Author Brad Peppinck
The biggest contingent yet with 172 riders turned up for the third week back of Crits, the warm yet deceptively windy conditions ensuring the spectators were treated to some outstanding racing.
In the Junior HC Handicap, the field was divided between the ‘big kids’ doing the traditional lap and the ‘little kids’ going round the grassy enclosure. Reyan Rathi rocketed off from the whistle and led start to finish for the little kids, despite a solid chase by George Williams. The bigger kids racing saw outstanding rides from Violet Withington with her best place finish of the season, as well as Hayden Porombka, who is going from strength to strength. In the end, it was Annika Astridge picking up her second win of the year in style after breaking away from Hugo Williams and Archer Peppinck with a lap to go, staying off the front solo to win convincingly.
A Grade kicked off with Tom Chester aggressive early on. Despite the ideal conditions for spectators, it was far from ideal for any poor soul caught on the front down the back straight, driving into a block headwind. Braden Clews-Proctor made the most of the conditions with a strong attack into the wind, stringing the bunch out and seeing six riders go clear, including regular protagonists Sean Whitfield, Ben Hill, and Trekkie. Odds and sods looked to bridge across, with Kris McCreath looking strong, but a lack of cohesion on the front saw the inevitable concertina effect into the wind as things stacked up again. Whether unimpressed by the work rate or just unaccustomed to riding incognito, Trekkie went solo with Callum McClusky locked on his wheel but again couldn’t make it stick, Matt Darling leading his CCS teammates in keeping the pace high. Reflective of the outstanding young talent being developed in Canberra, the decisive move eventually went clear with 10 minutes to go comprising Oscar Chamberlin, Harry Jones, Cam Rogers, Fintan Conway as well as elder statesmen Ben Hill and Trekkie. Despite a good chase led by Nick Wilson, and efforts to bridge by Ayden Toovey, Andy Blair, Makka, and Tom Chester, the six out front were too strong and avoided any shenanigans to build a convincing lead. Fintan attacked hard with just under two laps remaining as the bunch looked to Trekkie to chase him down. With Trekkie calling their bluff, it was Harry Jones who eventually kicked into gear but not before Fintan had pulled well clear. Cruelly, the wind down the back straight proved too much as Fintan’s brave effort faded into the home straight and Ben Hill and Oscar Chamberlain launched their sprints. Despite a huge effort, Oscar couldn’t quite nudge past Ben who made it a ‘three’peat’ with Cam Rogers taking a well deserved third.
E Grade and the Junior Whites were comparatively civilised after the combativity of A Grade, Ronan Kovacevic driving on the front and the bunch content to let him. Despite several notable efforts to get away, including from Radi Kavocevic and Sonia Worsely, doing so proved a tall order in the conditions. Jim Mungoven was riding well throughout and even forcing the pace on the climb. Simon Pollak had a dig with one and a half laps remaining but was reeled in before Radi Kovacevic up’ed the pace through collarbone, with Will Astridge attentive in response. Radi took a convincing victory followed by a fast-finishing Bonnie Young and Carley Weiss-Kelly, while for the Junior Whites, Will hung on for an excellent win over Jim Mungoven and Xanthe Pick.
D grade saw another huge bunch rolling away with some expert guidance provided for the first few laps from Teams Bridgelane and Olivers representatives. James Patterson and Stuart Nicholls attacked early, with Eddie Mungoven and Eden Dickson also spending time off the front and admirably representing Team Tiffen’s newly established junior racing squad. Oscar Starmer and Sandford Beggs were next to try and get away, quickly establishing a sizeable lead. Vanessa Judge and John Astridge led the bunch response as the two leaders out front began to suffer. With two laps remaining, Oscar went again with only Eddie Mungoven able to bridge across, some rough riding and wheels in the grass down the back straight disrupting the rhythm of the chasing bunch. More than meriting his promotion to D Grade, Eddie Mungoven did the lions share of the work on the front with Oscar patiently tucked in behind. Into the home straight, Oscar unleashed his sprint and came round Eddie to take a crafty victory, Nicholas Jeffries taking third from the bunch kick. Vanessa Judge won a close sprint from Lucy Skeldon to take first for Women’s B Grade, with Amy Betts in third.
