Author Brad Peppinck
Storm clouds ominously served as the backdrop to the second round of crits with the strong numbers from week one repeated and some very positive racing.
Fast becoming a crowd favourite, the Junior HC handicap delivered another nail-biting finish after Violet Withington made a strong start and held the lead into the final laps. Violet was eventually overtaken by a hard charging trio led by Annika Astridge, who refused to sit in the wheels even after being caught by the chasers. In the end, Archer Peppinck made the most of an opportunity to dart up the inside on the final corner as the others ran wide and take an exciting sprint win from Hugo Williams. Quinn Peppinck’s odds for next week, meanwhile, shortened dramatically after a strong ride that saw him finish within touch of the leaders.
Junior Whites / E Grade was a very orderly affair for much of the race as the bunch stayed together, content to let Sonja Falez and Carley Weiss-Kelly set tempo on the front lap after lap. Xanthe Pick was well positioned throughout and Luke Rodgers also keeping watch on proceedings. The relative peace was shattered by Eddie Mungoven who shot out of the bunch like a missile and true to his MTB roots, spun a super high cadence to build a big lead. Luke Rodgers was the only one brave enough to try and follow but was swallowed up by the chasing bunch. With Eddie long gone up the road and with time to celebrate his win, Rae Rodgers kicked off a long bunch sprint and looked like she may get away but was pulled back on the home straight and passed by Carly Weiss-Kelly, duly reward for her hard work with an E grade win ahead of Simon Polak and Leanne Tennant. Luke Rodgers meanwhile secured second in the Junior Whites with Will Astridge sprinting well for third.
D Grade started smoothly before James Patterson established a small gap and strung the bunch out. A focused James Jordan (aka the breaker of chains) was measured in putting the power down, bringing things back together before Darren Stevens took over down the home straight. With the first of many attacks, Ben McCarthy established a sizeable break with only Zeke Findlay able to bridge. Sandford Beggs led the response as the breakaway pace proved too high for Zeke leaving Ben riding solo out front. As heavy raindrops started falling, Ben McCarthy was reeled in, gaps aplenty dotting the field. Once Ben was caught, the pace slowed before the cycle repeated, Ben again attacking and Darren driving the pace in response to bring about the capture. Cut and paste a third time, Ben was off again, James Jordan this time marshalling the response. All back together if not strung out into collarbone, three riders eventually snuck off led by, no prizes for guessing, Ben McCarthy, who cemented his case for a promotion by winning the reduced bunch sprint from Sanford Beggs and Nicholas Jeffries. Vanessa Judge stayed with the bunch to lead home Women’s C, with Alexandra Apse and Ashleigh Lawson some way down in second and third.
Not to be outdone for attacking riding, C grade started with a bang, or more accurately, a flash of pink as Heath Chester barrelled off the front with the commissaire’s whistle. Teammate Trent Smyth bridged leaving the bunch chasing hard to bring back ‘Those Guys’. Ben Healy was prominent in trying to galvanise the bunch, and all was brought back together by the halfway mark. Robbed of the chance to ‘sneak’ off the front care of the neon pink jersey he was wearing, Nathan Edwardson nonetheless did it the hard way going solo with four minutes to go and managing a lap out front before the legs gave way. Textbook tactics from the men in pink then saw Trent Smyth immediately counter and he looked like he might get away, before Jack Young and Angus Withington combined to bring it back. With one lap to go, Claudia Marks was well positioned among the leading riders as Wayne Pettit kept the tempo high. Andy Gordon shifted into high gear coming out of collarbone and opened up a long sprint but couldn’t break the elastic to Joel Findlay, who came past to win a close sprint from Heath Chester and Rod Bates. Claudia Marks was a comfortable winner for Women’s B, ahead of Lauren Bates and Margauex Jacquet.
Taking advantage of a slight breeze and a few raindrops, Declan Prosser and Thomas Wood attacked early and settled in for a long night of suffering. Edmund Hall led the bunch in response with Georgia Whitehouse also up front, real estate she’d occupy for much of the evening. After the leaders were brought back, Rory Thornhill followed by Liam O’Dea tried their luck respectively, as Tristan Ward, ‘inconspicuous’ as ever, pulled the bunch along in response. Jono Hazell then attacked off the climb as Cartel teammate Stu Griffith looked to bridge across unsuccessfully, but not before helping another teammate, Matt Corby, together with Rory Thornhill, link up with Jono. Thomas Wood tried valiantly to bridge but paying the price from his earlier efforts, found himself stuck in no-mans land. Em Viotto also put in a sharp acceleration to inspire the bunch into action, with Declan Prosser and Luke Ellison contributing. Strung out and with splits everywhere, last weeks winner Hayden Stevens was looking comfortable as the leaders splintered, leaving just Matt and Rory out front. Sensing opportunity, Mick Tollhurst shot across with Rainer Wilton latched on his wheel, to establish the decisive break of the day. Despite strong contributions from Georgia Whitehorse, Myles Wood, and several solid digs by Tristan, the four up-front worked well together to pull out a quarter of a lap. Into collarbone for the final time, it was Cartel’s to lose with two riders up front, but ignoring the script, Mick Tollhurst went early just through collarbone and looked to have enough for the win. Not to be outdone though, and after being off the front much of the night, Matt Corby ratcheted up the watts to quadruple figures and coming out of the final bend, hunted Mick down to edge half a wheel in front on the finish line, Rory Thornhill a deserving third. Georgia Whitehorse capped off a strong ride by winning Women’s A in the bunch dash for the line, ahead of Josie Pepper and Ella Bloor.
A grade was immediately strung out as six riders launched off the front as the whistle sounded: Ben Hill, Harry Jones, Nick Darling, Tom Chester, Fintan Conway and Tristan Dimmock. It was immediately clear that this could be the move of the day, with both Olivers and Bridgelane well represented and taking the impetus out of the chasing bunch. Trekkie clearly didn’t get the memo though and was prolific on the front trying to close the gap, lap after lap with little help from anyone else. Once Nick D and Tristan D had popped, Aiden Toovey made big dig to try and solo across to the leaders but couldn’t make it, the four up front rolling turns, Ben Hill dominating with head down efforts on the straights. Macca Edwardson, with arguably the ride of the night, then did what Trekkie and Aiden hadn’t been able to, bridging across to the leaders and stringing the bunch out in the process, the gap shrinking to a few bike lengths. But with Olivers patrolling things, and Trekkie left shouldering the load, the bunch failed to make the catch and the gap went out again. Campbell Jones was riding strongly and providing some relief for Trekkie, but in what was effectively a five v one contest, the lead continued to grow. Harry Jones was strong in the back straight with Tom Chester riding smart, as Macca began to suffer from his earlier efforts but refused to let go. Despite some cameos from Nick Wilson and Andy Blair, it was clear the five up front would decide the win. Not willing to risk a sprint, Fintan made a stinging attack as the bell sounded and grabbed a few bike lengths. As the remaining four looked around, it was Macca who shouldered the responsibility and took up the chase, catching Fintan through the final turns but spending his last matches in the process. Tom Chester was locked on Ben Hill’s wheel as they entered the straight and despite his best efforts to use the slipstream to his advantage, couldn’t come round Ben who made it back-to-back wins in A grade and denied Tom his first finish line expletive celebration of the season.
Great racing and again, thanks to all the marshals and volunteers.