We had a great turn-out for our first Christmas Criterium this week with 15 riders managing to navigate their way through padlocks and razor-wire using a range of gates and access points to access the track. Kirky was meant to be running the race but had somehow managed to dodge that responsibility with President Tindale giving the orders on the day. The track surface was best described as ‘varied’ with sections of mud, gravel and the odd rock thrown in for good measure courtesy of some recent heavy vehicle training work. This made for some interesting lines through the twisties although as usual, Fearless Johnny Scott-Hamilton just barreled through without even thinking of backing off.
With racing scheduled to start immediately following the Development Program, there wasn’t much warming-up and just to make things interesting Tinny then announced we’d start with an Italian Pursuit. The fancied team was of course the one with Houlty and Swanny in it but the underdogs were doing their utmost to upset the form guide and with one lap remaining, Kirky put in a great turn to release Rob for the final half with something like a 10 metre lead following some great work from all the earlier riders. This one was in the bag and maybe Houlty wasn’t going to have an easy day of it after all. It’s not clear quite what happened but somehow, Rob managed to completely stuff it up and Houlty won by ‘a good 5 metres’. One nil to Team Houlty with notable good rides from development riders Tom Simmonds and David Cook.
Then, rather than go straight into a criterium as originally planned, Tinny decided to flog the riders a little more with a wheel race. This was basically a flat out sprint for 3 laps but with staggered start positions around the track. With no bounds to his seasonal presidential generosity, riders were given ‘massive’ 50 metre advantages in groups of 2 or 3 from the gun riders Houlty and Ben Harris. 50 metres ahead of this pair were the hapless trio of Swanny, Kirky and Rob who spent about 5 seconds trying to get clipped in once the gun went off. It seemed a similar story all the way up the field with the consequence that by the end of the first lap, everyone was together and of course, Houlty was at the front. With half a lap to go, Rob attacked going up the hill and continued down the straight but Houlty and Ben came round for the sprint which Houlty won with ease. Two-nil.
Finally we got around to the advertised criterium which was a single grade affair with instructions to ‘take it easy for the first couple of laps so everyone stays together’. Maybe it was due to the heat, or the previous events, but those instructions were taken to heart and riders took it easy for most of the race. Billy had joined the proceedings after about 5 minutes and wore a baffled look on his face trying to work out what he’d just got involved with. Richard Wilkinson was on the front for at least 3 laps and the B-Grade riders were doing most of the work while A-Grade sat on the back of a very long train, enjoying the ride. Chris Jones and Peter Wilkinson were in the thick of it too with Wilko’s new knee seemingly behaving very well. Then PC finally decided things needed livening up and absolutely belted himself going up the rise on the back of the course. That woke everyone up and on the next lap it went up another notch with five riders getting away and staying away for the last three laps. Kirky did his sacrificial penultimate lap trick and at the top of the finish straight it was a two-horse race between Houlty and Ben. In all the excitement, your author can’t actually remember who won. It was probably Houlty but it might have been Ben who rode a canny race and might have just got him on the line. Let’s say it was Ben. Two-One to Iron Man Mick Hoult – well done!
Next week we’re back at the track again and with Tinny calling the shots once more, it’s anyone’s guess what the format will be. Racing will start a little later again by popular request (due to the heat) with the Development Program commencing at 3pm and Senior Racing at 4pm.