Author Brad Peppinck
Not even the forecast of heavy rain could dampen numbers for round four of Crits with more than 120 riders prepared to take on the elements.
In the traditional curtain raiser, the Junior HC handicap, it was the Ashleigh Mass show with a stellar performance from start to finish. Despite the best effort of the chasing bunch, a determined Ashleigh cranked out a steady pace to hold her lead and take her first win of the season, with Hugo Williams picking up his fourth straight second ahead of Annika Astridge. Quinn Peppinck edged ever closer to his first podium with a strong time trial, only to be reeled in by the chasers within sight of the line.
Like the thunderclouds gathering overhead, B grade was a tense affair early on with numerous attacks and fast, surging racing. Matt Corby and Rainer Wilton were both active early, splitting the group but ultimately unable to stay away as Riley Smithers led the counter-attack. Not one to hide and bide, no sooner had he been caught than Rainer was off again with Stu Griffith policing the chase. Left to re-think the considerable merits of hiding and biding… Rainer was quickly brought back by Liam O’Dea who looked strong throughout, Ella Bloor and Jen Darmody close on Liam’s wheel. Nick Stewart also featured up front keeping the pace high and hurting a few legs in the process. Undiminished, Matt Corby launched an audacious attack through collarbone, a little finger brushing the brake levers all that kept him on the right side of legal in an aggressive aero tuck. Sensing the danger, Mick Tollhurst took over at the front of proceedings but had few helpers, as Riley Smithers was opportunistic in looking to bridge across with Andrew Gatenby. Clearly done with the fun and games up front, Nick Stewart put in a freakish dig to bring everyone back together and then blow straight past them on a solo mission, unfortunately inspiring Stu Griffith in the process who proved equal to the task of freakishly closing the gap as Nick had just done. With Cartel lining up the sprint train as the bell sounded, Steve Blackburn capitalised on his always excellent positioning to launch his own long range effort, before Hayden Stevens rocketed out of the final corner to take the sprint victory, showing he’s just as fast up the home straight as he is coming down it. Edward Marcks kept Hayden honest right to the line while Stu G nabbed third after coming round the Tiffen boys with some good skills to boot.
A smaller A grade bunch didn’t make for any less dramatic racing with strong attacks from teams CCS and Olivers in the opening laps. Ben Hill, Karl Michelin-Beard, and Mackenzie Edwardson were the first trio to establish a meaningful break, although a strong chase led by Steve Crispin kept the bunch within striking distance. As the three on the front ticked along, several riders tried to bridge with varying levels of success, notably Fintan Conway and Ayden Toovey. With two in the break, Team Bridgelane looked to maximise their advantage, Ben going clear only to be dragged back following a concerted effort by Makka. The games up front disrupted the cohesion of the leaders, allowing the bunch to drag themselves back into contention, Cam Rogers particularly prominent in the chase. With two laps to go, Ben Hill again went solo as Cam shot out from the bunch to put himself in contention. Into collarbone for the final time and with Ayden well positioned to lead out Ben, Oscar Chamberlain suddenly appeared from seemingly nowhere, out dragging Ben to the line and turning the tables on last weeks finish, in the process proving that the only time worth leading a bike race is in the final meter. Cam was a deserving third after his efforts to chase down the leaders throughout the night.
Back by popular demand, Round Two of the Women’s Series sponsored by Light House Architecture and Science saw another bumper gathering of female talent. Ella Bloor, who was aggressive throughout the night, opened her account early with a strong attack, only to be chased down by an attentive CCS contingent. Em Viotto, Kim Pederson, Alice Patterson-Robert, and Lauren Thomas were the next to try their luck, establishing a break that would hold for a lap or two before being chased down. Once caught, Em struck out again straight away but riding solo couldn’t stay away from a surging bunch in response. Such would prove the story of the night with a range of blistering solo attacks, including from Jen Darmondy, Lauren Bartsch, Belinda Chamberlain, and Ella Bloor, none of which managed to hold solo or build into a leading group. In the closing laps, the pace in Women’s A/B settled considerably, the top women looking around to gauge who was freshest, causing things to bunch up as the tension mounted. On the bell, everyone was still keeping their cards close until Ella Bloor eventually decided it was time to throw-down launching a bold long range sprint and showcasing some very handy cornering skills in the process. Despite a strong chase by Bec Wiasak and Em Viotto, Ella Stayed clear to take a well deserved second win of the series and extend her overall lead. In the Women’s C/D grade race, Natasha Sitsky won from Chloe Pratt and Lauren Bullman, after an aggressive race featuring several strong attacks from Bonnie Young and Megan Frail.
In E Grade / Junior Whites, Harry Bramwell was off early, complemented by some good attacking riding by the Tiffen Junior Team. Harry was left to do all the work on the front though with Will Astridge and Luke Rogers closely tracking the wheels. Sonja Falez and Rae Rodgers kept things rolling smoothly for the Women, guiding and encouraging the younger girls in the process. In the end, Harry Bramwell capitalised on his hard work launching a long-range sprint that he held through to the finish line, while Luke Rogers executed a textbook finish to come around Will on the line. Rae was first for the Women followed by Sonja, sheparding Hannah Pettit through to win for the Junior White’s Girls.
In D Grade, James Jordon took a much deserved valedictory lap off the front, in recognition of his time with CCC and contribution as Race Secretary, before he moves to Adelaide later this year. The processionals completed, Darron Eaton attacked as Sanford Beggs set tempo for the peleton. Not to be outdone by his namesake, Darren Stevens was next to attack but was a marked man and quickly reeled in. Clearly a night for ‘Darrens’, it was the Eaton variety who grabbed the baton and shot off again, the bunch controlled in response under the direction of John Astridge. The gap was holding with two laps remaining, the bunch seemingly content to let Darren Eaton cook a little longer. Tyler Martin then up’ed the pace on the bell before Michael Thomas took over, splintering the chasers as he struck out down the back straight. The crowd willing him on, Daren Eaton looked to eke out whatever energy the legs had left, entering the home straight a bike length in front of a hard charging Sandford Beggs, who timed his run to perfection, ruthlessly denying Eaton the spoils for an otherwise brave performance. Katie Gregory came home first for the women from Vanessa Judge and Natasha Sitsky.
With light fading, Simon Porombka and Sam Playford got the racing underway for C grade establishing an early break. Brought back, Dominic Romano – aka the Dominator – keen to make an impact after a stint away from racing, attacked hard down the home straight to be joined shortly thereafter by Nathan Edwards and Graham Maltby. With his teammates in pink disrupting the chase, the trio upfront looked the sneak away but strong riding led by Andy Gordon and Sam Moffit brought it all back together. Trent Smyth was active as ever, going solo with three laps remaining before bridging riders formed a leading group up front including Andy Gordon, Eddie Mungoven, Bailey Macdonald, and of course Trent. It wasn’t to be though and down the back straight on the bell lap, the win was anyone’s for the taking. An attentive Andy Gordon jumped onto Trent’s wheel as he launched a long sprint coming out of collarbone but in the end, it was a flying Wayne Pettett who capped off a good night for the Pettett family, closely followed by Rod Bates and Andy G.
With more than 120 riders turning out on a night the weather report suggested would be better tackled with a canoe… you know something must be working. Looking forward to another round of CCC crits next week and bring on Round Tree for the Women’s Series!