Stellar field in Gullies and Gravel

SIXTEEN riders lined up for the Grafton Cycle Club's Gullies and Gravel Sunday mountain bike race.

Away commitments for road riders and injuries kept numbers low, but the quality of the field wasn't diminished, with local luminary, inaugural Armidale 12hr mixed pairs champion Dave Harlowe, leading a stellar field.

Quite a few Coffs riders also made their way north, using the race as a warm-up for next week's first round of the GNaTPACK regional series at Coffs' Cows with Guns track.

Race supremo Trevor Creighton sprang a surprise and turned the race into a handicap event, something rarely seen on the mountain bike track. First out of the blocks was Ryan Gilchrist, along with Sara Hinds and Coffs Harbour's John Mills – a name familiar to many on the road racing scene.

At seven years of age the young Gilchrist might have been thought a slim chance on the 14km circuit but he wasn't sighted by anyone again until he crossed the line, comfortably taking honours in the single lap junior event.

The rest of the field filtered passed timekeeper Nigel Blake, senior riders heading into the second and final lap.

The conditions were ideal and the Bom Bom course firm and dry but the average lap times of 45-50 minutes indicated just how physical the track is. Loose gravel over a hard-packed clay base make traction a delicate matter.

Happily there were no major spills but there was abundant evidence of hard braking into the tighter corners.

In the final wash-up, new-comer Mark Bayliss took the honours on the day with a fine ride on a borrowed bike. Ben Johnson nabbed a terrific second.

Third was the evergreen John Mills with Sue Webber taking the women's gong.

The next club event scheduled is a women's race on May 15.

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