Photo: Ian Hutchings
A moderate cross-head wind down the home straight greeted riders for Round Three of Crits, inviting speculation as to whether conditions favoured the sprinters or the barouders.
The Junior HC was first to offer an indication, the field shredding early into a series of individual TT efforts. Buoyed by his victory the week prior, Alex Steele looked to again chase down limit’s George Williams while himself avoiding being caught by those behind. Lachie Copeland produced another massive ride to peg back several laps on the leaders, Quinn Peppinck winning the sportsmanship award by burning his last matches to try and help Lachie offering up a brief sit into the wind. But having tasted the spoils of the podium, there was to be no denying George Williams from claiming the top step as he was piloted to a maiden victory by Annika Astridge who kindly rode chaperone. Alex had to content himself with second this week while Lachie was a thoroughly deserving bronze medallist.
C Grade got underway next with Adam Martin and Oliver Grande looking to sneak off the front. Nathan Edwardson thought better of trying to bridge across mid-way through the manoeuvre, Blake Wooster also following suit. Andrew Chamberlain rode things back together in short order before himself clipping away with Kami Schmutz down the home straight, only to have their ambition cruelly checked by a block headwind as they rounded collarbone. With eleven minutes left on the clock, Lucy Skeldon put in a full-throttle attack down the back straight establishing the biggest gap of the race before Alex Gorringe managed an impressive bridge. With Blake Wooster left to set tempo for the chase, Lucy and Alex quickly built up a sizeable lead with odds shortening for a two-up sprint to the line. But as Ben Williams, continuing his strong progression through the grades, put in his own attack through collarbone to try and get across to the leaders, the bunch rallied coming back together with two laps remaining. Undeterred, Lucy was immediately off again, this time with Blake and Nick Wilson for company, as Chambo and Nathan Monk scrambled to get on the coattails. Into the reduced bunch sprint that ensued, Greg Harris was rewarded for his patience, timing his first sniff of the wind for the dash to the line, Nick Wilson and Nathan Monk in second and third respectively. Lucy held on to the leaders to finish fifth overall on the same-time, a resounding win for the women ahead of Laura Van-Den-Honet and Sophie Chapman just a few bike lengths further back.
B Grade was fast from the whistle with several attacks as riders looked to take advantage of the conditions. Within relatively short order, a large group of ten riders snuck off the front in twos and threes before coming together to press their collective advantage. Strong rides by Seb Muller, Yoann Colin, Trent Smyth and Thomas Wood helped to maintain a decent gap and with several minutes remaining, the chasing bunch seemed resigned to their fate. Into the bell lap, there was a tough fight for position as riders rounded the final bend onto the home straight, before Charles Hamilton – another of the big engines who had contributed to the pace making throughout – proved to have quickest legs posting a convincing win ahead of Ben McCArthy and Brad Peppinck. For the women, Lauren Bates just edged out Kim Pederson in their sprint to the line, while Lauren Thomas took third a little further back.
After a week off with a bye, A Grade drew a relatively large field with some of CCC’s biggest stars making their return after concluding racing duties abroad. Oscar Chamberlain, after an amazing season culminating with the Under 19 Men’s World TT Championships was on the start line, as was Brendan ‘Trekky’ Johnston, fresh off second place at the Big Sugar Gravel Race and a generally stellar season as part of the Life Time Grand Prix Series. Undeterred, a strong contingent from the Blackshaw Racing Team looked to press their numerical advantage early, with attacks straight out of the gate. Sean Murphy and Torben Partridge-Marsden were constant animators, with Eddie Mungoven attentive not to miss any early breaks. Clearly not feeling the ill-effects of jet lag having stepped off the plane only hours earlier, Trekky shouldered much of the responsibility to stitch it all back together, only to have Blackshaw play their next card with Tom Chester shooting clear. Hayden Stevens, making his debut in A Grade, was another to draw attention with a strong attacking ride, while Stu Griffith also impressed in getting across to the head of the race. As the constant attacking caused the bunch to atrophy, eleven riders eventually found themselves up the road, Hayden combining with Oscar around the ten minute mark to try and reduce that to just two. But having put themselves in a winning position, Blackshaw weren’t about to see the quarry get away, pulling it back before Torben again clipped off with five minutes left on the clock. Another big dig from Trekky got things back on level terms as the bell sounded, Oscar trying unsuccessfully to go clear down the home straight before the pace dulled slightly through the top corner, Stu Griffiths opportunistically seizing the moment to try and steal a march as he raced clear down the back straight. An improbable maiden victory looked to be on the cards before the headwind coming out of collarbone cruelly checked Stu’s run giving the sprinters the just chance they needed. Onto the home straight for the final time, Tom Chester with his swashbuckling style never looked in doubt duly rewarding Blackshaws for a quality night of team racing. Hayden Stevens made him work all the way to the line, however, with arguably the ride of the night on debut and a sure sign of big things to come, while Trekky was a deserving third.
With light fading and just D Grade and Junior Whites to round out the night, the pace was fast from the start. In what seemed like relatively short order, a trio led by Callum Maciver, Amelie Burrell, and Max Neve went well clear and worked cohesively to make sure they weren’t coming back. Callum proved strongest yet again, earning himself another victory -and promotion to C Grade along the way – with time to enjoy yet another victory this season. Amelie held on for second with Max in Third. Twenty seconds further back, Chloe Pragt rounded out the women’s podium with second ahead of Brontë Clifford.
Things are only looking up as we head into Round Four, with the first of the Women’s Series taking place this Wednesday. Be sure to come along to show your support and be treated to another night of fantastic racing!