Author Brad Peppinck
Spectators were treated to another night of exciting racing for Round 8 of the CCC Summer Criteriums with a mixture of audacious solo breaks and perfectly executed sprint finishes.
Archer Peppinck opted for the former in the Junior HC, run for the first time using the smaller ‘hot dog’ circuit. After Zac ‘the Diesel’ Thomas made an immediate impact on his welcome return to CCC racing by dragging the bunch round for the opening few laps, Archer clipped off with a trademark lightning acceleration down the back straight and had the form to hold the chasers at bay all the way to the finish. Zac fought bravely but his early efforts cost him in the closing stages, coming home with an impressive second while Hugo Williams managed to catch and overhaul Quinn Peppinck on the bell lap for third.
D Grade was wary from the gun, the headwind down the back straight inviting early caution. Simon Porombka was active in setting a respectable tempo, while Heath Chester was also keen to make his presence felt having re-joined the Canberra racing scene. Several probing efforts prompted much rubber necking and the odd, no doubt well-intentioned piece of advice. Zac Cleaver was the first to really signal his intent with a punchy attack but was brought under control a few laps later. Sam Moffit and Andrew Yates were the next to go, odds and sods coming across as the bunch started to splinter. A leading group of 10 riders formed shortly thereafter, although lacking cohesion, the chasers had reason for optimism. But it wasn’t to be as the leaders upped the tempo again, 10 becoming 6 in a war of attrition and leaving Zac, James Paterson, Angus Withington, John Bridge, Adam Martin, and Rod McGee to fight for line honours. With all the mounting tension of a track sprint, on the bell, John blinked first and launched an attack out of collarbone heading down the back straight. But having worked hard to set up the break, there was no way Zac wasn’t going to enjoy the spoils rounding John up and accelerating away for the win, Angus in second and James on third. Lauren Bartsch and Lauren Bates, perhaps saving their legs for the Women’s Race to come, took home first and second respectively about a minute further back.
Round 3 of the Women’s Series saw Claudia Marcks on the front early, as the A/B riders looked to position themselves for the inevitable attacks. The pace having taken its toll, the leaders were reduced to five after the opening salvos, Claudia, Em Viotto, Lauren Thomas, Jossie Pepper, and Lauren Bates all at the sharp end. Josie was the first to press on in earnest but wasn’t given any latitude, Em quickly countering in a move that also included the two Laurens. As the three worked to cement the decisive break, an intriguing race unfolded with a nod to brawn and tactics respectively. Lauren Bartsch having been briefly dropped clawed her way back and deciding offence was the best form of defence, pressed on in an impressive show of strength as the road pitched upwards into the top corner. Whether by choice or not, Em and Lauren T in short order found themselves almost the length of the straight behind, before Em launched out of collarbone and bridged back up. But if her intention had been to ride Lauren T off her wheel, it didn’t work as the trio regrouped – only to repeat the exact performance, in the exact same spots, a lap or two later. Dress rehearsals done and all together on the bell, Em showed her class jumping onto Lauren B’s wheel as she attacked out of the back straight, just pulling out of the slip stream with enough time to slingshot past for a memorable victory. Lauren T deservingly rounded out the podium.
Not to be outdone for enthralling racing, the Women’s C/D grade saw Lucy Skeldon clipping off the front at the mid-way mark and quickly establishing a sizeable lead. Slung low over the bars, Lucy looked the picture of time trialling perfection down the home straight as she set about breaking the resolve of those chasing. Challenge accepted, Sonja Falez and Sophie Chapman rolled turns as they looked to first stem the bleeding, and then set about reeling Lucy back in. With three laps to go, the pain was evident as Lucy pushed into the wind down the back straight, Sonja relentlessly pressing on and dropping Sophie in the process. Into the final turn, it was an each way bet, Sonja with the better of the legs going uphill. Having come that far, however, Lucy wasn’t about to let victory slip and coming onto the home straight, adopted the aero tuck that had served her so well in a last-ditch drive for the line. Lucy’s victory assured, Sonja had to settle for second, Sophie coming home a little later in third.
A Grade had a lot to live up to after the exploits from Canberra’s best women, and Tom Chester in particular after the exploits of his better half only moments before. Up to the task, Tom bridged across with Matt Rice to join an early move initiated by Ayden Toovey and Karl Michelin-Beard. The four collaborated well to establish a healthy lead, CCS’s Macca Edwardson, Ben Hill and Ben Morrison furiously driving the chase behind, Karl’s Olivers Racing teammates disrupting the flow where possible. With the gap holding around the halfway mark, Trekky launched the attack everyone expected, rocketing down the back straight with Macca trying desperately to hold the wheel as the chasing bunch imploded. Having done considerable damage but failed to close the gap altogether, Trekky and Macca were joined by what was left of A Grade with Ben H, Cam Rogers, Dylan Hopkins, Fintan Conway, and Marc Williams still in the fight, finally bringing it all back together with 13 minutes remaining. Without allowing time for the dust to settle, Trekky shot his second bullet, Tom and Fintan the only other riders able to latch on. As the minutes ticked down, Ayden kept the faint hopes of the chase alive with several big turns on the front, as Fintan and Trekky looked to puzzle out how to politely ‘unfriend’ Tom before the increasingly inevitable the sprint. Fintan in the end proved the more ruthless, attacking just before the bell and quickly eking out a defendable lead. But if Fintan was the more ruthless, Trekky was the more mercurial, calling Tom’s bluff and forcing him to the front through collarbone. As Tom, having worked all night in the break burnt what few matches were left, Trekky prepared to fire the third and final bullet heading down the back straight. With Fintan pulling onto the home straight, still with a decent margin, it was clear that the bullet had been traded-up for the missile, Trekky carrying so much speed that he ran wide into the home straight before locking on target and executing to perfection as he went clear by a bike length across the line. While not quite on par with Lucy, meanwhile, Tom’s considerable reputation was undiminished in third after animating the race all night.
After all the excitement of the preceding races, D Grade took to the line with high expectations. Early surges, however, were arrested by the presence of kangaroos on track, Darren Stevens imposing his usual calm on proceedings at the head of affairs. Despite several surges, the race was one of attrition more so than decisive breaks, a significantly reduced bunch of eleven hardy riders eventually duking it out for victory in a tough sprint. Max Neve was first across the line, a half-wheel in front of Danny Chak and Oliver Grande in third.
A special thanks to the volunteers who had to respond to some COVID induced absences on the night, particularly Nathan Edwardson who ran the show from start to finish in his unfailingly affable and unflappable style. More so even to the riders who heeded last weeks advice and kept it rubber side down all evening. More of the same this week please as riders tweak their set up and race tactics ahead of the all-important Christmas Crits next week!