2017 Surfcoast Earthworks Hell of the South – Gravel Race.

Anticipation had been building during the course of week for this event and so it was twenty very keen riders who turned up to race the second edition of the GSCC Hell of the South in perfect conditions for the middle of April. The rain over the last couple of days had compacted the gravel down to make all the roads fantastic to race on. The course was compiled of two large laps including the gravel sections of Willowite, Hendy Main, Loutitt Bay, Blackgate Rds then two or three laps of Willowite, Hendy Main, Loutitt Bay, Pettavel, Blackgate rds with more than two thirds over gravel and a few climbs each lap. It was going to be a war of attrition with the strongest of each grade prevailing at the finish.

A grade started with 5 riders setting a solid pace on the first section of gravel, they were quickly down to four when Gary Wearmouth’s rear derailleur decided to let go. Xavier Coppock was in his element today and road away from the others with about 30km to go holding a very impressive lead till the last time up the Pettavel gravel hill where he unfortunately had a rear puncture. Xavier kept pushing but was too far from the finish and was past by Anthony Seipolt and Richard Lyle with Josh Williams who were not far behind. Richard started the sprint to the finish line but Anthony ‘Bradbury’ Seipolt took a great win averaging over 35km/h on a tough course.

B grade started with six, Rick Buckwell was probably the favourite in this bunch. Rick started along Willowite with a solid first stint on the first gravel sector warming everyone up for what was looking like to be a hard race for all. The two supervets in the group Mark Cummins and Paul Rettke gained a nice gap on the downhill section  of Loutitt Bay Rd for the first time with the others in hot pursuit. Rick and Harvey Lang then attacked the first hill along Loutitt Bay Rd dropping Kane Airey who chased all the way to Blackgate Rd before Paul attacked again and that was the end of Kane. The first time up Pettavel Rd Hill, Rowan Neerhut decided to get a jump on the rest but then he literally hit the wall when he got to the top off the climb and the others flew past him spraying gravel in their wake. Paul got a flat with a lap to go and Rowan was eventually dropped on the last climb up Pettavel leaving it up to Rick, Harvey and Mark to fight it out. When this trio hit the last sector of bitumen at Pettavel/Blackgate corner of the last lap Rick put in his usual breakaway effort dropping Mark but Harvey anticipated the move and stuck on till the finish where he was able to out sprint Rick to record a great win and his first with the club.

C Grade started with five riders in an uneven bunch. David Warren was back racing again and continually attacked the bunch trying to break it apart but to no avail with some tough chasing by the rest of the group. Brad Keating put in a few solid efforts but had had enough at the start of the forth lap. Chris Fenech was looking strong at the front enjoying the gravel sections. David attacked again up the Pettavel hill with only Chris able to get on his wheel. These two road hard never to be seen again to the finish with David taking the win and Chris close behind. Carl Judd and David Spence road the rest of the course with David Spence taking third with Carl not far behind.

D grade had four starters and four laps to complete.

The quartet stayed together for the first lap, Marcus Coppock decided the racing wasn’t for him and supported the rest of the riders from the sidelines. Ben Culton from Colac loves a challenge and rode a very strong ride. Kerryn Minehan was riding very well but Ben knew he had to drop Kerryn before the last Pettavel Hill to have a chance to win at the finish. Ben held a very impressive pace over the gravel sections for a great win. Kerryn finish second from Joe Gulino who road very well.

Apart from a few mechanicals, everyone enjoyed the solid course, the gravel roads and are already looking forward to Hell of the South in 2018 with hopefully are few more riders. Thanks to all the marshals today

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