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Crits Opening Night Race Report

Photo Credit flynnhopkinsphotography

More than 150 riders turned out on a beautiful and still Canberra night for the much-anticipated return to Wednesday night crits.

The action kicked off with a well-orchestrated handicap for the Junior HC riders. Annika Astridge put in a fantastic solo effort to take the win from Hugo Williams and Archer Peppinck, who worked well together but couldn’t close the gap to Annika. George Williams also deserves a mention as the youngest rider of the night embarking on what’s sure to be the first of many laps of the circuit.

A large D grade contingent kicked off with tandem pair John Barlow (stoker) and Ben Healy (pilot) up’ing the pace on the opening lap. Gravity kicked in and James Patterson then took over, working hard solo on the front with the bunch content to follow. The action really kicked off when Nathan Shubert and Chris Withington attacked off the front at about the half way mark, establishing a handy lead and combining well together. With two laps to go, the leading group had swelled to six but it was all brought back together for a bunch sprint in the end. Nathan Shubert went with half a lap remaining but was reeled in and passed by his former breakaway companion, Chris Withington, who just held on from a fast-finishing Alex Hoitnik, with Nathan having done enough to maintain third.

With almost 40 riders, C grade kept things orderly for the first few laps with Trent Smyth pace setting and Ben Stanyer also taking some turns on the front. Heath Chester was next to attract attention, not least on account of his resplendent pink jersey, with a punchy attack off the front. Further attacks came and went, with Trent Smyth pulling a big gear to neutralise the threats. Sam Moffit also tried to get away but was kept on a short leash. Seemingly resigned to a bunch sprint, David Parker drove a quick pace on the front before Chester and Smyth combined again with a big dig. Despite a brave effort, they were swamped by the hard charging bunch and Josh Bilski kicking his season off in style with a well-timed sprint, followed by Rod Bates and Angus Steadman.

Drawing the biggest cheers of the night, round one of the inaugural Women’s series kicked off with a combined A/B and C/D race, showcasing more than 20 of the ACT’s best female riders. The bunches quickly broke up once the whistle blew, and racing got underway. Kim Pederson was active early with some aggressive riding on the front. Em Viotto also made her presence felt with some blistering attacks, but the bunch were reluctant to give her much room, Jen Darmody driving the pace to close gaps. The still conditions and careful marking of favourites made it difficult to split the field despite Em’s repeated attempts to get away. In the closing minutes, Kimberly Wells snuck off the front before being joined by Jen Darmody. Sensing the danger, Gracie Elvin put in a big attack with Lauren Bates also contributing to close the gap and bring it all back together. In the end, it was Ella Bloor who timed her run to perfection with a long sprint and comfortable victory, followed by Lauren Bates and Jen D. Women’s C/D, meanwhile, rolled turns constructively with Lucy Skeldon ultimately proving too powerful in the sprint, taking a close win over Amy Betts and Sophie Chapman.   

The A grade bunch was already strung out by the time the bunch hit Collarbone for the first time, led by Fintan Conway who would prove the most aggressive throughout the night. The trio out front were quickly chased down by club President, Tristan Dimmock before Steve Crispin, carrying some serious form after ACT TT and Road race victories on the weekend, drove a fast pace down the back straight. Nick Darling was next to try his luck and was quickly joined by Olli Murray in his new Cartel colours and Campbell Jones for Ollivers. Brendan ‘Trekkie’ Johnston lit the jets and put in a huge dig to join the break, bringing Karl Michelin-Beard across with him for what looked like it could be the winning move. But it wasn’t to be as the bunch reeled them in before Fintan countered with another sharp acceleration. Trekkie, Tom Chester, Aiden Toovey, Macka Edwardson, and Harry Jones all featured over a punishing series of attacks and counter-attacks with Ben Hill and Andy Blair keeping the pace high and making sure the break never got out of control. In keeping with the theme of the night, a bunch sprint looked dialled in with two laps remaining and despite Fintan C once again bombing off the front to try and steal a win, the CCS train with Ben Morrison, Oscar Chamberlain and Nick Darling combined to ensure it would be a bunch kick. In the end, Ben Hill and Aiden Toovey emerged from the top corner to take what looked like quite a serene one two victory for Team Bridgelane, with last years series champion Tom Chester opening his season tally with a hard fought third.

B grade rounded out the night and Edmund Hall kicked off proceedings early, quickly establishing a ten second gap before Riley Smithers bridged across. Working well together, the bunch seemed content to give the two leaders some rope before gradually increasing the pace to bring them back. Rory Thornhill was next to try his luck but was chased down by Jono Hazell at the head of affairs. The high pace made attacks difficult and almost gave the impression of orderliness, with Jack Brand taking a long stint on the front and the bunch happy to follow. The ‘tranquillity’ was shattered by a big attack from Thomas Wood closely tracked by the ever-wily Rainer Wilton and Mick Tollhurst. Hayden Stevens put in a dig up the back straight to bridge across, closely followed by Nathan Spillane, Rory Thornhill and Matt Corby. Sensing the Danger Nick Stewart rode bravely but couldn’t bridge across, before the bunch eventually closed the gap with two laps remaining. Several attacks ensued with Mark Harris and team Tiffen prominent in bringing them back, and Steve Blackburn well positioned going into the final lap. A last-ditch effort out of Collarbone by Jono H didn’t stick and as they rounded the final bend, Hayden Stevens proved that junior gearing was no barrier to serious finishing speed taking a fantastic opening win of the season from Mick Tollhurst and Stu Griffiths.

All in all, a very successful night of racing and hopefully the start of big season to come. Also, a bug thanks to all the volunteers who make the racing possible – from the set up / pack up, the timing and registration process, the first aiders and race management, and all the work that goes on behind the scenes. CCC membership is now more than 300 strong and to make sure we can continue delivering quality events and don’t overburden a small group of volunteers, the more we can share the load across the club, the better and more sustainable the racing will be. 

Look forward to seeing you all next Wednesday.

 Brad Peppinck