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Paul Gibson finishes strongly to claim victory against small field in Porongurup Handicap

With COVID scything its way through local cyclists, there was a reduced field to contest the Albany Cycling Club’s Porongurup Handicap on Saturday, May 28.

Despite a shower spit at the start line, the weather conformed to the Bureau of Meteorology’s prediction of “fine, cold and windy”.

Four groups at zero, four, seven and 13 minutes set off from just outside the Mt Barker town for a 55km out-and-back course.

The first half of the race was made easy with a strong tailwind, but that same wind made the return leg very challenging.

The “go” group of Liz Cooper, Steve Maguire and Paul Terry were able to hold off the chasing groups until well into the race.

Setting off at four minutes, the biggest group of the day, Richard Miller, Andrew LeFort, Ryan McLaren, Paul Gibson and Brad Bootsma all chased hard but were only able to make the catch with a few kilometres to go.

The seven-minute pair of David Beckwith and Jimmy Watmore also chased persistently, coming within about 500m at the 40km mark, but could not quite cross the gap.

Off 14 minutes, Brent Schoof recorded the fastest time of the day with 1hr. 35min. but was unable to connect with the front groups as the thumping headwind proved just a little too hard to overcome for the solo rider.

Cooper escaped from her group about 10km from the finish and built a reasonable gap.

Behind her, Maguire and Terry were joined by the remnants of the four-minute group, with McLaren and Gibson pulling big turns trying to close the gap.

Approaching the finish, Bootsma used his strength on a downhill to bring Cooper back within striking distance. And after Bootsma ran out of steam, Maguire had a crack, but he too was overrun.

Cooper’s lead lasted until three bike-lengths from the line when Gibson (first) and then LeFort (second) rolled over the top of her to claim the top two steps on the podium.

Cooper hung on for third place, followed closely by the rest of the “go” and four-minute groups.

Beckwith having left Watmore behind about 5km out was just metres behind the front groups.

ACC thanked all the volunteers and marshals who ensured that the race was able to go ahead. The next race is the Narrikup Handicap this Sunday, June 12, at 8am.

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