Its the start of July, the middle of the road bike racing season and there is some important racing on. While a large part of the world looks to France, members of the Northern Combine were busy competing in a tough 99km handicap – the Jim Fawcett Memorial. Matt Keenan has written a great post regarding the man in whose memory this race is held.
In this handicap style of racing, riders are released in bunches, first off is ‘Limit’, a bunch that typically consists of weaker, less experience cyclists. They are given the largest time advantage to get to the finish. Bunches are released with varying time gaps, depending on strength and ability, experience and the number in the group. The last bunch to go is the ‘Scratch’ bunch. Consisting of the strongest riders, they will be chasing, riding hard for the next 99km, gathering up riders and bunches that will have had up to 20 or even 30 minutes head start on them.
With these races, the pace is on the vary start. The only chance to rest is as you roll to the back of the train after your turn on front, as you wait for your turn to roll through again. The tighter the rolling turns and the more efficiently that the riders in each bunch work together, the better their chances of holding off the chasing bunches, or, on the flip side of the coin, the better chance they have of catching up to the earlier bunches. Regardless of where in the queue the bunch left, the rate of attrition is high and many of the later finishers will have to do so solo
To finish is to have suffered, to have suffered makes the achievement all the more worth while. While throughout the race the suffering is evident, the finishline can show off that sense of achievement, regardless of where racers may have finished. Congratulations to Nathan Elliot, of Brunswick CC for winning the 2010 edition. For more photos, here is the first part, and subsequentlyhere is part II.
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