Cyclists battle weather in crater lakes climb

TOP HONOURS: Matthew Opperman pushes himself to the limit to set the fastest time up the Valley Lakes hill in the 2020 Crank the Crater individual time trial on Sunday. Pictures: SARAH WALKOM

By Trevor Jackson

THE annual Crank the Crater Hill Climb individual time trial has again been hailed a success despite cyclists battling inclement weather on Sunday morning at the Valley Lakes venue.

The morning saw 22 cyclists take up the challenge to be fastest up the hill, or simply set their best time over the 1.9km course, which includes 77m of elevation gain from the bottom car park to the Centenary Tower car park.

This year Matthew Opperman claimed the honour of fastest rider up the hill with a time of four minutes, 45 seconds, just outside the course record set by Nick Kidman last year.

He was followed by Riley Hill (5.11) then Gerard Coote (5.14) to round out the podium.

Mount Gambier Cycling Club president Dean Zeven said he was pleased with the turnout considering the weather conditions.

“We were happy with that number,” he said.

“With better weather we would have hoped for greater numbers but given the rain that was coming in and the wind that was about it was good.”

Zeven said the conditions were not too bad at the bottom of crater, despite a shower coming through just before the official start time, which pushed it back a few minutes.

He said it was quite cool heading up the middle section of the track, but by the time the riders had reached the finish line they had certainly warmed up.

“The first section up the hill there was a head wind, then the second part of the leg up Elliott Drive had a tail wind,” Zeven said.

“But Matt Opperman was the first rider and he had a tail wind for the first section then a head wind up the last section, so the wind was a bit crazy and swirling about.

“That was a challenge for all of us.”

Opperman’s fastest time was impressive considering the conditions.

Zeven said Opperman was “pretty chuffed” with the result.

“Matthew was the only person below five minutes,” he said.

“He went back down and then rode it again with his daughter Molly.”

Two riders tackled the course on BMX bikes and while they were certainly up against it facing those on road bikes, their times were also impressive.

Scott Bradley set a time of 7.24 and Caiden Garrett 7.29.

“It was really exciting to see other forms of bikes on the road as well,” Zeven said.

“Their times were good – I was shocked really.”

Sarah Dally was the fastest female rider with a time of 6.15.

Zeven said six minutes for the course appears to be a benchmark, with six riders – including Opperman – achieving that feat.

Zeven (5.21), Colin Weatherill (5.31), Matt Fiegert (5.36), Thomas Miles (5.53) and Brady Dethmore (5.56) all managed the climb below that benchmark.

“Six minutes does seem to be a bit of a benchmark now, certainly if you have a road bike,” Zeven said.

“That shows you have a bit of form and are doing well.”

In its two short years the event has proven popular among the club members, with some community riders also enjoying the challenge.

The hill climb was originally designed to involve the community, which Zeven said was still one of the biggest challenges.

“People have probably never ridden up the hill before and they probably think the last thing they want to do is do it in front of a crowd,” he said.

“We want people to know we don’t judge them, it is just great to see people give it a crack.

“My wife Andrea, who is not a cyclist, did it in eight minutes, 40 seconds.

“She hadn’t ridden a bike for two years which just proves anyone can do it – they just need to give it a go.”

Zeven said the club would host the event again next year, praising Mount Gambier City Council for its invaluable support in ensuring everything ran smoothly.

“We are still ironing the kinks out of the set up, but the council have been fantastic closing the road and helping to put in management plans and COVID management plans,” he said.

“As long as I am president I think it will stay on the calendar.

“It gives us a chance to talk to the community and hopefully we get them involved more.

“The majority of riders on Sunday were club members but the community members were glad they got out there and did it.”

The remaining riders’ times were John Cranwell (6.02), Harry Opperman (6.08), Bruce McLaughlin (6.11), Mike Bakker (6.11), Elmer Buckland (6.19), Jamison Buckley (6.38), Damian Buckley (7.16), Mike Dethmore (7.23), Molly Opperman (7.33), Eddie Buckland (8.19) and Andrea Zeven (8.40).