SPREAD over five grades AND FEATURING more than 10% women. You could not erase the smile off SPONSER GARY PERKINS weathered face, as he and many spectators witnessed 16 of our finest A GRADE RIDERS take off on their journey in what must be described as the best morning seen in recent crit races. Cool no breeze, setting up an absolute Battle Royale.
Bouncing straight to the front and clipping along at decent pace, Peter Bridgewater and Matt Driver speared through the opening lap just in advance of Lincoln Carolan, Brendon Skerke and Gary Haydon setting the scene for a no holds barred first half. Many at the back appeared to be waiting for the animation to commence but with the initial high pace, it was proving difficult for any to get away. Lamplighters through the opening six odd laps were Carolan, Driver, Haydon, Bernard Cossar Smith, Damien Ingram and Michael Haseldine.
That group were then joined and headed by Andrew Harper who with Matt Driver in tow pinched a wee break. Harper ONE OF THE GETTING FAMOUS MAD DOG troupe had been hatching a plan to upset their more experienced rivals, Harper along with other RABIES members Tobia Kipper, Jamie Holman and Shane Gelling (a sheep in wolfs clothing), Had been plotting behind close doors how to claim victory over there more fancied rivals. Heading toward the sprint lap Michael Haaseldine, Damien Ingram, Graham Grant, Gary Haydon and Matt Driver now had Jamie Holman having a crack for his team taking the top spot.
While all this was unfolding up front Simon Hubbard, in a different tactic, was biding his time at the back with Young Track Star Brandon Hutton. Brandon only recently back on the bike after leg surgery and Hubbard appeared to be enjoying watching the battle up front however, were the group going to be foolish enough to carry them to the line PERHAPS NOT. The sprint lap presented a lot later than previous events which had a few baffled. One lap out the order past the judge was Ingram, Bridgewater, Driver, Cossar- Smith, Carolan, Holman, and Hutton. Down the back the first to get away was Harper, and the group seemed content to leave him out there. Was this a tactic for an ensuing counter attack or would they give him too much air and hand him the sprint.
Haydon was having none of it and across the back half of the course managed to bridge up and meet his wheel as they swung into Spotto. However it was a little too late as Andrew Harper struck the first blow for the MAD DOGS and took the spoils from Haydon with a small break to Grant and Tobia Kipper. Sprint gone, a very strong group of Bridgewater, Haydon, Holman, Carolan and Simon Hubbard, managed a few seconds break. The danger was palpable, Damien Ingram looking over his shoulder, was unable to seek any assistance and had to put his head down and make the gap himself or watch his race disappear.
With the group back together again Alex Ikeda made a spirited attack, however this was short lived and he was back in the group only to see Alex attack again a lap later, this time the chase group thought it better to leave him there, than waste energy reeling him in given that the final three laps were closing in, and it was the inform Haseldine that did just that, with the pace ramping up and heading toward the awkward Salter Close turn, Alex hit the turn a little hot, clipped a pedal and went down. His race looked at this point, seemingly over and with 3 to go and Haseldine took control, joined briefly by Holman who rolled off the front solo. Then Skerke, most likely aware that he doesn’t pack the sprint of others on his tail, launched after Jamie and RACE ON. Two out and Alex Ikeda was back in. However Jamie Holman working hard for the Mad Dogs had shaken off Skerke with Haydon, Ingram, Bridgewater and Haseldine DOING EVRYTHING TO PREVENT a MAD DOG VICTORY as Jamie was hanging on out there.
