It was a weekend of firsts for more than one reason at the Ride to Recovery – Manning Valley TT Challenge.
The inaugural edition allowed time trial afficionados to test themselves on two new road courses. Many also tried new bike set-ups for the first time, while still others challenged themselves to the rarely-offered pairs TTT format.
On Saturday, 88 starters raced under cloudy skies at the coastal village of Manning Point – though the damp road was nothing compared to two months ago, when those same roads had been submerged by a devastating one-in-100-year flood.
The route was largely flat; an out-and-back course of distances up to 40km for the pairs and elite individuals.
Simone Grounds (Dubbo CC) won the mixed pairs category with Dhuez Racing teammate Jamie McHugh (Hunter District CC). It was her first participation in a pairs time trial.
“There’s a lot less pressure when there’s two of you compared to individual [time trials], so that was really fun. You’ve got someone to share it with,” Grounds said.
“It’s different to individual because you’re always on and off the pace, getting in a rhythm,” Grounds said. “I found that a little bit tricky today – especially when you’re riding as a mixed pair, because Jamie is a very strong rider. So I did a lot of looking at his wheel and just ‘holding the rope.’”
Grounds said she did a reconnaissance of the course prior to race day, and was surprised by how strongly the local community had bounced back from the floods in March.
“It’s always interesting coming somewhere different because you don’t know exactly what to expect,” Grounds said.
“It’s amazing that the roads are still together, to be honest. I’ve been doing a lot of mapping work – emergency management – so I know all the areas that have been under and how far they’ve been under. It’s just phenomenal that the community’s got back,” she said.
In other results, Ben Neppl and Michael Quinn (Hunter District CC) were the fastest pair over the 40km, clocking a time of 52:47.49.
However, as an individual Rylee Field (Northern Sydney CC) rode the absolute fastest time of the day, completing the course in a blistering 50:06.18 (47.91km/h) despite a flat tyre in the last two kilometres.
Penrith veterans Peter Wakefield and Peter Milostic rode the 40km twice, racing the individual and the pairs events back-to-back. Impressively, they placed first in the Masters 90+ pairs category, and third and fifth respectively as individuals.
The event moved down the Pacific Motorway to a hillier course at Coolongolook, where 75 starters enjoyed blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The out-and-back course featured multiple steep climbs that had riders out of the saddle.
The weekend had been an opportunity for many under-19s to test their skills and positions, with some upgrading to dedicated TT bikes and deep-dish wheels since moving up an age category. At stake were points in the NSW Rauland U19 Road Series and a potential berth in a European development squad.
However, it was the young Queenslanders who proved quickest, with Isabelle Carnes (Balmoral CC) and national champion Lachlan Miller (Uni of QLD CC) winning the under-19 events on both days. Carnes was also the quickest woman overall on Sunday, with her time of 31:04.81 (38.61km/h) over 20km faster even than the Elite Women.
Another national champion, Kevin O’Meley (Southern Highlands CC), raced both days in the para-cycling tandem category, piloted by Richard Vollebregt. He, too, won his event on both days, coordinating well with Vollebregt to fly around the courses at over 40km/h.
Sunday also allowed Masters to compete against of similar age. Simon Hickey (Bathurst CC), Eloise Warren (Central Coast CC), Ben Neppl (Hunter District CC) and Philip Thomas (Armidale CC) took out their respective categories.
In the Elites, it was Simone Grounds who prevailed for the women, while Rylee Field confirmed his status as the weekend’s top time-triallist, winning the men’s event on a tough course.
“Saturday’s course was good for my build, because it was relatively flat,” Field said. “It was more power oriented, whereas today [Sunday] was harder given the rolling nature. With hills of over 4% for about three or four hundred metres, and multiple of those, it made it a bit harder.”
For an NRS athletes like Field, the weekend was a valuable chance to race the time trial bike, especially as he and several Team Bridgelane riders plan to race in Europe next month, pending government approval to travel.
“I think any racing at the moment is good racing,” Field said. “The fact that we’re still able to come here and race, I think we’re very fortunate as a nation. If you look internationally, and how COVID is affecting other types of racing at state level like we do, I think it’s just incredibly fortunate.”
Full results: https://my.raceresult.com/170707
Words and photos by Ryan Miu