Cyclist beats ‘killer’ wind to claim Classic victory

CYCLING

Darren Traill winning at Warwick. Photo courtesy of Gavin Inglis

Darren Traill winning at Warwick. Photo courtesy of Gavin Inglis

EARLY on Saturday afternoon, Darren Traill stormed across a finish line on the western edge of Warwick in southern Queensland to notch his Team Baiocchi Griffin JT Fossey second cycling win in eight days.

Traill won the Masters B1 Division of the annual Cunningham Classic – Gatton to Warwick.

The Tamworth cyclist grabbed the initiative in the closing stages of the 96km race when his team-mates, Phil Kelaher and Ray Griffin were caught in “traffic” in the 25 rider remains of the peloton and weren’t able to work the team’s original plan.

“We were riding for Phil Kelaher today because he typically has the best sprint finish among us,” said team manager and co-rider Ray Griffin.

“When Darren and I couldn’t find a way through to the front to lead Phil out Darren grabbed the initiative and rode a perfect last couple of kilometres.”

A beautiful sunny winter’s day concealed hideous windy conditions that hit the race once up and over the Great Dividing Range on the Warwick to Gatton Road, Griffin said.

The 50-strong peloton split in half over the toughest climb of the day - a 1.5 kilometre climb with an average 6 per cent gradient. 

Kelaher and Griffin were in the leading group going over the climb and Traill made contact with them  a couple of kilometres after the summit.

“The wind was a killer once we got over the top,” Traill said.

“It was blowing a gale from the south west and finding shelter was the priority once the split was established.”

At the junction of the New England Highway the race headed 10 kilometres south to the small town of Allora  before turning south west for Warwick 26 kilometres away on a back road. 

Numerous attempts to escape the depleted peloton were launched by riders in the windy conditions but none were successful. 

As Griffin and Traill worked to close down some of the breakaway attempts Kelaher looked for shelter in the bunch. 

With about three kilometres to go, two riders escaped off the front of the peloton and the rest of the group hesitated in committing to chase them down. 

Traill could see Griffin and Kelaher were boxed in and couldn’t move forward and grabbed the initiative when a gap opened in the bunch. 

“I could see Ray and Phil were boxed in so I went through a gap and signalled for them to follow me but they were stuck,” Traill said.

With 700 meters to go a 90 degree left hand corner saw two riders finally head off in the chase for the two late breakaway riders. 

By this time Traill was perfectly positioned at third wheel in the peloton and as the escapees were caught and passed, Traill launched his sprint for the finish line and a two length win.

“It’s great for the team – we were really keen to get another podium this weekend but our plan began to unwind in the last two kilometres,” he said.

“So when I saw the gap open I thought I would change the order of the lead-out so we could still get Phil into a good position for the sprint. But they couldn’t get out to get on my wheel. It’s great for us to get another win on back of Ray’s win in Newcastle last weekend.” 

Phil Kelaher finished sixth and Griffin 12th.

“This is a fantastic outcome for us – we could have easily all been held up in the bunch but Darren’s initiative ensured our efforts throughout the race counted,” Griffin added.

“Race plans have to be flexible and you need riders in a team who can see when a plan needs to be changed,”  Griffin said. 

In other team news, 22-year-old Mick Sherwood has recovered from a broken elbow he suffered in a fall at the Tour of Tahiti in early July and has returned to training.

In coming weeks Team Baiocchi Griffin JT Fossey has races in Goulburn, Cootamundra and Kurrajong plus state and national championships in September and October.

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