With the largest field in its seven year history, the 2010 Hutchinson and Harlow Real Estate Autumn Festival Criterium provided some top quality racing.
A grade was run in a new team format, with teams of five riders representing the Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Inverell, Muswellbrook and Tamworth clubs. This ensured a close contest with the final results based on the best four finishers from each club.
An early break lead to the first two sprints going to Sam Spokes of Tamworth and Armidale’s Mike Hoult. Jake Campell of Inverell followed up with the third sprint and Geoff Straub the fourth.
The decisive break was initiated by the strong Coffs Harbour team featuring Nathan Chiswell and Dan Alcock. They were closely marked by Spokes and Straub.
A crash with 15 minutes to go brought down a Coffs Harbour rider and Spokes, with the latter able to continue after a lap out for the crash and a second for a mechanical.
The breakaway group continued to build up a healthy margin on the rest of the field, gaining a lap towards the end of the race.
In the finish Spokes was able to overcome the drama of the crash to take the individual win with an impressive sprint from Chiswell, with Straub third on a borrowed bike.
Then followed a lengthy wait while the judges tried to connect the video up to a television to work out the final placing of the teams (they neglected the obvious of getting a kid to do it). With the crowd and riders growing restless the results were finally announced, with the Coffs Harbour team of Dan Alcock, Nathan Chiswell, Reece Edwards, Chris Jans and Aaron O’Grady deserving winners.
The Armidale team of Andrew Kirk(c), Mick Hoult, Dave Munday, John Scott-Hamilton, and Geoff Straub competed well throughout and finished strongly to take second. In third place were the Tamworth team of Mitch Carrington, Toby Maher, Peter Shultz, Sam Spokes and Wayne Toomey.
The general consensus from the riders was that the team format was a success, and from the crowd that it had been one of the best A grade races in recent years.
The racing in the lower grades was also excellent, with B grade beginning at a very fast pace before Nick Woods and another Moree rider established a handy break. Inverell riders Ben Fox and Jake Campbell were able to bridge the gap and the group of four were able to build up a winning lead over the rest of the field. Armidale’s evergreen Col Maciver did his best to get across the gap, making it half way across before fading back to the main bunch.
Nick Woods was too strong in the finish, winning from Fox and Campbell. Col overcame his mid race effort to be among the leaders of the main bunch at the finish. Rob Tindale and Cameron Scott also rode well for Armidale. Eron Henessey of Grafton won the first sprint, while Nick Woods took out the second and third to top off a very successful day.
Equally impressive was Under 17 rider Nathan Hardaker of Coffs Harbour who easily won C grade riding with restricted gears, showing his older competitors how to spin. Second was Codie Miller (Inverell) with Darren Traill (Tamworth) third. Best of the Armidale riders was Dave Jenner who finished just out of the placings. Nathan also won the first sprint, with Roger Munday of Armidale taking the second.
D grade was won by Alex Beedie (Coffs) from John Ingram (Grafton) and Allan Miller (Coffs). Beedie and Ingram shared the sprints. Armidale were well represented in the race by Jo Benham, Dean Bourke, Craig Burton, Dave Rubie, Karlee McMillan and Reece and Al O’Hara.
In the Junior race the Under 17’s and 15’s was run at a very fast pace, with girls and boys competing extremely well. The U17’s was won by Gil Burgess (Armidale) from Brady Ingram (Grafton) and Nick Sutor (Gunnedah). Tamworth girls Sarah Spokes and Alex Nicholls rode well to finish just out of the placings. The U15’s was won by Armidale’s most successful rider over the last year, Sam Jenner who is starting to make excellent progress. Kyle O’Hara was second after a slight misunderstanding regarding where the race was up to, and Emily Nicholls (Tamworth) was third.
Novices were an all Armidale affair with Angus Wheatley too strong for Jack Parker in the U13’s and Reece Burton leading winning from Hillary Murray in the U11’s. John Bentley accompanied Hillary home to convincingly win the over 80’s category.
With around 150 riders racing this was the biggest Autumn Festival races to date. While much of the success of the event is due to the hard work of Armidale club members, we thank all riders from other clubs who made the effort to come to Armidale and put on such an excellent spectacle.
Finally we also thank our sponsors and community groups for their contribution, including Hutchinson and Harlow Real Estate, Armidale Bicycle Club, Armidale City Bowling Club, The Goldfish Bowl, Killen’s Smash Repairs, New England Mutual, RBS Morgan, Rossbuild, Tri-Steel, Armidale Dumaresq Council, St John Ambulance, SES, and Black Dot Music.