Levi Johns was the race winner at the Nowra Velo Club’s event on Sunday. Johns crossed the line a length ahead of Shaun McManus (Penrith CC) at the end of this 42-kilometre handicap event on Braidwood Road.
Five clubs were represented by the 47 riders that were spread across nine groups with a time of 15 minutes from when the first riders were sent away until the three scratch men began their chase.
Johns was one of these scratch riders along with Mark Astley and Aaron Coghlan. They were chasing a 90-second gap to the closest group of riders, McManus, Harry Mackay (Marconi CC), JP Brando Carre, Josh Henry, and Chris Chow and Colin Petrie of the Waratah Masters CC.
After one lap of the three laps required to complete the race the lead was with Bruce Jenkins, Rod Pierce, Kate Darke and Amber Ferris but it was diminishing. They were joined by Marconi riders Frank Quattrone and Anthony New along with Frank Neri, Jo Chalain, Brad Oaten and Adrian McMillan (Illawarra CC).
The scratch trio were now racing through the back half of the field and leaving dropped riders in their wake as the race speed and the wind took their toll. A strong southerly wind change had arrived at the venue as the riders were lining up to start.
Ten kilometres remained when the scratch riders caught the leaders with Johns leading McManus, Mackay, Coghlan, Gavin Nethery, Josh Henry, Brando Carre, Rob Rix, Aaron Lauder and Ian Kielly. Many others had been left to chase in groups or alone.
Johns attacked immediately and forced a gap. McManus chased alone for five kilometres before he joined Levi in the lead. These two riders then shared the pacing to the finish where Johns took the win. Fifteen seconds later Coghlan was the better sprinter and claimed third ahead of Mackay, Brando Carre, Lauder, Nethery and Kielly.
Rix was a few seconds adrift with other solo finishing riders Tim Devlin, Pat Wright, Adam Ferris, Josh Henry, Paul Mackie and Astley. Mick Thompson led a group over the line for 16th position ahead of Mark Klein, Jenkins, Quattrone and Neri. Another 17 riders finished in ones and twos including Scott Martin, Gary Bryce, McMillan, Amber Ferris, Chris Chow, Lorenzo Zanella (Marconi), Rod Pierce, Dean Jackson (CA 3Day) and Paul DuCrest (Marconi).
This first road race of the year took its toll on many riders who were caught out by the wind, the handicapper and possible lack of preparation as 10 riders withdrew during the event with Waratah’s Jeff Clarkeburn the only puncture victim.
Racing continues for the Nowra Velo Club on February 25 with a road race on the Braidwood Road course. This event will be the first of the 2018 Optus points series races.