With Cookie and the rest of the MTB crew out at UNE either riding in or watching round 3 of the Nationals, it should have been a bit less frantic and maybe even just a little bit relaxing at the crit track on Saturday afternoon. No such luck however thanks to an in-form Hugh Munday, an evergreen Michael Hoult and another hot and humid day.
Despite the attractions elsewhere, there were still enough riders to allow two grades of racing. A (30 mins +3 laps) went off first with seven riders and B (25+3) followed with five which increased to seven after lap 3 when Jason Blanch and Alwyn Miller (Inverell) tagged on the back.
There were no gentle warm-ups for the A grade race with Hugh going hard from the start and then launching an attack on the second lap just as the slow starters had managed to get on the back. By the end of lap 3 Johnny and Tinny were watching the bunch of five disappear into the distance although in reality it was a pair of riders and three hangers-on.
In stark contrast there was some more gentile behaviour in B-grade, who were tapping out some nice steady laps and staying together, if not working together. This obviously all became a little boring for Richard Wilkinson who went off the front after the third lap with a small lead of around 3s as he crossed the line.
Up the road, Houlty and Hugh were driving a relentless pace and attacking out of the saddle up the hill on every single lap. By the end of lap 6 Lachie decided that was enough and it was down to four although Josh and Rob really were just spectators at this point (well Rob was anyway). One lap later Lachie cut through the middle and tagged onto B-grade who were now only 9s ahead with Johnny and Tinny doing a TTT around 50s back.
Thanks to some traffic when A caught B, Houlty and Hugh slowed down a little on the hill which allowed Rob and Josh to hang in for another lap and let Lachie jump back on. Wilko was bored again in B and on lap 7 off he went once more up the road in search of fame, this time Col organised a workmanlike chase behind and the move didn’t stick. He had more luck a couple of laps later when he took Col and Wilf away with him leaving Blanchy, Al Miller and Dave Jenner a few seconds back. That looked like it could have been a dangerous break but once again it all came back together by lap 11 and so it continued with people jumping off, getting a few seconds but being quickly reeled back in. Then with just one lap to go Wilf took off on his first charge of the day and had a 4s lead at the end of the long straight. It’s not quite clear what on earth he did on the second half of the lap but he turned the 4s lead into a 20s deficit by the time he crossed the finish line. Blanchy pulled some old sprinting form out of his back pocket and charged home to beat Col by a second with Wilko another two further back.
A-grade still had another 3 laps to go and slowed considerably to the point where Rob, who’d been chasing solo for the last 6 laps, had pulled the gap back to 8s as they started the final circuit. The dramatic comeback was never going to happen though as the front trio recorded a 1:39, coming screaming home with Hugh out-sprinting Josh for first with Houlty just a second behind.
Many thanks to Tom and Jason Simmonds for running the race and managing to keep everyone under control. Next week we’re back on the road for the first handicap race of the season over the hilly Long Swamp course.