belinda Goss all worked to shut Jo down.

On the final lap Ritchard Longmire sat in and saved his energy and it paid off as he powered away and took the sprint win ahead of Jessie Fergie 2ndwith Cameron Winton 3rd. The question is will Ritchard be able to make the big step up to the big time and handle Men’s A?

The Velo Fille girls looking relaxed before the race. All 3 looked good today.

Women’s C Grade was an interesting affair with all the girls not afraid to get their hands dirty and spend some time at the front of the bunch. Susan Cox looked impressive early with Eva Wightman and Annie Pryjmak also looking strong. Veronica Hoy spent time on the front and Bianca Pickett was never far from the action. Louise Clark tried to string the bunch out and the duo from Warragul Katherine Prestidge and Rachel Dawson worked well together throughout the race.
In the end it was a sprint finish with Kaylene Charproniere packing a mean sprint to take a classy win ahead of a fast finishing Rachel Kimber 2nd.

Nick Walker (Search 2 Retain) by a bike length in Men’s A Grade ahead of Patrick Drapac (Porsche Drapac)

Men’s C Grade had a small field due to the time change but it was still packed with action. The usual C Grade suspects of Ash Abdou and Shaun Sutcliffe were both busy. Tim Burke, Nick Dubois and Stephen Austen all looked good throughout the race. In the end the sprint finish was won Bradley Erickson ahead of Michael Sneyd 2ndwith Shaun Sutcliffe 3rd.

There’s one way to shut Hollywood up – make him hurt

Men’s D Grade was a very fast race with a great field of nearly 50 riders. The father son combo or Mark and Adam McGillivray looked good early but faded late in the race. Peter Thomson and Jeremy Tyzack were both busy and attacking.  Crowd favourite Heath Christie (Hoax Racing) looked a million dollars as usual and David Proven and Marcus Nyeholt both rode strong. In the sprint to the line powerhouse sprinter Chris Mackay was boxed in which left Jeremy Tyzack a clear run at the line to take the win ahead of Brent O’Shannessy 2ndwith Chris Mackay 3rd. Chris had wished he hadn’t followed around birthday boy teammate David Kelly the day before over the Dandenongs as he might have had a bit more left in the tank.

The D Grade finish was a cracker and had to go to the photo for the finish

E Grade had a smaller than usual field but that didn’t stop some good quality racing. Hand Cycle superstar Stuart Tripp made a surprise guest appearance and worked tirelessly as per usual. In the sprint to the line it was Ben Johnson who got the win ahead of the much talked about Chris Anderson 2nd.

Skinsuit Sunday – Neil Robinson (ABOC / Campagnolo) & Tim “Mad Dog” McGrath (Sole Devotion) both donned skinsuits. Neil struggled to adapt to the borrowed Shimano levers and pledged to walk instead of using them again 🙂

Next week is going to be huge with Race 3 of the Bike Force point’s series race. Thanks to all the helpers today and a special mention to Adrian Vlok, Robert Moore and Peter Canny for the quality photographs.