Photo by Ian Hutchings
The storm clouds that have been threatening all season finally broke for Round Seven of CCC Summer Crits as dark skies and a sense of foreboding greeted those who were brave enough to venture outside.
The Junior HC got underway in dry conditions with Hamish Copeland having his work cut out for him, starting solo from scratch, and needing to peg back three inform juniors in Quinn Peppinck, Barney Mungoven, and Lachlan Copeland. Undaunted by the task, Hamish rode steadily as Quinn, Barney, and Lachie rolled turns. With just two minutes left on the clock, the trio were starting to splinter as Hamish was breathing down their necks, prompting Barney to go all in off the front in pursuit of individual glory. Lachie dug deep to limit his losses to Barney while Quinn opted for what turned out to be the smart play, resting briefly before latching onto Hamish’s wheel and getting a free ride back into podium contention. On the bell, it was neck-and-neck with Barney fully committed, locks flowing in the breeze Cancellara style as he bossed it through collarbone just a few bike lengths ahead of the chasers, driving a big gear all the way to the line for his first win of the season. Showing a fine sprinter’s acumen, meanwhile, Quinn rounded up Hamish in the sprint for second, with Hamish putting in another monster performance to grab third.
D Grade rolled out next with their usual slow-build approach before Jim Mungoven and Will Astridge kicked off the fun and games with a strong attack down the back straight. Ever one for parental supervision, John Astridge kept Will in sight near the front of the bunch, Bill Shelly also shouldering more than his fair share of time in the wind as the bunch quickly regrouped. Ben Copeland in his first race back for the season made an immediate impact with several well-timed attacks, getting a gap but unable to hold it for long. Down to the closing stages and things started to get cagey, nobody evidently keen to commit to a long-range effort with a headwind sprint on the menu. Onto the home straight for the final time and Jim M powered his way clear, erstwhile co-conspirator Will A locked in his slipstream but unable to come round him to challenge for the win. Sonja Falez showed a quick pair of heals to nab third outright and first for the women, with Ash Watts and Talia Chambers a few seconds further back.
With all eyes on the BOM radar, C Grade rolled away with a literal bang as our trusty Commissaires did the mental arithmetic to gauge the distance of the approaching lightning. Perhaps fearing a sudden curtailment in race distance, four riders went clear with 25 minutes still left on the clock, with Luke Rogers and Amelie Burrell trying desperately to bridge. As Nathan Edwardson, Ben McDuff, Adam Martin, and Ben Healy looked to steal a march on the field, splits started to occur as the first drops of rain materialised. With conditions deteriorating, the escapees were brought under control only to see Ben Healy hit out again, this time solo. Andy Gordon, sensing the danger, was quick to bridge along with another astute observer of C Grade, Nathan Edwardson. With the rain falling harder, the trios hopes were similarly extinguished, Callum Maciver impressing with some crafty riding at the head of the bunch having only made the step up to C Grade recently. With five minutes left on the clock, Blake Wooster seized the initiative pulling clear down the back straight and railing his bike through collarbone to extend his lead. In short order, Blake’s lead was out to the length of the straight as a he tapped out a measured cadence that would see him all the way home. Andrew Chamberlain tried to ignite a response within the bunch but in the wet conditions, wasn’t able to spark anything as attention shifted to the race for second. A last hurrah on the bell from Nick Wilson cut Blake’s lead to 10 seconds on the line but the victory was never in doubt, Andy Yates carving up the inside to take second just a half-wheel ahead of Ben M who seemed to have had a hand in just about everything throughout the night. Amelie Burrell, having gone deep in an attempt to bridge to the leaders early in the race, came home a lap down but as the last-women standing, took home victory for the women as some measure of consolation.
The track was properly wet by the time Round Two of the Light House Architecture and Science Womens Series got underway, with spray off the wheels adding another dimension to the fight for position. Womens A/B were largely civilised for the first few laps as riders adjusted to the conditions, before Lauren Thomas exploded out of collarbone at the 22-minute mark and exploded the chasing bunch in the process. Kim Pederson dug deep to ride across with Em Viotto latched on her wheel, gathering up Lauren as they crested the climb. With scarcely a moment to recover, Lauren was off again, Em leading the response this time and stretching the elastic to Kim to near breaking point. But showing true grit and determination, Kim once again fought her way back to the leaders as everyone readied themselves for the next big move. They didn’t have to wait long and no surprises in guessing the protagonist, Lauren again lighting things up down the home straight. But this time, the elastic finally snapped as Kim and Em looked at each other, unable to make it third time lucky and ‘rain’ on Lauren’s parade. From there on, Lauren rode a steady tempo showing unbelievable form to lap the field with only Em and Kim able to finish, the former getting the better of the latter in the sprint for second and third. By comparison, C/D Grade were a picture of collegiate and orderly riding, Rae Rogers leading by example with several steady turns on the front. As the clock ticked town, the status quo prevailed until Darcey Henwood looked to sneak away with just two laps remaining. But a bunch that rolls together sticks together and so it was, Womens C and D Grade came to the bell largely in tact, before Hannah Maree got the better of Darcy in the sprint to the line, Hannah Pettett coming home in third for C Grade as Rae rolled across the line in first for D.
With light fading, A Grade was reduced to 25 minutes in what was set to be a race into the unknown. Not least because Tom Chester wasn’t racing as he clocked up the training miles in Perth, ensuring A Grade would unmask just their second victor of the season. But thoughts of victory were quickly set aside in favour of thoughts of self-preservation, a combination of deep water and ducks increasing the risks of riders taking a skate. Not one for company in the circumstances, Trekky struck out early with only Ben Hill and Hayden Stevens able to follow, the trio pulling clear of the bunch up the home straight. While Reece Tucknott and Stu Griffiths looked to spark a response, with time to spare on the clock, it was pretty clear that baring disaster, the winner’s name would start with a B or an H. So it was that the two units rolled purposefully albeit largely independently, averaging over 47 kmph despite the clear risks to life and limb. Down to the bell and it was Hayden Stevens who proved the fastest writing his own name into the record books with the first of what is likely to be many wins in A Grade (and possibly one of the youngest ever wins too). Ben edged out Trekky for second while a little further back, attacks from Cam Rogers and Oscar Chamberlain splintered what was left of the bunch with the remainder of the bedraggled souls rolling across the line in odds and sods a little further down.
All in all, a thoroughly entertaining night of racing was had by all and decent preparation for what looks likely to come this week in Round 8. While rain may once again be on the cards, the track rides remarkably well in the wet so don’t be deterred from heading out and trying your luck. The rain brings with it a whole new dimension and with Tom Chester back in town, all eyes will be on whether he can keep his perfect strike rate intact. See you out there!