Photo: Ian Hutchings
And we’re back! If we’ve learned anything from the first two rounds of Crits… it’s that everyone has been putting in the miles over the winter months to turn up in race ready condition. ‘Fast’ was the consistent theme across grades with average speeds already at the sharp end of where we got to last season.
In the Junior HC, the littlest rider of the night, George Williams, danced on the pedals from start to finish (with a huge smile on his face to boot) in a desperate attempt to defend his three-lap lead. Undeterred by the challenge, however, Alex Steele, who started one lap up himself, set about chasing George down. Alex caught him on the bell and stayed clear for his first victory proving his golden shoes to be more than just a fashion statement. George’s older brother Hugo, meanwhile, led home the chasers thirty seconds later, doing well to finish in sight of the leaders having started from ‘minus-scratch’ several laps down. The Copeland brothers – Lachie and James – showed great form yet again having made huge improvements since last season.
In B grade, Trent Smyth was again stuck in the 53 x 11 – a perennial problem – going clear off the front from the whistle in typical ‘hard man’ style. Trent quickly built-up a decent gap before being joined by three or four other masochists. But it wasn’t to be after the bunch reeled then in around the mid-way point, Team Tiffen prominent in the chase. A few more brave souls attempted to get away but in the still conditions, a bunch kicked seemed inevitable. On the bell, Rainer Wilton looked to put in a flyer but was tracked all the way by Trent setting up a fast run to the end, Calvin Coombs timing his finish perfectly to overtake Matt Corby on the line, with last weeks winner Ben McCarthy scoring a repeat podium in third. Lauren Bates finished on bunch time to seal victory for the women after riding near the front throughout much of the race, while Kim Peterson cemented her place in the B Grade bunch as she rolled across the line just one position behind Lauren.
D grade was a thrilling contest between some of the up and coming juniors and the wise old hands, Callum Macliver and Chloe Pragt – representing the former grouping – particularly prominent throughout the race. Sam Barrett was drilling it on the front early but despite several attempts, there were too many fresh legs to get the gap he was after. Chloe was next to try but with similar results, Jim Mungoven positioning himself well throughout and always ready to cover a move. In the closing stages, Ashleigh Lawson was frisky and combined with Peter Coll to keep the pace high. With two laps top go, Chloe put in yet another attack exiting collarbone and looked to like she may have finally snapped the elastic, before being rounded up on the bell as the sprinters came to the fore. Out of the top corner, Callum Maciver lit the jets and sprinted well clear to take an outstanding win proving himself to be back in top form after time out with a broken collarbone last season. Bill Shelly was crafty in second while Phillip Coppock nabbed third. Chloe was a deserving first for the women, with Darcy Henwood and Hannah Maree respectively second and third on the same time.
A huge C grade field opened with a steady tempo before Phillipa Henty looked to up the ante with an early attack. Nathan Edwardson, who showed fine form throughout the night, was quick to bridge with multiple splits occurring as the bunch rocketed down the home straight. All back together, and not to be outdone by his namesake, Nathan Monk looked to get up the road together with Blake Wooster, the duo quickly building a decent gap of the better part of the back straight. Luke Rogers was swift to try and the neutralise the threat before father Pete, leveraging his many years of racing experience, took over setting a tempo that has one suspecting he was content to let the escapees cook while keeping the gap manageable. With five minutes on the clock, Sam Imperial was indeed majestic in bridging to the leaders before Lucy Skelton railed her bike through the corners in an effort to also get across. As the bunch rapidly disintegrated, it looked like it could be a night for the opportunists but as 2L ticked over on the timing board, cohesion soured among the leaders and the bunch regrouped all but guaranteeing a sprint. Adding to the juniors tally for the night, Luke Rogers never looked in doubt as he charged to the line to win, Kami Schmitz and Oliver Grande the best of the rest while Kate Vandenberg edged clear of Maggie Welfare and Laura Van Den Honert in a tightly contested sprint finish for the women.
Last but not least, the combined Junior Whites / E grade saw Ash Watts setting tempo early together with Zach Thomas. Hugo Williams was attentive as ever and swift to respond to any attacks that tried to go clear. In the run to the line, Ryker Bentlin proved quickest with Zach in second and a super crafty Martin Grande burning his matches to perfection to stay in contention for third. Julie Kael meanwhile was the quickest of the women, pushing Ryker all the way to the line.
As A Grade returns for Round Three, the pace in unlikely to diminish and the racing is sure to be exciting once again. Make sure you get involved and enjoy the ideal spring racing conditions before the summer heat has us all relocating to the Handlebar to watch from afar and stay hydrated on the Wednesday nights to come!