Author Brad Peppinck
There was a post-holiday feel to the first Crit of 2022 with smaller bunches across all fields, but that did little to impact the aggressive racing in windy conditions.
Proceedings kicked off with the Junior HC, some lucky riders sporting new bikes and kit courtesy of Santa. Srey Rathi rode well swapping turns with Quinn Peppinck and Barney Mungoven but the trio were overtaken with a lap to go, Barney riding strongly to hold on to leaders’ wheels as they came through. In the end, it was Hugo Williams who held a clean line through the final corner to avoid some of the chaos behind as Archer Peppinck and Annika Astridge had a close call in the final corner, holding on for his first win of the year, Archer managing to get his wheel in front of a fast-finishing Annika to grab second.
E grade and Junior Whites proved to be a relatively settled affair, no one able to get away in the tough conditions. Jim Mungoven held his speed through the final turn to outpace Will Astridge, who’d gone early coming out of collarbone and led the bunch into the home straight. In E grade, Bonnie Young proved the fastest of the night with a very strong sprint, winning by a few bike lengths from Simon Pollak.
Despite several efforts to get away, D grade proved to be a race of attrition with the bunch staying together all the while diminishing in number as the clock ticked down. Darren Stevens was notable with some big digs on the front, Jordan Mircevski and James Patterson also contributing to the high pace. On the bell lap, Chris Withington was looking good for the victory as he rounded the final bend but a dropped chain left him to rue what might have been. Bill Shelly capitalised on Chris’s misfortune coming off his wheel cleanly and proving the quickest with a well-timed sprint to the line, ahead of Matthew Beale and Darren Stevens.
In C grade, Ben McCarthy and Andy Gordon attacked midway through the race to establish a solid lead. Working together, the duo stayed clear lap after lap despite a solid chase led by the likes of Eddie Mungoven, the Domminator, and Pete Rogers. Despite being caught in the closing stages, Ben still had enough to take a well-deserved win over Dennis Mungoven who edged his wheel in front Andy for third.
The increasingly windy conditions lending themselves to breakaways, it was no surprise to see several attempts from Tiffen and Cartel riders to get away early on. Mid-way through the race, it was Mick Tollhurst who snuck off the front with a calculated attack, to be joined shortly thereafter by Rainer Wilton and Marc Vroomens. Swapping turns nicely, the trio stayed clear as big digs by Thomas Wood, Hayden Stevens, and Em Viotto were somewhat disrupted by carefully positioned Cartel and Tiffen riders. A huge ride by Ben Henderson saw him bridge up to the leaders with just a few laps remaining, but there was to be no denying Rainer Wilton who lit the jets early coming onto the back straight and had enough to stay clear across the line, Ben coming in second with Mick in third.
In A grade, Karl Michelin-Beard seemingly thinking he was doing an ITT took off like a rocket and quickly established a lead of almost half a lap. But despite pushing a big gear into the wind, he was gradually reeled back by the chasing bunch. Five riders eventually went clear with some serious firepower in the form of Trekky, Ayden Toovey, Makka Edwardson, Marc Williams and Sean Whitfield. Despite a strong chase with contributions from Nick Wilson, Steve Crispin, and Dan Mcconnel, the win was always going to be decided from among the quintet up front. Perhaps wary of Sean in a bunch gallop, Trekky put in an absolute textbook attack down the back straight with two laps remaining immediately establishing a decent gap. Looking the goods to mail in a solo victory, Trekky pushed hard but as the bell sounded, Ayden launched his own stinging attack down the home straight to bridge across and set up an exciting two-up contest. Befitting the aggressive way in which he’d ridden the race, Trekky launched his sprint from the front and despite pushing into the wind, had enough power to outpace Ayden to the line and take a well deserved victory. Marc capped off a strong ride to take third.
All in all, a great way to kick off the year and a sure sign of more exciting racing to come in 2022.