Cold Weather, Hot Race
On one of the coldest days of the year, 60 cyclists signed on for the second longest race of the Riyadh Wheelers Season. At 8am it was still 3 degrees Celsius and most of the entrants were wishing they had another layer to wear as they assembled shivering in the icy wind on the start line of the 88km road race.
Race coordinator Jiri Kuba lead the group slowly for the 6km neutral phase in an attempt to avoid getting too cold. But almost immediately after the neutral was over Kris Ahlin made an aggressive break away from the group – a move that he later admitted was just to get himself warmed up. However Omar Al Jarallah was not going to miss an opportunity and he immediately counter attacked and rode away on his own. He was soon joined by one companion and Arnel Maniago battled for several km unsuccessfully trying to bridge the gap. With a long race still ahead, the rest of the field were content to stay together as Al Jarallah finished the first lap a minute ahead of the field and looked prepared to ride all the way to the finish line on his own if necessary.
As the gentle uphill section of the second lap started, Ahlin attacked once again and bridged the gap to join Al Jarallah. This move splintered the rest of the field with several small chase groups forming and many riders left on their own facing a long day ahead.
“Echelon” was the word of the day for the chase groups as they worked steadily in the cross winds but were unable to make ground on the leading pair. This was the same day that the queen stage of the tour of Dubai was cancelled due to concerns about dangerous winds.
Gareth Gallagher and John Lopez were the only riders capable of staying in sight of Al Jarallah and Ahlin but they were 2 minutes behind as Al Jarallah proved to be too strong for Ahlin as he sprinted across the line to win the race. Gallagher broke away of Lopez to comfortably finish in third place.
Mohammed Al Harbi confirmed that he was the strongest in the main chase group of 7 as he broke away in the last few km with only Jeff Roetter able to stay with him and contest the sprint finish.
The courageous moves by Al Jarallah and Ahlin paid off on a day when finishing soon became the main objective for many of the riders. In these tough conditions, Florie Marinas rode a strong race to finish first in category B.
Last but not least did the Sport Season raffle see two winners this time, after the raffle had to be skipped last race. The committee is normally not compensated for the hard work during the season (we are all volunteers!), but this time Maria and Scott are the lucky winners!
Finally we would like to draw your attention to the RW Championship database. Mario Turco volunteered to build and maintain this very powerful tool. Just visit it and enjoy a bunch of handy statistics.