Riders take on hills in series opener

Another glorious sunny and still day greeted the riders for the first race in the new Autumn Series for the Mount Gambier Cycling Club.

It was perhaps fitting the new series began with a new course, or a variation on a longer course heading towards Donavans.

In previous iterations of the Anzac Day Soldiers Memorial race, a 50km handicap was held along Caves Road into Donovans and return.

But the opening race of the Autumn Series would begin at the usual turnaround point for the club and include the “hilly” middle 25km of the Soldiers Memorial race, which is one of the higher cumulative elevation races in recent memory.

A total of 17 riders, greeted the Commissaire to sign on for the race.

The first trio of riders to leave Damian Buckley,

Jen Buckland and Jason Buckland.

Expecting to average around 26kph going up and down the rolling course to Donovans they were given an 11-minute gap to the next group of riders containing Don Sforcina, Patrick Langsmith, Gerard Coote and Elmer Buckland.

The next couple of groups containing the likes of Spek Peake, Bruce McLaughlin Dean Zeven, Harry Opperman, Craig Andre and Phil Stasiw were split between two-minute

intervals.

The second last group contained some of the “young guns” of the club, with Niel van Niekerk joining Riley Hill and Jami Buckley a further two minutes behind, before Nick Kidman was the final rider to leave another three minutes back, giving up a 20-minute head start to the earliest riders.

The race was reasonably flat for the first 8km, with rollers leading into the lumpy section around Dry Creek and a final climb into Donovans.

This was where groups started breaking up as riders climbed at varying rates.

Out in front Damian Buckley, Jen and Jason Buckland turned at Donovans together and began the return journey wondering how much they could do to continue to stay away.

On the way back they could see the effect of the hills on the riders trying to catch up, with Langsmith and Coote riding away from Elmer Buckland and Storcina.

Zeven had also put a gap on McLaughlin and Peake with those chasing further back holding together.

As Damian Buckley and Jen Buckland crested the hill on the way back from Dry Creek, Kidman was just heading down, leaving a gap of approximately 10km with 8km for the leaders to ride.

At the turnoff to Princess Margaret Rose caves, approximately 6km from the finish line, the lead had been whittled down to approximately four minutes, with the slightly flatter section to come.

At the finish it was Damian Buckley who sailed past the line first, outsprinting Jen Buckland.

Jason Buckland arrived a couple of minutes later, just ahead of a fast-finishing Langsmith and Coote, while van Niekerk arrived soon after, leading home Hill, Andre and Zeven.

Kidman finished in 12th place, nearly five minutes behind the winners, taking out fastest time honours.

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