by Paddy Oliver
“There’s glucose for energy, Caramel for strength.
The chocolate’s only there, To keep it the right length.”
A Mars Bar is just what each of the 328 boys, girls, men, women, coupled with several spidermen and fairy princesses needed after racing at Dirty Deeds Round 2 in Melbourne on Sunday, 22nd June.
Yes, you did read that number correctly, 328 starters. If anybody has ever doubted that ’cross is not popular or is some sort of bicycling racing that will die a muddy death, this should prove them duly wrong. ’Cross is for the people, especially those of Dirty Deeds extraction. This weekend was big, not just because it was the National CX Series event for the Elite racers, but because there were normal races as well.
As everybody loves a race at Darebin Park, and the men’s Elite field numbered 63, up from Saturday’s field of 55. The big favorites were all on the front row, Iacuone, Jongewaard, Jackson, Millburn, Redenbach, Both.
At the gun, Jongewaard took the holeshot from Millburn. The first lap was fast and tight with the field taking a while to sort itself out. By the second lap, a select group of five big favorites were setting a blistering pace and extending their lead. In fact, it was such a pace that the 80% rule was not applied, so other racers could actually finish the race. All of the favorites—Jackson, Iacuone, Jongewaard, Redenbach and Millburn were off the front.
After the half hour mark, Jackson’s superior cornering skills allowed him to open up a gap on Iacoune. Jongewaard and Redenbach were losing ground on the lead two with Millburn further back. Jongewaard was fighting hard to get back to the leaders, perhaps too hard as he came off at the hairpin.
On the last lap, only the battle for third was still taking place. Jackson won over Iacuone by 30 seconds. Jongewaard attacked Redenbach to finish third, Redenbach fourth, Millburn fifth.
The top five riders are in a league of their own. That is saying something if you consider the depth of the field. But a strange phenomena occurred during the race. Five or possibly twenty-five Team Focus riders from South Australia appeared to organize a team time trial. Only Lewis Ratray was brave enough to interrupt that train.
Fresh from her win in Round 1, reigning National Champion Lisa Jacobs was the hot favorite in field of 22. Would Lisa have recovered sufficiently from her efforts at Cranwell Park? Might April McDonough’s superior bike handing skills give her the chance to match Jacobs on the longer, more technical course? Yes, and no.
A surprise happened at the start when National MTB XCM Champion Melissa Ansett got the holeshot. Ansett is off the the MTB XCM Worlds so must have been practicing her starts. However at the end of the first lap, normal service was beginning to be resumed with Jacobs and McDonough fighting it out for first. Over the next couple of laps, Jacobs gradually distanced McDonough. Ansett was now a distance third with Sarah Holmes further back in fourth.
At the bell, Jacobs had nearly a minute lead over McDonough so was cruising to her second victory of the weekend. At the finish McDonough was second and Ansett third.
After two races Jacobs leads the NCXS Elite Women from McDonough and Ansett. It will take an almighty effort to beat Jacobs, perhaps only an extreme MTB type course will slow her down. Then again, Lisa is improving her ’cross skills every week.
Men’s B Grade
As ever on an NCXS day Men’s B Grade is not really a “B” Grade race in the true sense. C graders mix it with A graders who, perhaps correctly, don’t want to race the Elite race.
91 started. Surely the largest field in a ’cross race in Australia. Perhaps one of the biggest fields in any bicycle race in Australia this year. There was depth in the field with some serious A graders and, bizarrely, some moonlighting musicians.
Leigh De Luca, Paul Aubery (BrewCX), Sean Couley (AUS CX Magazine), Pete Findon, Rob Parbery were the big favorites in the field. De Luca, who is apparently still in ’cross retirement, was sporting a brand new bike.
In a field of 91, getting to the front row is of vital importance, especially when there is no call up. So the cunning and the experienced were lining up 15 minutes before the start time. This proved the best move of the day for some. The whistle was blown and the race was on. If you thought the first corner was carnage, the second was even worse. No place for the faint-hearted. It took over a minute for the field to clear the first corner.
After a couple of laps, the race settled down into a bit of order. De Luca extended his lead. The chasers included Aubrey, Harberts, Blazevic. Others were going backwards with that hollow ’cross pain face that we all love to look at but hate to have.
As you might expect there were several points on the course that proved more than a challenge. The extremely fast off-camber corner caught many out, as did Pavlis’ Hill, and the tree branch that guarded the greasy hill. Oh, and the barrier. Resident violin lead, Ado Barker was heading for a solid 40th when he attempted to remount after the barrier, unfortunately his skills got stage fright causing him to miss the bike completely much to the mirth of the large and knowledgeable grandstand crowd.
It was a 30-minute plus one lap race. In the end, De Luca won convincingly, showboating to the end. That being said, he was a very popular winner. Harbets was second, Aubery third. Of note: 69 finished on the lead lap.
Men’s C / Open
This was a mix of CXers and MTBers totaling 62 in the field. For some reason, the ’crossers let our side down, allowing several MTBers to run away with this race. Antony Natoli won handsomely by a minute over Murray in second and Drummond in third.
Women’s B & Open
30 ladies line up for the Women’s B / Open Race, starting one minute behind Men’s C in excellent Dirty Deeds-style race course management. Bianca Pickett was the hot favorite but the big question being whether her rather brave, perhaps courageous, decision to race twice on Saturday would come back to haunt her. Luckily, it didn’t in this race but boy, it did during the Elite Women’s race.
One of the more exciting races of the day had Pickett out in front from the start but Wiliams, Ollerenshaw, and Merriam never allowing Pickett out of their sight. At the end of this 45 minute race, these four had lapped the rest of the field but Picket maintained a 15 second lead to win. There was a close battle for second with Williams beating Ollerenshaw by three seconds. Merriam was a further seven seconds back.
On the musician front, Corinn Strating of the Corinn Strating band was a commendable 18th in her second bicycle race.
Dirty Deeds CX is for the kids. 39 boys raced 12 girls over the modified course. No quarter was asked, none was given. Unfortunately, some of the balance bike competitors were nearly mowed down in the competitiveness of the boys race.
No harm was done.
In the boys, Alistair Rodwell won a close race from James Mountain in second and Adam Boyd in third. There was something of a family affair in the girls race with Elise Hepworth wining in a sprint from Adele Hepworth. Maya Natoli was third.
Spiderman, a.k.a. Tistan Jackson, won the balance bikes to extend his run.
Again, a big thank you to Blakey as Race Director, the umpires, Nick Cee, Brendan & Hamish, and all the other DDCX volunteers who make this the day that it is. Finally, to those who allow us to use Darebin Park on one Sunday every year, Thank You!
This race report was written by Paddy Oliver and originally published on Australian Cyclocross Magazine (not to be confused by Cyclocross Magazine). You can follow his blog, Behind the Barricades, at behindthebarricades.net