C Grade was well behaved early on, in sharp contrast to the flurry of early attacks from ‘Those Guys’ the previous week, Adam Martin setting tempo. Building momentum steadily, a few attacks served to open the legs nicely before Joel Findlay ratcheted things up, attacking with a ferocity that wouldn’t have been out of place in a finish line dash. Joel quickly built up a quarter of a lap lead and looked solid on the bike, as Daniel Joller lead the bunch response, Alex Grzeskowiak also contributing. With Joel’s lead much reduced, the pace slowed as the bunch seemingly made the ‘collegiate’ decision to let Joel cook himself out front. Once all back together, Trent Smyth upped the pace again, setting a steady temp lap after lap. Margaux Jacquet animated proceedings with a strong attack into the wind but before long, Trent was back at the head of affairs. With two laps to go, Sam Moffit ripped off the front as Joel Findlay bridged across and locked onto Sam’s wheel. In the bunch, Gracie Elvin attacked strongly with the bell ringing, closing the gap to the two leaders and all but guaranteeing a bunch gallop. In the end, it was Angus Steadman who timed his sprint to perfection rounding up Alex Grzeskowiak and Dan Joller in the process. Claudia Marks was a convincing winner in Women’s B, with Kimberly McGuire and Claudia Marks in third.
With the light fading along with the wind, B Grade rounded out the night. Jarrod Osborne was quick off the mark establishing an early gap, Matt Corby and Nick Stewart leading the chase. Ella Bloor was well positioned among the leaders and Riley Smithers also prominent. Tristan Ward meanwhile looked to be cruising on the front, as if taking in the sunset, only to have the serenity destroyed by a sharp attack from Ross Goggin. Stung into action, Wardy ripped across the gap with Ella Bloor cleverly following as Mick Tollhurst set a solid tempo in response, steadily closing the gap. Further efforts by Wardy and Jen Darmody respectively, with pace setting by Tollhurst, Nathan Spillane, and Kim Pederson, kept the crowd entertained over the ensuing laps, before Steve Blackburn launched a surprise attack off the front and quickly built a decent lead. Sadly, riding a bright orange Trek didn’t help Steve’s efforts to slip away into the distance and his lead was kept in check, as back in the bunch, Rainer Wilton showed his commitment to gravel riding, heading across the paddock down the back straight and challenging himself to make it back onto a now fast charging bunch. Tollhurst countered once Blackie was caught ensuring a prominent night for Team Tiffen, with Marc Vroomans left to chase. Bob Mathieson looked to bridge but couldn’t pull it off before a huge effort from Stuart Griffith down the home straight on the bell saw Mick reeled in on collarbone. Declan Prosser opportunistically went long but rounding the final bend, Stu Griffiths and Wardy lit the jets with Stu just muscling his way to a cracking victory for Team Cartel over a hard charging Tristen, Declan holding on for third. Em Viotto proved the fastest from Women’s A Grade closely tracking the wheels of the leading men, with Jen Darmody a deserving second after her aggressive riding earlier in the race, Josie Pepper in third.
Lastly, a notable mention for Steve Crispin who departed early from crits after finishing his A grade race. While leaving crits after your race is hardly noteworthy for most of us, given that’s the first time in two years – yes, two years – Steve has left before the lights come down and the track is safely packed away at night, it goes to show just how much of a commitment and contribution Steve has made to making the CCC crits the event it is today. In case we don’t say it often enough, a huge thanks to all the volunteers and to Steve in particular who I’m sure everyone will agree has more than earned an early mark. Given some signage was left out upon closing, however… we’d be grateful if Steve could resume his full attendance for say, the next two years, to ensure the continued smooth running of the event!