Mike Handicap


The Mike Handicap has been run by the Canberra Old Boys, ACT Veteran's Cycling Club and the Canberra Cycling Club as a tribute to Iron Mike - Mike Paral.

By legend the race course follows one of Mike's favourite training rides, Weston Creek to the end of the bitumen (and beyond some say, maybe as far out as Piccadilly Circus) returning to Canberra suburbia and then out again. The CCC still run the out and back and out again course to make a race of 128km as a graded scratch for ABC grades, once out and back for DEF

The CCC Iron Mike is held in memory of club hardman from the early eighties, Mike Paral. Mike, who was formerly of the Canberra Old Boys, shortly before the COBACC merged with the Canberra Wests to form the CCC, died in March 1983.

The Iron Mike is regarded as one of the toughest race on the Canberra calendar. The race is held on a demanding undulating course that includes four major climbs, including the 3km three sisters climb back out of Uriarra Crossing.

The ACT Veteran's club still runs a traditional handicap, making for a challenging race of about 64km. The hardship of the race was once the uphill never ending finish up to Deeks Drive, but nowadays the race finishes on the superb Stromlo Forest Park racing circuit which Peter McLennan fought so hard to have built.

The Three Sisters are the major obstacle on the return journey. You will not see any riders walking up these three formidable climbs, as the standard of racing is quite high in the ACT Veteran's Cycling Club

Recent Results: Saturday, 20th August 2011– “Iron Mike” Handicap

68 riders lined up for the Annual “Iron Mike” handicap.

Race report from Cameron Emert (F Grade), results attached below

I never knew "Iron Mike" Paral, as he died not long before I moved to Canberra for the first time. He is frequently described as a hard man and it is fitting that the toughest race on the calendar is held in his honour. It was unfortunate that the event this year clashed with a running event at Stromlo Forrest Park which added another hurdle for the race committee, the race director Mark and the riders to overcome.

It is also not surprising that many of the lower graded riders found other priorities this weekend rather than race (including volunteering as marshalls). To those like me on the lower rungs of the fitness ladder, the hard course, the hard nature of handicap racing and a dubious weather forecast made the race a bit intimidating. As a consequence G grade started with only two riders, Neil Burton was the only F2 rider and there were only 7 F1 riders. In F grade at least there is quite a big disparity in the climbing ability of the riders which makes it a bit more of a challenge to try and keep a bunch together, particularly when it is a hilly race. The problem is that windy conditions in particular make it important to keep a bunch together in order to achieve a good result in a handicap.

The F1 bunch rolled away fairly easily, knowing that there was still a long way to go. Phil Coulson and I had a reasonably similar plan which was to try and get away on the descent of the sisters in order to build enough of a lead to still be in contact with the others on the climb out. The plan worked for me, but Phil wasn't quite able to execute it quite as well as he'd hoped. After the climb the bunch regrouped and there was Graeme Hendrie, Ally Roche, Malcolm Tew, Bob Kent and myself with Barbara Bayliss just a little way off the back and Phil was just too far back. Barb did manage to pull herself back to the group with a big effort, but wasn't quite able to recover fast enough to hold the wheels up the false flat, and unfairly for her we had Neil in our sights by this stage.

We weren't quite working like a Swiss watch when we caught Neil but it was effective enough, we could also see David Gould ahead and that spurred us on. Actually with the flouro green top he was wearing he was spurring us on from a long way off. I was tailed off up the rise past the homestead which is a hill that has often brought me undone before, but kept at it and was only 20m off the back when we went past the marker for the short turn. First the others and then I caught and passed David on the Blue Range climb and fortunately they didn't get too far away since I was close enough to be able to catch and pass them on the descent and held a gap past Condor Creek. The next climb saw the others catch and pass me again and at the turn Bob and Ally were nearly half a minute ahead of Graeme who had a gap over Neil, who in turn had a gap over me. I was always confident that I'd make up ground on the others during the descent but would it be enough? A long time ago I was given the nickname Ironhanglider, which was actually a reference to my poor climbing ability. However I do happen to be good at the downhill bits and the return from the end of the bitumen is one of my favourite bits of road.

Not surprisingly I managed to reel in Neil and Graeme by the 'blip' in the descent, Graeme came with me for some of the next bit but I was on a mission to try and make as much ground back as I could before the return climb of Blue Range. I didn't quite catch Bob and Ally before the climb and lost more ground by the top. When I got there I looked around and Graeme wasn't far behind and I knew that if I waited for him we'd be faster to the crossing if we worked together. Neil wasn't far behind either in hindsight it probably would have been better to have waited for him too, because the extra body might have made a telling difference. Graeme and I worked to close the gap to the Ally and Bob and had some really good sustained pace going, whilst we gained on them we hadn't actually caught them by top of the crossing.

I made up a bit more ground down the steep bit and was only 50m or so from Bob at the start of the climb.

However the sisters is where the race is really won and lost. The first chaser caught me when I was near the top of the first sister, then others came past in small groups as I worked my way up the others. I got lucky when A grade didn't catch me until after the top of the climb and they were re-forming their bunch at the same time as they caught me so the pace was off, I managed to get a tow off them for a minute or so! By this stage I well and truly knew that I was only racing for a finish rather than points (I'd suspected it much earlier but you need to have hope in a handicap). I did manage to improve my place by one when near the finish I managed to finally catch Mike Spoljaric who had ridden a mighty solo race for 50km but the effort was telling by then. I have to say that I was quite pleased to have beaten more than half of the field home (just).

A big thank you to Mark and his team of marshals for organising a great race, as well as the committee members who put in the hours to make sure that all of the background stuff happens so that we can have a race at all. Last but not least thanks need to go to the Handicapper without whom we'd just end up with a massed start scratch race each week. I see from the results that there was virtually an hour between the elapsed times of the fastest and slowest riders. I think that it is one of the strengths of this club that we can cater for such a wide spread of physical abilities. I have to say I am looking forward to a flatter course next week though.



Our many thanks to Race Director Mark Gillett and his willing assistants.