Riders dig deep for memorial race

Mount Gambier Cycling Club welcomed riders from the Limestone Coast and South West Victoria for their annual Soldiers’ Memorial race, held along Caves Road on Anzac Day.

The Soldiers’ Memorial 42km race has a long history, held since 1948, but was not able to run last year. Before the racing, former cycling club president Alan Dowdell shared some brief words on the history of the race.

RSL representative David Tye then led the reflections of Anzac Day with a recitation of the Ode of Remembrance, followed by the playing of the Last Post before the starter called riders to their marks.

The U15 and U17 riders were riding a 20km handicap race along Caves Road, an out and back course familiar to the local riders. A good field of 10 riders greeted the starter, with Elmer Buckland and Evie Clementson the first group to leave, three minutes ahead of Jamison Buckley and Erik Howie.

Harry Opperman, Riley Ortronen and Jamie Verhoeff were next to leave a further six minutes behind, followed by Cadel Howie, Rhyan Menzel and Niel van Niekirk, who were given a 12-minute head start to the leading riders.

The front groups of riders rode to their best pace and Jamison Buckley was able to ride away from Howie and stay away from the chasing packs, with the pair finishing first and second respectively.

Buckland sprinted to the line to finish third, followed closely by Verhoeff who just missed out on a podium. In the sprint to the line to determine fastest time, it was Cadel Howie who was able to finish ahead of van Niekirk and Menzel.

Just after the final group of U15/17 racers left for their 20km race, the U11/13 riders lined up to begin their 10km race. Eddie Buckland started first, followed three minutes later by Molly Opperman, with William Verhoeff a further minute behind.

Buckland started strongly and was holding the riders at bay through to the turnaround. Opperman was passed by Verhoeff soon after the turnaround mark, who then set off in pursuit of Buckland.

With approximately 1km to go, Verhoeff managed to get to the back of Buckland’s wheel. After a quick breather, Verhoeff then set off with a burst of speed to ensure Buckland could not hold onto his wheel for the sprint to the line.

At the finish, Verhoeff took first place and fastest time honours, followed by Buckland, with Opperman finishing soon after. As a part of the South West Series, racers from Port Fairy, Hamilton, Warrnambool, Camperdown and Portland cycling clubs joined with local riders for the Soldiers’ Memorial Handicap.

First to leave was Damian Buckley with an eight minute head start, with Jen Buckland, Anne Taylor, Phil McGee and Neil Hyland the first group to try and catch him.

Four minutes later Owen Cox, Spek Peake, Barry Warren, Nikki Menzel, Matt Fiegert and Ben Ortronen started their chase, followed four minutes later by the group containing Dean Zeven, Laurie Paltridge, Paul Bast and Jason Puschenjak.

With 19 minutes already on the race clock, the group containing Craig Taylor, Jade Frankell, Dean Menzel and Robert Mann were allowed to depart, followed four minutes later by Matthew Opperman, Dave Bryant and Rohan Garfoot.

The final group to depart 28 minutes after the initial rider included Chris Kennett, Nick Kidman, Noah Morton, Shaun King, Wayne Collins, Matt Burchell and John Watkinson.

As the riders passed 15km into the race and the turn along Border Road towards Donovans, most riders were keeping pace with their groups and Buckley was keeping everyone at bay. The rolling road to the turnaround just before Dry Creek and the return to the Border Road turn saw some riders lose touch with their group and other groups coming together.

Out in front, Buckley was caught with approximately 11km to race, by the combined second and third limit groups. This group continued to power on toward the finish, shedding some riders along the way, but able to hold all other groups at bay.

In the final sprint for the line, it was Warren who managed to hold off Menzel and Peake, with Taylor having to settle for fourth place. The scratch bunch of riders rode strongly but were just not quite able to catch that last group.

In their sprint to the line, which determined which rider would officially receive fastest time honours, it was Morton who was able to speed to the line in front. Presentations for the Soldiers’ Memorial race were held back at the RSL, with an afternoon tea provided by the Auxiliary.

Ange Kain, representing BioGro, one of the major sponsors of the race, was on hand to present the riders with their prizes.

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