Southland’s Geoff van Dam capped an impressive weekend for Cycling Southland members in Otago, winning a large bunch sprint to take out the 68 km Ralston Memorial in strong winds on the Taieri on Sunday.
Starting with the middle bunch, van Dam’s group picked up the bunch ahead before halfway. Aware they were being chased by strong break and scratch groups, they had to maintain a constant pace and share the load. Coming into the finish Brett McCormack led out, with Elyse Fraser coming through on his wheel, however van Dam had positioned himself wisely on Fraser’s wheel and kicked at the perfect time, with Fraser and McCormack holding on for second and third respectively in 1 hour 48 minutes.
Southland’s Alistair Burnett was 4th and Timaru’s James Archbold took 5th placing while Otago’s Brad Evans recorded the fastest time in 1 hour 33 minutes.
Van Dam, a 47 year old parts manager at JJs Engineering, had celebrated his second placing in the Hastie Memorial the day before and was a doubtful starter, however coach Kurt Black insisted he race and the day capped off a successful weekend for van Dam.
25 year old Fraser repeated her success as fastest woman the day before with Mark Spessot and Josh Haggerty also doing the double when picking up fastest masters and fastest junior rider respectively.
The Memorial race, originally run in 1946, was resurrected this year by the gregarious and unreserved Gordon McCauley, who has close ties to the Ralston family. McCauley planned the weekend’s racing to fit around training for the SBS Bank Tour of Southland, which starts on Sunday, and brought his teammates to the weekend’s events. This attracted top riders from outside the province and made for competitive racing at the back of the field.
Meanwhile on Saturday, history was created when 16 year old schoolboy Lachie McGregor became the youngest rider to win the 120 km Hastie Memorial from Millers Flat to Mosgiel.
McGregor’s bunch rotated with a view to mowing down the limit bunch which was reduced to Hilary Lennox, Karen Rasmussen, Owen Clements, Shirlene Rollo, Julieann Archbold and Jan Brosnahan.
This group’s chance of victory was dashed when Lennox hit the tarmac in Lawrence after cars in front stopped unexpectedly. The group battled on but further back McGregor dropped his bunch at Allanton and breezed past limit at Gladfield, with 1600 metres to go. Limit still focused on the finish line but with 400 meters to ride the fat lady sang and McGregor’s co-markers swooped to the line, with Southland’s Geoff van Dam in 2nd and Otago’s Michael Greaves picking up 3rd.
A star studded scratch bunch started 72 minutes after limit. This group, the strongest ever to front for the Memorial, comprised riders back from racing in Europe and en route to the SBS Bank Tour.
Incredibly, the first 10kms was covered in 11 minutes and the first 40kms, featuring some gnarly hills even by driving standards, was covered in a record 47 minutes.
Fastest time was picked up by Central Otago’s Tom Vessey, however clubmate James Williamson received accolades as second fastest, when he pulled seriously hard laps.
Fastest woman was Otago’s Elyse Fraser, with Sophie Williamson in second. Mark Spessot was fastest masters man and Josh Haggerty fastest junior.
Reporting by Jan Brosnahan