Still and balmy Spring conditions greeted riders once again for Round Four of crits with numbers up across virtually all grades.
The Junior HC took place on a modified course that saw riders taking in the climb before scooting through the cut out to avoid collarbone altogether. Quinn Peppinck started alongside the scratch riders, albeit a lap up, craftily sitting in their wheels for as long as possible to both round up those in front and make the task of catching him as difficult as possible. Lachie Copeland was eventually able to dislodge Quinn around the half way mark and ride clear of older brother Hamish, but by then, it was obvious that Quinn wasn’t coming back, soloing across the line to take his first win of the season. Lachie meanwhile demonstrated what a huge engine he has, crossing the line comfortably in second several bike lengths ahead of Hamish.
B Grade was straight on track next with the usual suspects including Trent Smyth, Mick Tollhurst, and Steve Blackburn looking to go clear. But in the almost completely still conditions, the odds of anyone staying away were slim with the fast men of the bunch content to bide their time. That was until the bell sounded with Seb Muller blasting clear down the home straight alongside Cartel teammate Rainer Wilton, the pair quickly establishing a decent break and gaining a sniff of victory. But having lurked near the front all night, Denis Mungoven – making his season debut – wasn’t about to let the chance to sprint for victory fade away, calling on Tiffen teammates to burry themselves and make the catch. As the bunch was strung out into the final corner, Ben McCarthy – who is yet to finish off the podium this season – dropped the hammer and looked to have the legs for another victory. But as he checked his run to the right to make sure he had the challengers covered, Dennis found a way past on Ben’s unsuspecting left, capitalising on the excellent work Tiffen had done all night and showing his good form from Master’s Nationals, where he finished third, was undiminished. Ben held on for second while Ryan Koroknai came home in third after riding strongly all night. Lauren Bates finished with the bunch to seal victory for the women by a narrow margin over Lauren Thomas, Em Viotto a little further back in third.
A Grade was almost civilised early on, Club President Steve Crispin never far from the front in an effort to make sure he wasn’t on the wrong side of any splits. Charles Hamilton was the first to break glass, launching a strong attack down the back straight. No sooner had he been caught than Tom Chester went clear, Blackshaw Racing looking ominous after having honed their team tactics the week prior. Realising the futility of going solo on such a calm night, Tom appeared to opt for the tactical retreat to the safety of the bunch. Sean Murphy showed no such discretion, however, hitting out with Rob Jeffries on his wheel, Oscar Chamberlain in hot pursuit at the head of the chasing bunch. Altogether once again and Oscar showed no signs of slowing down, but nor was anyone else about to let him go clear knowing the type of firepower he possess against the clock. In quick succession, punches were thrown by Karl Michelin-Beard, Reece Tucknott, and Mackenzie Edwardson, Stu Griffiths this time forced to chase. On the bell, things were getting cagey with plenty of relatively fresh legs fancying their chances on the fast downhill finish. In retrospect, however, after winning all the A Grade crits this year, anyone other than Tom Chester fancying their chances was probably dreaming… and so proved to be the case as Tom powered clear of Macca Edwardson for a Blackshaw one/two, Dylan Hopkins showing some promising form coming home in third.
With barely enough time to recover after their efforts in B Grade, several of Canberra’s best female racers took to the start for Round One of the Light House Architecture and Science Women’s Series. After a few laps sizing each other up, Kim Pederson hit out first down the back straight, stringing the bunch out but not doing quite enough to split it. Natasha Sitsky wasn’t afraid to get stuck in, setting tempo throughout the early phases of the race, with Lauren Bates looking threatening as she wound up attack after attack. Guest rider, Lauren Mundt made an immediate mark on the bunch as she chased down virtually everything, keeping the tempo high enough to discourage the opportunists. Unphased by the punch and counter-punch taking place up front, Chloe Hosking looked to be enjoying herself content to mark the dangerous moves but keep her powder dry for a fast finish. Into the closing stages, Lauren tried repeatedly to clip off the front but wasn’t being given any quarter, all but ensuring a bunch kick. As the bunch emerged onto the home straight for the final time, tapping into that muscle memory as she has done so many times on so many big stages, Chloe timed her run perfectly to win by half a wheel ahead of Lauren B, Marion Mundt taking a deserving third. In B Grade, Lucy Skeldon rode a classy ride positioning herself well all night to secure the win ahead of Maggie Welfare and Kate Vandenberg.
In the Women’s C and D race taking place behind, Darcy Henwood looked to win the hard way trying to go solo, but had to settle for winning the ‘easy’ way in the sprint ahead of Lyn Vasudeva. Ash Watts managed to ride clear of Roslyn Harper in Women’s D, meanwhile, with Rae Rogers settling for third after animating proceedings early on with several attacks.
Clearly inspired by the Blackshaw Racing performance in A Grade, Andrew Chamberlain was straight on the front when the whistle blew, stringing the bunch out before eventually snapping the elastic band and soloing clear. Ambition perhaps getting the better of him early, however, Chambo was back in the bunch a few laps later leaving Greg Harris and Ben Shillong to try their luck next. Inspired by the early antics his namesake, Andrew Gordon was quick to ride it all back together before Ben tried for second time lucky, joined this time by Adam Martin and Luke Rogers. Quickly establishing a decent margin, the trio were looking dangerous before eventually being brought under control down the back straight. Clearly a night for second chances, with five minutes remaining, Adam M was off again but was chased down by Max Sudholz this time. Down to the bell and the bunch were ratcheting up their boas as the crowd readied themselves for bunch sprint number four for the night. But Blake Wooster had other ideas, digging deep to go clear through collarbone only to be mercilessly rounded up on the final bend before the wily trio of Rod Bates, Andy Gordon, and Andy Yates overhauled him to share the spoils amongst themselves.
Another thoroughly entertaining round of racing and with our first wet race looking like it might be on the cards for Round Five, the entertainment factor is unlikely to drop anytime soon. A massive thanks also to Malcolm Patterson who proved that not only is he an accomplished and charismatic Commissaire but also an a fine race reporter stepping in to catalogue the nights events in the latter stages of C Grade!
See you all for Round Five and bring your brolly!