Photo Credit Ian Hutchings | Author Brad Peppinck
Round 18 of CCC Summer Crits took place against the backdrop of another perfect evening with mild temperatures and a gentle breeze adding to the appeal of the track, all the more so if lucky enough to be viewing said track from the relative comfort of the Handlebar.
Such pleasantries counted for little in the Junior HC, however, and with Hugo Williams starting solo from scratch, he had his work cut out to catch Shrey Rathi, Lachlan Copeland, and Quinn Peppinck who all started with a half lap lead. Settling into TT mode, Hugo looked solid as he set about the task of bridging the gap, making impressive inroads by the midway point. But it wasn’t to be as Quinn and Shrey combined to up the pace and worked well together to ensure it would be a two-horse race for victory. Into the final corner, Shrey proved the quickest and carried that speed into the downhill run to the line edging clear of a gallant Quinn. Among the very littlest riders, chapeau to George Williams also who inspired by the exploits of his big brother, dug deep to hang onto Reyan Rathi’s wheel and then come past him to continue his impressive run of form.
B Grade saw Trent Smyth agitating early with Matt Corby and Team Tiffen leading the chase in response. Back in the fold, Robert Jeffries put in a stinging attack down the home straight before Hayden Stevens welded it all back together through collarbone. As the pace slowed coming onto the home straight, Dave Parker and Steve Blackburn turned back the clock to their respective NRS days with a well-timed attack but couldn’t ultimately make it stick. Obviously undaunted by superstition, with 13 minutes remaining, Matt Darling soloed clear and quickly built a gap of several bike lengths before Mick Tollhurst, perhaps sensing this was the moment, bridged the gap in his illustrious style. With two dangermen up the road, Calvin Coombs and Roger Grierson threw themselves into the chase to bring it all back together, before Em Viotto and Steve B countered with a break of their own, Dave P caught in no man’s land between them and the chasing pack. With two laps approaching, the combined might of Hayden S and Rob J set about making the catch, Eddie Mungoven meanwhile riding a smart tactical race to give his Tiffen teammate come DS up the road the best chances of staying clear. But with Dave Sitsky also contributing, with two laps to go, it was all back together and BOAs at ten paces as riders ready themselves for the inevitable sprint. Matt Corby on lead out duties kept the pace high into the bell lap before Rainer Wilton went clear on entry to collarbone, a move that would have paid dividends had the race finished on exit… but which in the circumstances left him dragging the bunch all the way down the back straight. Through the top bend, and in a nod to brains over brawn, Dennis Mungoven proved the only point worth leading a bike race is the final meter emerging from the chaos to take a classy victory, a half wheel better than Hayden with Eddie M in third.
A Grade, unsociable as always, was on from the whistle with Ayden Toovey, Cam Rogers, and Reece Tucknott rolling off the front through collarbone and quickly building out a lead that took in the home straight. CCS having missed the boat was fully committed in response, Macca Edwardson and Sean Murphy burying themselves to bring it back together. But ten minutes down, the gap remained largely intact, prompting the likes of Ben Hill, Sean Whitfield and Nick Wilson to throw their weight into the chase as well. Cam, legs clearly undiminished from the several hours of hills he’d ridden earlier that day… drove the escapees who worked well and with 15 minutes to go, looked to have the race all but sewn up. But a huge effort from Tom Chester signalled a change in fortunes as lap by lap, the break was reeled in leaving the spectators doing the maths to swiftly conclude it was still game on. With three minutes to spare, the CCS led chase were duly rewarded for their efforts as the three amigos finally succumbed, Ben Hill looking to capitalise on the fine work of his teammates with an immediate counter. Returning the kindness CCS had extended him, Cam swiftly rode the race back together before Nick W, followed by Sean and Reece, respectively tried their luck, all with similar results.
On the bell and with the promise of respite just up the road, Steve Crispin flew the coop and in short order had a lead of several bike lengths. To the cheers and admiration of every spectator and quite possibly even a few of the chasing bunch… Steve risked everything in pursuit of an improbable and audacious victory. Into the final bend, Steve still dared to believe before the imposing figure of a Lotto Dstny rider, admittedly almost a third Steve’s age, put paid to those dreams with a crushing run to the line and tongue out celebration of what was unquestionably the strongest ride of the night. Ayden followed Cam home in second with Reece in third ensuring that the original escapees, admittedly having done things the hard way, got the spoils to which they were well-entitled. All in all, an epic race and according to Strava, among the fastest ever run on the crit track with the win showcasing the prodigious talent coming through the Canberra ranks while also, the courage and audacity that has made the racing scene here so special. As MTB pioneer Doug Bradbury once said, ‘the best rides are the ones where you bite off much more than you can chew… and live threw it’ – chapeau A Grade for demonstrating that in spades.
Well… after all that excitement, or perhaps because of it, yours truly had to call it a night there (the need to prepare dinner for two small children may have also been a factor) but sad to say, we didn’t get to see the racing that followed. With a healthy dose of poetic license, we can only assume the outstanding racing continued with Andrew Chamberlain outbidding Rod McGee and Adam Martin after perhaps smooth talking his way to the front, while we can imagine Luke Rogers took a note out of Cam’s book and just bossed it from start to finish delivering on the victory he has been promising since the start of this year and capping off a great night of racing for Clan Rogers.
Lest anyone has any doubts, Canberra cycling remains in very safe hands. In addition to the usual and sincere ‘thank you’ proffered to our amazing Commissaires and volunteers… thanks also to everyone who threw a leg over the bike and got amongst the fantastic racing we all enjoyed; you make the scene what it is and give the CCC Summer Crits the acclaimed reputation that it has.