Whittaker Makes Early Lead Count To Hold Off Van D’am Racing’s Late Series Run

November 29, 2019 CyclingSA

It looked like the Josiah Whittaker (Rocket Team Racing) show early on in this year’s Super Series Cat 2 Men’s grade, eager not to have a repeat of last year’s nail-biting finish to the Series GC where he won on a countback over Norwood CC’s Andrew Clarkson – the two had even finished first and second in the final round last year. With the Round 1 Mischief Brew Points Race seeing 12 different riders in the points and 5 different winners of the intermediate sprints, it was only Whittaker who could score in every sprint, enough to secure him a convincing win over Norwood CC’s Frank Smith.

The only time Josiah Whittaker would wear his team kit all Series – Round 1! Photo: Andy Rogers

A strong ride from GCC & Friends helmed by the spritely Patrick Galloway in the Altitude Cycling & Fitness Team Time Trial would see them hit the top step, closely followed by Whittaker’s Rocket Team Racing In a sign of things to come, a young Van D’am Racing team took out third place – edging a strong Norwood CC by just 0.8 seconds. Whittaker would keep his SCODY Leader’s Jersey going into the Copper Coast Cup, but it was still anyone’s game.

The double race weekend of the Copper Coast Cup is often make-or-break for a Series bid, and in Whittaker’s case it proved the former. A large bunch came into the finish in Saturday’s Classic Hits 5CS Wallaroo Road Race and it would be Whittaker over the line first, taking the win over Van D’am Racing’s seasoned former NRS rider Shaun O’Callaghan and Henry Sanders of Whittaker’s former team, Adelaide University CC. This would see the beginning of the battle for the Adelaide Bike Fit Young Rider Classification between Norwood’s Dan Tattersall and Van D’am’s Zac Marriage, with Tattersall in the hot seat but Marriage taking maximum points in the road race and breathing down his neck.

The Men’s Cat 2 grade was by far the most vocal at their presentations all Series, as many of the racers (even among rival teams!) are good friends. Photo: Andy Rogers

The Sunday’s Magic FM Moonta Criterium was a hotly contested affair, the tight circuit proving difficult for a break to form and even harder for riders to move around in the bunch. Norwood’s Frank Smith made his intentions clear, taking out both intermediate sprints to take an early lead in the Adelaide Advanced Physiotherapy Sprint Classification, and Whittaker made an impressive move from 6th wheel up the uphill 3rd straight on the final lap to take the win by a clear margin. It was obvious that the other teams who kept allowing him to sprint from the bunch were not going to have any success while he was in this kind of form!

The following week at Vic Park XL, an extended criterium course from Victoria Park out onto a closed Wakefield Rd making for a much more difficult and technical criterium, it was time for something different. After the first intermediate sprint was taken out by last year’s second place getter, Norwood’s Andrew Clarkson, a dangerous breakaway formed with Norwood, GCC and Van D’am represented. There was no sign of Whittaker’s Rocket Team, and the break worked together to stay away until the final. Frank Smith would take the second intermediate sprint and the race win, further extending his lead in the Sprint Class and breaking into the top ten on GC. Whittaker’s lead was safe for another week.

Van D’am Racing proved Whittaker was fallible, you just needed to come up with a plan to beat him and then execute it. Photo: Andy Rogers

There would be no breakaway at Round 6, but a frustrating end to another technical crit for Whittaker as Van D’am made the most of O’Callaghan’s experience and worked a game plan to perfection. Jude Thursby animated the race from the gun to take home the Road iD Most Aggressive red numbers at this round, while O’Callaghan and young Zac Marriage ruthlessly executed an impeccable sprint on the wide Aldinga Beach Esplanade to deliver Marriage the win over Whittaker. The trio would feature again at Murray Bridge in Round 7 in a hotly contested race, this time Thursby taking the win from Norwood’s Clarkson and individual rider Max Hardy, who spent the whole race on the attack. Whittaker, O’Callaghan and Marriage finished in 4th, 5th and 6th, enough for Whittaker to keep extending his lead over Marriage who had now moved into second spot on GC over Norwood’s Ryan Beaumont.

Whittaker would ride straight into the Series win with an impressively consistent Series, never finishing outside the top 7 places.

In the final round at Unley, Whittaker’s unloseable 28 point lead over Marriage meant his Series win was all sewn up and could have seen him race conservatively, but it was hard and fast racing throughout. In the final sprint, Whittaker just couldn’t go with an on-form O’Callaghan, who would take the race win and knock Beaumont off the podium, while Van D’am’s Jason Woodard and Zac Marriage would take 3rd and 4th, enough to make a last second move for the Teams Classification and slip past Rocket Team for the top spot and the Series win.

Frank Smith kept his wits about him as Jude Thursby gunned for his sprint classification; Thursby would need to take all 6 points in the final round and hope that Smith didn’t score in order to tie with him on points and force a countback. Not to be outdone, Smith took 1st and 2nd in the two sprints respectively to protect his classification win and take home some sessions with the team at Adelaide Advanced Physiotherapy. Both Marriage and Tattersall would score in all 4 of the final criterium rounds of the 2019 Super Series, but it was Marriage who would come away with the win in the Adelaide Bike Fit Young Rider classification.

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