Image Courtesy Flynn Hopkins @the.athlete.collection
Author Brad Peppinck
You would have been forgiven for thinking that it was a round of winter crits as the mercury dropped for Round 16 catching many riders unaware and possibly keeping a few of the more discerning variety away as well.
The Junior HC saw a fabulous ride by Shrey Rathi who held his advantage having started half a lap up to take his first ever win by just a few bike lengths from a hard-charging Martin Grande. Annika Astridge meanwhile cemented her credentials as one of the best up and coming talents dropping the remaining boys as she attacked down the back straight to claim third.
In D Grade, the pace was civilised early as Jordan Mirchevski set tempo on the front and drove the bunch hard into the wind. With 13 minutes remaining, a break of three got up the road featuring Jordan, Darren Stevens and James Patterson but weren’t able to make it stick with Peter Coll leading the chase back. Despite some repeated attacks from a very aggressive Jordan, the bunch were all together with two laps remaining before James Patterson put in a huge dig soloing clear with a lap remaining. As the crowd grappled with the ‘will he’ ‘won’t he’ dilemma unfolding in front of them, it was cruelly resolved in favour of the latter as Zeke Findlay chased him down with less than a meter to spare, Chris Withington holding on for third.
C Grade saw Those Guys active early on as the field was quickly strung-out single file, Trent Smyth dishing out the pain. Denis Mungoven was active as usual trying several attacks throughout the night, including a father-son combination where he was joined by Eddie. Unmoved by the sentimental script unfolding up the road, however, odds and sods started to bridge across as the leading break swelled to three, then seven, before a bunch of around twelve finally emerged. Despite a solid chase led by the likes of Sam Moffit and Trent Smyth, the break was still up the road with two laps remaining as the battle for position began to unfold in earnest. Andy Yates took off like a pink rocket down the back straight but couldn’t hold his speed to the line, Dennis M rounding him up with perfect timing and making the victory look effortless in the process (a theme that would emerge throughout the night).
Women’s A grade delivered early on the promise of exciting racing as Claudia Marks and Lauren Bates drove the pace from the get-go, splitting the bunch and dragging clear a leading group of six riders. Meanwhile, Rae Rogers was challenging the ‘pink’ supremacy of Those Guys in her own eye-catching jersey as the women’s C bunch kept up a solid pace. Back up the road, it was a story of attack and counterattack as – Kim Pederson, Bec M, Lauren Bates, Josie Pepper, Gracie Elvin, and Claudia – kept trying to strike blow. On the bell lap, it was Lauren who blinked first attacking into collarbone but was quickly wrapped up by Bec looking for her own long-range effort. In the end though, Gracie Elvin proved that experience counts with a textbook sprint finish, coming out of the slipstream to take the win in the dying moments with a move that never looked in doubt. Kim P and Jossie were left to bring home second and third while in Women’s C, it was Inez Cashman crossing in first after an attacking race.
As A grade finally got going and with several riders clearly suffering the early onset of hyperthermia, it was unsurprising to see attacking riding from the whistle as riders looked to stave off the cold. Oscar Chamberlain was in time trial mode early but wasn’t given much rope as Tom Chester took off in pursuit, dragging several riders with him. Dylan Hopkins was also aggressive but it was Tom C who managed to drive a small breakaway clear with 25 minutes remaining, clearly leveraging his experience and excellent form from the Tour Down Under. Together with the likes of Nick Wilson and Ben Hill, the break had all the ingredients to stay away but they hadn’t accounted for a partially frozen Steve Crispen who furiously drove the chase in his effort to thaw out, ably assisted by Cartel Teammate Nick Wilson. All back together around the halfway mark, a break of three opportunists went clear, shortly thereafter swelling the five; Dylan, Ben, Toby Stewart, Torben Partridge-Marsden, and Ayden Toovey. Having missed the break, Tom C was committed to the chase but given the firepower up front, it wasn’t to be. As the minutes ticked down and the leaders rolled turns, four of the five were almost visibly seen trying to puzzle out a serious conundrum – what to do about a problem like Ben Hill? As Torben looked to set up the inevitable sprint, it was Ayden who took up the challenge rocketing past but despite holding his speed to the line, had no answer as Ben rounded him in a relative canter.
In a cruel twist of timing, the Junior Whites were left to bring the curtain down on another successful evening of racing. Will Astridge took victory from Hannah Pettit in the Juniors while Carly Weiss-Kelly had enough to deny Sonja Falez in E Grade.
Hopefully the warmer weather will return for Round 17 and with several rounds remaining, the race for the overall points scores across the grades is far from done and dusted. Look forward to seeing you all then.