Photo by Ian Hutchings
Proper summer conditions greeted riders for Round 9 of Summer Crits, the threatened storms failing to materialise taking with them any chance of a cool reprieve.
The Junior HC was misleading by both name and nature on this occasion with all riders instead lining up for a scratch race. With 10 minutes on the clock, the initial laps involved some cagey riding with Lachlan Copeland and Barney Mungoven both trying to get away without success. Alex Steele, meanwhile, showed true grit after being dropped to tap out a solid tempo and claw his way back into contention on several occasions. Down to the final lap and it was clear Barney or Lachie would be taking home the silverware, Barney showing typical Mungoven killer instinct by staying in the slipstream until the pair hit the home straight for the final time before blasting clear to take another fine win. Lachie held on for second and Alex fought bravely to come home third.
B Grade was equally misleading with the opening laps ridden at a pace that wouldn’t have been out of place in A Grade, Andy Blair and early aggressor with Matt Darling and Mick Tollhurst also contributing. Testament to the frenetic tempo, Rory Thornhill flicked the elbow after one particularly impressive pull without anyone able to oblige. With the race threatening to implode, Stephen Blackburn came to the fore and exerted a degree of control with the pace settling marginally. Rainer Wilton was well positioned near the sharp end but careful not to let the wind disturb his fresh new hairstyle, Thomas Wood showing no such self-regard as he nipped off the front to ride a few lap alone with only his thoughts for company. Ben MacCarthy led the response with Rory also playing a part (presumably eager to have a hard race before setting off to run several fast laps of the cross-country course). With 12 minutes left on the clock, Matt Darling and Andy Blair looked to get the band back together with an opportunistic escape but were realed in before they could really threaten proceedings. With 8 minutes to go and the bunch seemingly resigned to a sprint finish, Blackie read the tea leaves best timing an attack during a momentary lull and quickly establishing the biggest lead of the night. In short order, Rory was back at the front of the chase and the bunch strung out once again, before Ben M and Alex Cox looked to try their luck by bridging the gap to Blackie. But it wasn’t to be and with 2 minutes left, the trio were back in the bunch and the win once again squarely up for grabs. Thomas Wood made another strong showing with repeat attacks, Blackie jumping on the second one to try his luck again, but in the end, Rory’s commitment to group harmony proved the stronger as he yet again brought everyone back together. Out of collarbone for the final time and series leader Ben M turned lead out man for Rainer who proved to have the best of the top end speed punching clear to take his first win of the season by a wheel length. Ryan Koroknai held on for second while Matt Corby in third ensured Cartel were well represented on the podium. Emma Jeffcoat took the honours for the women with Lauren Thomas in second.
With Hayden Steven’s and Eddie Mungoven both missing the race to attend their school graduation ceremony (having missed their school formals the weekend prior to dominate the Tour of Bright), one could have been forgiven for assuming A Grade may have been a little diminished. Taking a leaf out of the B Grade script, however, A Grade was similarly on from the first lap and – full disclosure – frankly far easier to write about from pretty much anywhere other than the tail end of the bunch itself… from what I was able to glimpse when not chewing my stem, a combination of Cam Rogers, Trekky, Tom Chester, Macca, Ben Hill and Oscar C pushed the pace dramatically during the opening salvos, a near miss around the top corner with Nick Wilson rolling a tyre adding to the excitement/chaos. Around 10 minutes in and the elastic finally snapped with the aforementioned six riders up the road and another gaggle of 6 or 7 giving furious chase. While pretty much everyone would have been forgiven for assuming that a regrouping was off the cards with the firepower available up front, some huge pulls by Stu Griffith, newly minted A Grader Trent Smyth, and Sydney Uni visitors the Schofield brothers were sufficient to draw things back together with around 10 minutes left on the clock. Down to the final 5 minutes and Dylan and Macca managed to clip off the front down the home straight with no one seemingly too eager to spend what precarious reserves they had left to close the gap. With Macca up the road and Blackshaw riders Tom Chester and Ben Hill performing teammate duties to perfection, Dylan and Macca in short order put half a lap between them and the chasers. Watching the race sail away, Trekky was forced to set off in hot pursuit solo going clear from what remained of the chasing bunch. Down to the bell and Dylan clearly didn’t want to wait around for the sprint to secure victory, dislodging Macca with a lap to go and holding his form all the way to take a super impressive victory, putting almost 30 seconds into the chasing bunch. Macca dug deep to hold on for second just 9 seconds down, with Trekky rounded up in the closing stages and Cam winning the bunch kick for third.
With apologies for abridged D and C Grade reports, a combination of outrider duties for the irrepressible Matthew Kellie Preece and an early departure thereafter… but from what I was able to see, D Grade appeared a considerably more orderly (sensible) affair with the gradual application of power far more conducive to a shared experience. Will Astridge continued to impress with great positioning throughout while Matthew Beale was a regular fixture at the head of proceedings. In the end, it was a reduced bunch kick with Daniel Gowling edging out Tim Godfrey and Shane Anderson, Sonja Faleza leading the women home from amidst the chasing bunch just ahead of Hannah Marie and Talia Chambers.
And in C Grade, with nothing but Myraceresult to go on, I can only assume Pete Roger’s delivered a tactical masterclass on his way to securing a breakaway victory after first encouraging and then edging out his co-conspirators in Nick Wilson and Andrew Chamberlain. Kate Vandenberg finished in the safety of the bunch, meanwhile, to grab victory for the women with Marnie Rose a little further back in second.
And so onto Carts for Round 10 with everyone in top form and everything to race for, we’re guaranteed to have a super night of racing. Bring your umbrella, your appetite, and your Christmas cheer and look forward to seeing you all out there on Wednesday.