Orange power: standout performances from the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships

Peter Ritchie leads the Masters Men 7 Criterium at the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships

I’ve never ridden a Masters event.

For now, I’ll take that as a blessing. Masters bicycle racing is only for those over 30 years of age, and I’m comfortable in saying that I’m not yet eligible.

However, I did spend my last weekend working at the NSW Masters Road Championships in Orange, and I have to say, I’m impressed by the concept.

Uniquely to Masters championships, riders compete only against those in their age categories. Currently in NSW, we have ten male Masters categories and nine female categories, with each category spanning five years. For example, the Masters 1 category is for riders aged between 30 and 34 inclusive. Towards the other end of the spectrum, the Masters 9 category is for those aged between 70 and 75.

Masters cycling is a celebration of sport, health and competition. The championships demonstrate that physical performance and exciting contests are not reserved for the young and supremely fit. At any age, at any fitness level, one can achieve worthwhile objectives on the bike. So, here are three noteworthy performances that stood out to me at the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships.

Gaye Lynn: taking names at 70+

Gayle Lynn (Sutherland Shire CC) during the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships individual time trial
Gayle Lynn’s time trial position is impeccable.

The idea of racing bicycles at the age of 70 boggles my mind. In a time where more and more Australians are suffering from obesity and other lifestyle-induced diseases, it’s inspiring to see our mature-aged friends train hard and lay down outstanding athletic performances.

In her seventies, Sutherland Shire CC’s Gaye Lynn is still putting out incredible results on the bike. She finished second in the combined Women’s Masters 5+ road race, defeating ladies 20 years her junior. More amazingly, she completed the 20.8-kilometre individual time trial in a time of 37:38.42, with an average speed of over 33km/h.

This event was the first time I’d heard of Lynn, but having since learned more about her, these results are completely unsurprising. Lynn is a multiple-time world champion in the Masters road race and time trial.

What struck me most about Lynn, however, was not her results. While going through my photographs, I noticed something quite remarkable. Her form on the time trial bike – her body position – is exceptional; she looks like a time trial world champion. To hold that aerodynamic tuck for over half an hour in your seventies – this lady is freakishly fit.

One Facebook comment on a photo of Lynn sums it up for me: ‘I want to be Gaye Lynn when I grow up!’

Paul Craft: letting his legs do the talking

Paul Craft ('Crafty') during the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships
No stopping: while better known as a race commentator, Paul ‘Crafty’ Craft (R) held his own in the peloton.

Paul Craft is heavily involved in the NSW cycling community. In addition to being a national-level race commissaire, the organiser of RAW Track, and an active member of his Central Coast Cycling Club, most readers would know ‘Crafty’ best for his boisterous commentary behind the microphone.

It’s probably fair to say that out of all things cycling-related, Crafty is least renowned for his on-bike performances. True, he frequently pins on a number¬†in C- or B-Grade at Sydney club races, but his is not a name that comes to mind when you think of potential State champions.

That’s why it was so impressive to see Crafty holding his own during the Men’s Masters 4 Criterium. From the sidelines, it looked like a tough race. The likes of Craig Sinteur, Jeremy Ryan and Matthew Warner-Smith – all extremely strong riders – piled on the pressure with surge after surge on the hilly industrial circuit.

Perhaps I simply underestimated him, but I expected Crafty to be dangling at the back of the bunch, if not dropped. Instead, he was often seen towards the front of the bunch, looking to be actively involved in moves. Ultimately, Crafty was caught up in a crash and finished a lap behind, but if not for that, he would have finished with the main bunch.

His performance is all the more noteworthy when you consider that Crafty had spent the morning busily commentating on the microphone. With barely any warm up, he gave a more-than-respectable account of himself on the bike. A performance like that should encourage middle-of-the-field riders like myself to give championship racing a go. The Elites may be a bit of a stretch, but I can see myself putting my name down for future Masters Championships.

Gregory Barnes: who dares wins

Gregory Barnes during the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships Criterium race
Greg Barnes’ boldness paid off with a gutsy solo attack late in the MMAS6 Criterium.

My final pick for outstanding performances at the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships came in the Men’s Masters 6 Criterium,¬† an event for gentlemen aged between 55-59. Masters racing is typically chastised for its negative tactics. It’s a common scene for the peloton to shut down every single attack, unwilling to let anything other than a bunch sprint prevail.

That’s why it was so refreshing to see Manly Warringah CC’s Greg Barnes launch a bold solo attack with three laps to go. It was a big gamble; either he’d hold the bunch at bay, or he’d exhaust himself, be caught and promptly dispatched by the fresher peloton.

As the laps counted down, the crowd willed Barnes on. Every time we looked at the bottom corner and saw him emerge alone, still leading the race, we’d give a small cheer. Everyone loves aggressive, enterprising racing, and we wanted Barnes to succeed.

In the end, Barnes pulled it off. He crossed the finish line first with a healthy advantage of 11 seconds over clubmate David Ledger, who led home the sprint for silver. A deserving championship title for a daring racer.

Conclusion

I certainly enjoyed attending the 2018 NSW Masters Road Championships. There’s something to be said for older folk continuing to turn the pedals over in their twilight years.

Sport Australia is running an ad campaign entitled ‘Find Your 30’, encouraging everyone to spend half an hour per day engaging in physical activity. Our Masters riders have set an example of active, healthy lifestyles. Their races brought a level of fun and excitement that I never would have expected.

I’ve still a few years before I can compete in my first Masters event, but as the inexorable passage of time pulls me closer, I think that’ll be an occasion to look forward to.

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