IT was one of those days limit riders hope for in a long, handicap cycling road race.
The Mount Gambier 100 Mile Classic boasted a stacked field for both men and women, but in the end the scratch riders could not close the gap to the limit riders.
As usual the weather played its part, with almost ideal conditions, apart from a light wind.
It favoured the limit and middle groups and the scratch riders simply could not create the pace required to win, despite motoring along at over 55kph at times, with well over 25 riders in the chasing bunch.
As a result it was down to one of the middle groups in the men’s race and the limit group for the women to come up with the winners.
For the men it was former Australian track rider Tim O’Shannessey who claimed the honours in a dramatic sprint finish, while Michelle Easton won the women’s 110km race after a tough day from the limit group.
O’Shannessey started from the 34 minute group and had to work hard to stay away from a star-studded scratch group.
The leading group was heading back to Mount Gambier as the scratch passed in the opposite direction at Allendale, leaving plenty of work to do for the big names of the race to threaten for the victory.
It was not to be and in the end around 15 bikes rounded the top of Bay Road to make the final sprint to the finish, with the scratch group out of the picture.
As the line drew closer the riders began to spread across the road and it was anyone’s guess who would have the power to sprint to the line.
O’Shannessey rose to the occasion and claimed the win by a slim margin.
The crowd erupted.
O’Shannessey had crossed Bass Strait – now racing out of the Southern Masters club – to compete in the event and was surprised to have claimed the honours.
He said his track experience could well have made the difference, after representing Australia at the Atlanta Olympic Games, where he claimed a bronze medal in the team pursuit, riding with
Brett Aitken, Stuart O’Grady and Dean Woods.
Nowadays he said he enjoys the more relaxed “social” side of cycling, despite just claiming the biggest race on the Mount Gambier calendar.
“I am pretty surprised to win it really,” he said.
“I knew I would have a chance in the sprint.
“It was probably perfect for me being a track rider.”
O’Shannessey said it was a tough race, but he was in a good bunch which worked well throughout the race.
“I think everyone put in their fair share,” he said.
“We had a good bunch of about 15 and it worked well.
“We all worked evenly which makes a big difference.”
Norwood’s Todd Rolton came home in second place, ahead of Mount Gambier’s David Bryant, to be the first Limestone Coast rider home.
Saint George’s Cameron Scott claimed the fastest time of three hours, 29 minutes, 25 seconds.
For Melbourne rider – and former South Australian – Easton, it was even more impressive.
She managed to stay away from the following bunches all race, even when her limit group split about 40km into the course, somewhere around the notorious Range Hill.
But even more amazing is the fact she is an amateur cyclist, formerly racing triathlon until a broken leg a couple of years ago slowed her down and she says she cannot run any more – plus she is 54 years of age.
Easton said she was not competing in Sunday’s Kermesse because she was not strong enough to race against the A Grade women, but still held them off to win the Classic.
“I am pretty happy,” Easton said after the race.
“It is my first big win.”
Easton said it was hard work once the group split up.
“We had a good group that rolled well,” she said.
“When we got over the second sprint line it broke up and we only had three of us together, so we were constantly looking over our shoulder.”
Easton said by the time the remaining two riders in the group began to climb the final hill up the Blue Lake her legs began to cramp.
But she managed to hold on against her 60-year-old opponent and training partner, who she said would normally out-sprint her.
Overall Easton said she was surprised to claim the win against such a strong field.
“When I saw who was in the scratch bunch I could not believe it,” she said.
“That is the cream of Australian cycling.”
Easton – who also races out of the Southern Masters club – beat friend and training partner, Hawthorn’s Debra Lindstrom to the line, ahead of Port Fairy’s Mikayla McLaren.
Mersey Valley Devonport’s Macey Stewart claimed fastest time of two hours, 56 minutes, seven seconds.