The first outing of the crit season followed the fun junior championship earlier in the afternoon (see report). Quite a few seniors had turned up early to encourage the kids and we were ready to kick off before 4pm.
Hot, windy conditions discouraged uptake of warm-up event suggested by Wilfried and Col decided on an “all-in” format with a 6 strong ‘A’ grade (Pat, John Scott-Hamilton, Olly and Brent joined by Matt Beford and Clint Bourke) having to make up 1 lap on a big ‘B’ field and 2 laps on Jacqui in a “30 mins plus three laps” race.
A-grade got a little head start (proved to be unnecessary) and set a blistering pace of 6:40 for the first four laps before settling down. Matt and Clint were in difficulties from the start but hung on for quite some time before dropping back to ‘B’ and enjoying the more relaxed pace at the back of the group. Jacqui was caught for the first time after 9+ mins and ‘B’ were reeled in and passed after 13 mins.
A few laps later, Jacqui was caught again and the four speedsters started to look at each other and work out how to win – only Olly was able to make a couple of breaks, but was unable to make them stick by going far too early. The Eagle dug deep to set himself up for a potential sprint finish and went to the front to slow things down for a couple of laps. This strategy worked a treat, and coming down the straight, Johnny outsprinted Olly for a hard-fought win. Brent took third and Pat was unable to repeat his RROTY success on the demanding TEC circuit, crossing last in the group, claiming to have nothing left.
Col held B-grade back to get ‘A’ down the track with a clear start, much to Richard Wilko’s disgust, but the large group (Jacqui, Phil Tutt, Olive, Haydo, Wilko, Billy, Bryn, Tinny, Dene, Kath and Pete Hosking, Swanny, Kirky), did get finally off the start line and kept together for a major part of the race.
A few stronger riders could have lifted the pace to give ‘A’ more of a challenge, but the adopted tactic allowed everyone to be in a big bunch and pick up their crit racing form a bit more. Jacqui was first to be dropped, but managed to make it difficult for ‘B’ to catch up the lap advantage she had.
Olive was settling into her first race for a long time (HSC commitments) and claimed she was put out of the peleton by her Dad’s pushy riding and having to work hard to get back on…..Haydo somehow kept surviving at the back, lap after lap till he cracked in the latter stages; Kirky now and again took a turn at the front. Once ‘A’ went past, the speed heated up and a few surges sarted to test riders at the back of the line – Dene doing stirling work to keep the bunch together by chasing down several attempted breaks.
After doing much work at the front to increase the pace, Katherine attacked at the base of the hill with 1 1⁄2 laps to go and managed to stay infront for a fantastic win. Bryn just took out second by half a wheel from a fast-challenging Dene. They were followed by evergreen Richard Wilko, Billy (welcome back!), Pete Hosking, Kirky and Tinny.
No accidents and lots of happy smiles made this a great start to the crit season.