Once again, anxious eyes were kept on drifting clouds and radar maps – but we managed to be third time lucky and hold Saturday races as scheduled.
Unfortunately, most juniors were put off by the early afternoon drizzle and this meant Bernie had to do a series of TTs and sprints against Swanny. The novel 200m “big gear” sprint up the hill to the KOM point really suited Bernie and he outshone Swanny and even Houlty, turning up early for the senior race.
Due to possible rain showers, Col devised a race course on the top half of the track in counter-clockwise direction, this meant a fast descent and hair-raising left turn and many voices (alright, just Kirky’s!) were raised in dismay during a few practice laps. Matt Bedford charged down at top speed on his new-blue racing steed, and put his fellow A graders on notice by commenting that the turn would be even more difficult at ‘proper’ race speed.
The briefing stressed that we were actually running three different races concurrently, so bunch overtaking was restricted to the uphill section only.
A Grade started on their 35mins plus 3 laps jaunt with Olly, Houlty, Holly, Brent, Matt, Pat and an uncomplaining Clint joined by Toby for his first race as 2021 “Roger Munday Award” winner and David Cook making a welcome return to the crit circuit.
Another nine strong bunch made up B Grade for a 30minute outing, with Carl making his return to join Richard Wilson, Swanny, Kirky, Dene, the three Hoskings and Tinny.
Finally, C Grade went off for their 25 minute race; Rod wheedling a start here despite doubts over his “real” handicap and joining PC, Jacqui, Christian and a slightly exhausted Bernie.
Each group took a few laps to settle in and get race lines right; not surprisingly, it was Kirky who made the first attack out of his bunch after 3 minutes, to get Swanny, Carl and Wilko chasing. Each Grade thinned out a little bit during the first 10 mins, with Cookie finding his return to A Grade too hot and eventually settling on to the back of B Grade. Holly let a wheel go at the left turn and found it too hard to get back on as Olly et al put the hammer down – nearly dropping Matt as well. B Grade had lost Isabella & Pete Hosking early, and eventually Carl realised he wasn’t quite race fit. In C Grade, Bernie lost his bunch riding restricted gearing down the hill and trying to get back on time and time again, but continued on his own to the end – a great effort.
Wiht A Grade completing the half-lap in about 50 sec and B Grade not much slower, the three groups had a few overtaking sets to manage and all went well, even when all three bunches were charging up the hill together. It soon became obvious to the racers that the downhill section simply meant sitting on (‘riding third wheel was a picnic’ was one comment), listening to Kirky yell incomprehensible instructions just before the turn and then everyone going flat out up the hill – doing that every minute or so took its toll after 20 minutes of racing.
C Grade kept together during the three sprint laps and Jacqui took out a win ahead of PC, Rod and Christian.
B Grade had whittled things down and the final 300m uphill sprint out of the corner saw Katherine edge out Swanny and Tinny, followed by Dene and Richard.
A Grade had been reduced to Olly, Toby, Houlty, Matt and Brent – with a few hanger-ons rejoining as they went around…. Olly attacked just before the 30 mins were up – it looked like a forlorn move with Houlty and Brent taking turns to mark him. However, the timing was perfect and Olly was able stay just ahead for a great win, followed over the line by Toby, Matt, Brent and Houlty.
A fantastic race format – everyone was really pleased with the course – thanks, Col.