Conditions were perfect yet again for Round 20 of CCC Summer Crits, the final instalment in a long season, with double points and Club Champion bragging rights up for grabs.
The Junior HC was another cracking race and goes to show how exciting handicap racing can be. George Williams starting at limit rode well and looked intent on defending his two-lap lead, while Quinn Peppinck and Lachlan Copeland combined to try and press their half-lap advantage. The CORC contingent, meanwhile, of Barney Mungoven and Martin Grande made short shrift of their more meagre lead, getting stuck in proving a handful for the scratch riders to peg back. As the clock ticked down, Archer Peppinck managed to go clear of the scratch bunch with only Martin able to latch onto his wheel in passing. From there Martin rode a great tactical race without touching the wind, and Archer to his credit didn’t look for any assistance. Down to the bell, Archer managed to edge out a fast-finishing Martin to take a well-deserved victory – his eight of the season – with Annika Astridge showing her blistering pace in winning the bunch kick to grab third. Shrey Rathi, a little further back, managed to round up Quinn on the final bend and put in a decent sprint to the line in another show of good form.
D Grade got underway with Ben Williams and Luke Rogers prominent early. Ali Mungoven was also active, holding her position confidently near the head of proceedings. A strong turn from Douglass Wynn had the bunch strung out single file but with five minutes to go, it was still anyone’s race. Ben put in another solid attack which Luke expertly covered, Darren Stevens lurking just behind and ready to capitalise should an opportunity arise. Oliver Grande was next to take over on the front but Luke was again attentive, keeping the bunch together and looking intent on sprinting for the victory. With two laps remaining, a strong contingent of Ali M, Sophie Champan, and Sonja Falez, were right in the mix to battle it out for the win, before the pace slowing marginally with two laps remaining, the proverbial calm before the storm. Dean Bevan was the first to kick start the finale with a punchy effort down the home straight before Luke came to the fore as the track pitched upwards heading into the final bend. In the ensuing sprint, Max Neve emerged from the chaos to claim a powerful win a bike length ahead of Nathan Monk, Luke holding on for third after being involved in just about everything throughout the night. For the women, Ali Mungoven managed to edge out Sonja in the sprint with Chloe Pratt in third.
C Grade was frisky early with last weeks principal protagonists, Atticus Nowlan-Crisp and Rod McGee, early pace setters. Andrew Yates put in a strong attack at 13 minutes remaining, before Rod somewhat casually rolled off the front, electing not to burn precious matches though by pushing on solo. Kim Pederson was aggressive and tried to up the pace anytime the momentum stalled, bringing Rod with her in a two-person escape at the ten-minute mark. But it wasn’t to be as the attackers were brought back into the fold, calm prevailing until three minutes remained when Atticus looked to try his luck with a bold display of speed and bike handling skills. Caught shortly before the bell, an unbowed Atticus, with barely a moment’s recovery, set off again with an audacious push for solo glory. Fortune clearly favouring the bold, Atticus showed his huge potential motoring clear of the chasers and crossing the line with time to sit up and enjoy his moment in the setting sun. Nicholas Jeffries won the bunch kick for second with Andy Gordon emerging from the shadows to take third. Lucy Skeldon was the best of the women finishers, capitalising on her good positioning throughout the race to post another strong ride, Kim Pederson in second with Lauren Bartsch just edging out Natasha Sitsky for third a few bike lengths further back.
Clan Mungoven having clearly done the math prior to kick off in the race for the end of season podium, Dennis was on the attack early going clear as the bunch rounded the top corner in the opening minutes. Seeing the Tiffen threat disappearing up the road, Cartel’s Rob Jeffries was quick to react and bridging across to the leader. With two teams represented in the break, the chase fell to the likes of Hayden Stevens, Matt Darling, and Trent Smyth who worked hard to peg the escapees back. Up the road meanwhile, Dennis and Rob continued to roll turns, Rob shouldering the lions share of the burden in a nod to how far he’s come in relatively short order. Down to the bell, Trent was still burning matches on the front as Cartel and Tiffen sprint trains were massing in preparation for the bunch kick all the while trying to calibrate their efforts so as to give their teammates up the road the best chances of success. With half a lap remaining, it would have been a brave pundit to put their money on Rob and Dennis, who after almost an entire race out front had just a few precious bike lengths to spare as they rounded the final bend. Willed on by the cheering spectators, however, those few bike lengths would prove just enough as Rob outkicked Dennis in the run to the line claiming his first win of the season and giving hope to all budding young (or old) would-be escapees dreaming of long range, risk-it-all attacks. Dennis held on for a deserving second, securing a memorable father-son position with Eddie on the overall podium in the process. Hayden, who needed just a meter or two of extra track, had to settle for third, a dominant overall victory hopefully offering some consolation as B Grade doubtless bids him farewell in his upward progression to the pointy end of CCC crit racing next season. For the women, Josie Pepper just got the better of Lauren Thomas with Em Viotto finishing a little further back in third after having been active during the race.
A Grade fittingly had the job of closing out the season, Macca Edwardson and Ayden Toovey going clear on the opening lap. As the clock ticked down, the escapees looked solid having put almost the length of the home straight into the chasing bunch. With 16 minutes left on the clock, however, Trekky must have realised he was riding in the little chain ring, seemingly shifting up coming onto the home straight with a devastating show of speed, detonating the chasing bunch in the process. Ben Hill and Tom Chester were the only riders able to follow the attack, bridging across to form a quintet up front, Steve Crispin toiling away at the head of the remaining chasers. Perhaps mindful of the heavyweight CCS contingent up front, group cohesion faltered momentarily allowing the chase, led by Nick Wilson, to get within a hair’s breadth of the leaders, before Trekky, Ben, and Ayden were at it again. With two laps remaining, Karl Michelin-Beard was working hard to bring it all back together, before Macca put in a huge effort to try and bridge solo to the trio out front. Showing his tactical nouse, Trekky wasn’t about to let Ben ‘phone a friend’, dropping the hammer just before Macca could make the catch and dragging Ben and Ayden with him in a last-ditch pursuit to the line. Rounding the final bend, Trekky kicked hard up the inside, setting up an exciting drag race with Ben, edging clear by half a bike length in a dominant display of tactics and strength (coincidently prompting one of the junior riders witnessing the spectacle to ask why he wasn’t called ‘Gianty’ though whether in a nod to his tenacity, riding style, or sponsorship commitments is anyone’s guess…). Ben was a deserving second with Ayden in third, securing the overall point score in the process after riding consistently all season long.
And with that, Crit Season 22/23 is a wrap. All in all, another cracking season of racing showcasing the huge range of talent among the Canberra Cycling scene. And echoing earlier sentiments, a massive thanks to all the volunteers, particularly the Commissaires who give so freely of their time to keep the racing safe and on track, punctually and literally.
Look forward to seeing you all across the winter Road season and back on the track in a few months’ time!