The Autumn Festival Criterium is a highlight on the Armidale Cycling Club calendar and normally the higher grades are what the crowds come to see but this year, those who got there early in the morning were rewarded by some exciting and competitive riding in the Juniors and D Grade.
The Junior race went first shortly after 8:30am and the format was a 15 minute plus 2 lap handicap. Shaun Butler (Armidale) had a 2 lap head start and Kalani McClennon (Coffs Harbour) a 1 lap one. that left Lucy Cook and Jacqueline Tracey (Armidale) of scratch.
As is often the case with Junior racing, the riders go off like a shot and this time round they didn’t disappoint with Shaun looking particularly impressive especially with his crowd-inspired bursts up the home straight each lap. But Lucy set out with such determination, clearly she was not going to let anyone past, and she was going to get back those two laps. Jacqueline was locked onto her wheel and looking pretty comfortable for the moment. It took 10 minutes before Lucy got back the first lap on Shaun, and by that time Jacqueline had dropped back but was still riding well. Lucy kept chipping away, but it looked like she would come third going into the last two laps, having not managed pull back the lap from Kalani.
So going into the last lap, we had Shaun hanging onto the lead, with Kalani closing in fast. Behind them Lucy was fighting to close a seemingly insurmountable gap, and Jac a little further back. But lo and behold, who should come around the corner to the finish first but Lucy, having bridged a big gap on the last lap, putting some distance into the others. Shaun also had a great ride, and held on for second, with Kalani and Jac rounding out the places.
Just to put Lucy’s performance into perspective, she only started racing this year and this was probably only her fourth race ever. Swanny reckons this was “one of the best efforts by an Armidale junior” he’s ever seen!
After the exciting finish of the Junior race we were straight onto D-grade. There were a lot of Armidale and Coffs Harbour Junior riders involved plus Karlee McMillan, Jo Wauch and a couple of other senior riders. It was pretty clear that David Cook didn’t want to be upstaged by the earlier performance from his sister Lucy. From the start though, Ben Hutton (Armidale) put on the pressure (peddling a gear he probably is not supposed to), and within a few laps he’d built up a big lead with only David able to follow. It looked like Ben would ride away with it given that he is probably 4 years older than David but towards the end of the race David closed on Ben before catching and then attacking to ride away to win solo in very impressive style.
So a big day for the Cook family with wins in Juniors and D-Grade, but it was also great to see all the juniors do so well and what a fantastic travelling contingent from Coffs Harbour (thanks for making the effort everyone). It goes to show how well Junior racing is going at the moment – just reward to Karlee and Deb who continue to put in tireless hours of hard work each Saturday at the TEC.
Thanks Swanny for providing the above race story and commentary