The Best Junior Tour in Australia?
If it wasn’t for a lack of numbers and therefore depth, I would suggest the Central Districts Cycling Club Santos Junior Tour had a massive claim on this title.
The 45th running of the CDCCSJT (for short) was run and won on the weekend over the best course I’ve ever seen host a junior tour – and that includes Canberra and Eildon! Set in the picturesque Barossa Valley, the tour even featured an ascent of the feared Mengler’s Hill (3km @ 7.1°) – as seen in the TDU!
But beyond the parcours and the history (the honour role includes names like: Jack Bobridge, Leigh Howard, Rohan Dennis, Brett Aitkin, Pat Jonker and Luke Roberts to name a few) the tour is faultlessly run by a group of dedicated volunteers and with locals who were incredibly welcoming to interstaters like us.
Yep, Riley and I packed the bike in the box and made the trip on Friday arvo, arriving in the stunning town of Tanunda by around 7.30pm. Dinner and bed.
Saturday saw two road stages for all age groups – I’ll tell the tale of the JM15s (as I was lead car), but there was also a combined group of JW15/17s that included fellow Vicco Ashleigh Hocking (who did very well with a number of podiums).
The ten JM15’s first tackled a rolling loop of some 21kms. Local boy James Hugginson was the strong favourite and certainly thought he was ‘patron of the peloton’ – Victorian boys may remember him from Ararat a few years back where he put on a similar display in the under-13s!
Despite the ‘patrons’ demands, Riley refused to work with him and therefore a group of four made it the finish with Riley taking out the sprint.
The afternoon stage was some 28kms and featured the feared Mengler’s Hill. Unfortunately, Riley’s now renowned dodgy stomach was playing up, but he decided to start as he was resplendent in the leaders jersey. This time Riley decided to work a break with Huggo (they were on nickname terms now) and the two of them got away on the approach to Mengler’s.
With Riley setting the pace for most of the climb, the local lad put in a fearsome attack towards the top, with his face turning as red as his hair. Riley, having turned a lighter shade of pale, just couldn’t go with him and watched as the tour rode away. He held on to finish second, but lost a good whack of time.
Day two, and the young fella was feeling a little better… but not well enough to help the new leader get away. Time and again the local lad attacked and time again Riley closed it down but refused to keep it going… infuriating! After hitting 73kmph on one steep descent, Huggo took off again and snapped the elastic… Riley lost 20m, which quickly became 300m; but with still around 12 of the 25kms to go, all wasn’t lost and Riley slowly set about reeling him back in.
He got back on terms with around 4kms to go and despite being stuck on the front for the last 2kms, launched his sprint from a long way out for a second comfortable win. He might not win the tour but two out of three stages wasn’t bad!
After a trip to the old book shop in Tanunda (a must do if ever you go), where we found a 1958 edition of an Australian cycling magazine featuring a story on Russell Mockridge, it was on with stage four – note to Victorian Junior Tour promoters: four stages make a junior tour much more satisfying.
A dreaded 9.3km ITT out-and-backer over 12 hills in 40kmph winds with a bit of rain thrown in for good measure! After being five-seconds down at the turn-around, Riley managed to reduce it on the way back in, but not quite enough finishing second by less than 2-seconds and also picking up second on GC.
Oh well, not a bad result: a fun trip, some wins, some wines for dad, and a magazine that might just start a collection.
I can only encourage all Victorian Juniors to make the trip next year if they possibly can. It’s a heck of a well-run race over what is definitely the most challenging Junior Tour course in the country.