PORT NOARLUNGA HANDICAP
Perfect weather greeted us for the 92nd running of the Port Noarlunga handicap. I had been warning Frank, Dave Homburg and Steve Walker of the punishment that we were in for by signing up to this race but I'm not sure they fully understood. With the undulating roads around the top of range road it was not going to be an easy race. 90 riders had signed up for the race and were grouped into to 9 groups of 10 riders. The first riders off, were called the 15 minute group (starting first and 15 mins before scratch), next was 11 mins (starting 11mins before scratch) and progressed down to the last riders off which was called the scratch group. The race was 3 laps of a 17km circuit and first across the line wins
With the lack of any results Steve was put in the 15 min group and was first off. He pretty soon dispatched with the rest of his group and went solo for the first lap and a bit. Next off was Dave in the 11 min group. Myself in the 9:30 group and finally Frank in the 5 minute group, despite his pleading about lack of form. From my perspective, my group worked hard together. But the end of the first lap we had dropped several riders from our bunch and settled into tough pace. My first lap average was 38.5km/h and average heart rate of 92%(172) of my max!!! The time gap I had to the front of the race half way round the first lap was 4:15. The second lap was about a minute slower but the time gap reduced to 1:25. Meaning that in a lap and a half we had only pulled back 5 seconds on Dave. Mean while Frank had been dropped by the 5 minute group and called it a day after 2 laps. It was a tough ask for Frank considering his lack of riding recently and even staying with his group would be hard with full health.
Half way round the last lap my group was caught by the group behind which strengthen my bunch and upped the speed and gave us hope of holding out till the finish.
I thought we were looking good until we started the climb to the finish and I looked around and saw the scratch bunch 50 metres behind and knew we were out of luck. I rode tempo for the last 1.5 kms and was surprised to see my second and third lap times were identical. At the front of the race Steve and Dave had kept the pace up and were closing in on the finish line. As they started their sprint the scratch group was getting closer and closer swallowing up all the riders in front of them.
In the end just 3 riders managed to hold of the scratch group. The winner was a Korean girl here for training, second a young local girl and in 3rd place was Dave Homburg in a magnificent display of strength fending off the A grade riders.
So all 4 bastardi's put in a great effort for such a tough race, they are all now too well aware of the pain involved in a handicap race (it is much harder than a normal road race were you don't worry about being caught from behind). My stats at the end were an average of 37.1 km/h and average heart of 90%(168) of my max and covered the 51km in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Best of luck for this weekends which is way too hard for me, similar race and course but with an extra 25km and a brutal climb up Penny's hill for the finish, several km of about 7% gradient, a course designed for Homburg.