Despite competitors having to throw bikes over locked gates, ride through thick gravel on the approach and organise last minute licence renewals, the new year heralded some exciting criterium action at the track yesterday.
While Bourkey sorted his licence out, the rest of the riders were organised into a quick one-lap individual time-trial which (unbeknown to them) would then be used to handicap the following criterium race. A warm welcome was given to visiting Melbourne mountain biker, David Grant who promptly punched out a 1:42 to take honours by 2 seconds from Paul Williams, with Swanny a further couple of seconds back. Chris Jones was the other rider to get under 1:50 on his great looking shiny new steed.
After a bit of recovery time during which Bourkey received confirmation of his licence renewal, riders were sent off in a massed start ‘blind handicap’ criterium having been told to keep racing to the end. Paul and Mountain Man were waiting on some paperwork so weren’t competing and neither was Houlty who had just finished his first 100k ride of the year.
While the first lap was underway, a bit of head scratching took place and handicaps were scientifically determined as the number of seconds under 2 minutes riders had achieved in the ITT, multiplied by 10. So for Swanny, who did a 1:46, it was 140 seconds. Simon Smith ran 11 seconds over the 2-minute mark so was given a 110 second start.
The racing was surprisingly competitive. Simon and Wilf knew they needed to hang on as long as possible and did quite well but inevitably Simon’s elastic snapped after a few laps. He was then joined by Wilf a couple of laps later but the rest of the bunch were staying together. Swanny tried a few testing attacks, notably half way down the long straight which he still insists is a good place to make a move. He looked to have more luck on the hill and indeed finally managed to break away taking Bourkey with him with just two laps remaining. The pair quickly pulled out a lead of 5 seconds from Chris Jones who now had a gap of 2 seconds on Clint and 7 seconds on Wilko. Wilf and Simon had been lapped by this point but Simon was still in the lead on adjusted time.
As they entered the last lap, it looked like the gap between Bourkey and Wilko would determine the winner but Dene would have to stretch his advantage from 24 to 40 seconds in the space of a single lap. Bourkey gamely hung onto Swanny’s wheel as he powered around the circuit for the final time, eeking out the seconds with Chris and Clint holding position on the road.
Swanny’s impressive fixed-wheel hill training seems to have paid off and he powered down the finishing straight, leaving Dene in his wake to win by ten bike lengths with Chris holding on for third. With time running out, Wilko put in a huge final effort and managed to cross the line with 6s to spare on adjusted time to take what was assumed to be victory. However, Simon Smith had managed to keep the legs going long enough so that when he crossed the line a full lap later, he still had an advantage of 44s on Wilko and in doing so took out overall victory on the day.
Congratulations to Simon and to all riders on the day for an enjoyable start to racing in 2016. Next week we are back at the track – 4:30pm on Saturday.