At the Bell, Holman mouth open and working hard had four seconds on Matt Driver back in the picture followed closely by Kipper, Grant, Haseldine and Ingram. However anyone could pinch this thriller. The much travelled Gary Haydon assumed the lead, presumably to provide a lead out for Damien before Haseldine took the group through the final turns of the back circuit raising the pace sharply. Lining up for the final corner, Simon Hubbard and Brandon Hutton started moving toward the top followed by Bridgewater, Carolan and Haydon where Ikeda ran wide the resultant scrimmage disrupting the hopes of a few battling for honours. When the dust cleared over the rise it looked to many that Brandon Hutton was heading for a maiden A GRADE WIN showing his peers just what he is capable of, until the last 70 metres when Hubbard and Carolan Struck either side of Hutton with Simon Hubbard making it back to back Crits nudging out the State Junior Track Champion with Linc Carolan close up third. Fourth over the line was Peter Bridgewater then Haseldine, Ikeda and Shane Gelling the first of the Mad Dogs home, however they took the sprint and helped make the race an absolute crowd pleaser but it was clear there were a few unhappy campers at the back of the field licking their metaphoric wounds. The cliché being THAT’S RACING.
With the first race washed out this may leave the very inform Simon Hubbard with an unassailable lead in the series with only one race to go, the wrap up will be July 16th.
The twenty two starters as usual had a fabulous mix of seasoned warriors, up and coming youngsters in Luke Azzarparardi, Liam McDonald, Cody Haseldine and Kane Hodge as well as carrying an international flavour with Italian Rider Bruno Barbarisi virtually just off the plane from ROMANTIC NAPOLI. Therefore another race chock full of interest.
Through the first lap and Damien Newton sat on the front in company with Mick Mehonoshon, Mal Lindsay and Scott Beaven (How tough is Scott back on the bike after an altercation with a car a week ago.) Next the bright colours of Bruno Barbarisi joined in. The next lap Alex Murray and Kane Hodge had their turn. So the 22 riders were setting a hot pace Shawn Garraway, Beaven and Luke Azzarpardi disappeared out of sight where the young Azzarpardi came to grief, however rider and bike OK. A MANDANTORY LAP OFF AND Luke was back in the fray.
Leading up to the sprint, Wily Masters of their craft Mark Smedts, Gavin Butler and Grahame Allen were bowling along on the top or near the lead and the pace a cracker. Sitting just off the speed John Dual and a clump of riders positioning for the sprint charge. However over the rise Liam McDonald improving every time he hits the pedals, shot to the lead and won the sprint comfortably from John Duel third place to Allen followed by Murray and Garraway.
Duel, Garraway and Allen didn’t let up after the dash for cash and keep the solid pace rolling, when they finally eased Gavin Butler, Nathan Bursztynowicz and Alex Murray kept it going. Up to the final three laps the race changed complexion many times with Bruno Barbarisi, Mal Lindsay, Neil Gregory, David Hutton and Newton all prominent. However riders of the calibre of Tom Cook, Greg Hutton and youngster Cody Haseldine were poised to be in the finish.
The sign three to go had Mick Mehonshon back in front of Murray, Bruno, Lindsay, Duel, and Don Huyser whipping them in, not far from first to last. The bell had Mehonoshon and Lindsay just sitting of Bruno Barbarisi and Alex Murray but the young gun sprinters were still within Cooee as the big field headed for the back straight. Swinging into Spotto for the final time Mal Lindsay and Neil Gregory were looking ominous however they were swamped BY YOUTH firstly Liam McDonald, Then David Hutton, but there’s more, Cody Haseldine and Luke Azzarpardi joined in, and over the rise Liam McDonald on the far side of the road brought up a fantastic double winning from David Hutton and Luke Azzarpardi with Cody Haseldine getting closer each start fourth, the other teenager in the race Kane Hodge a more than creditable 10th in the large field.
Seven women opting to ride in this event, rather than their classified race added to the interest of the largest field assembled in this grade in the last 3 years, with 18 facing the starter. Kath Deed, Alex Hall, Emma Simpson regulars in this grade were joined by table landers Mel Pryde and Klare Marcic. Adding strength to the female contingent were endurance Champion Sarah Kaehler and track Queen Gabbi Thomasz meaning the girls made up around 40% of the field broadening the smile of race sponsor Gary Perkins also attempting to win his own race.
An Easy pace through lap one had the Maestro Oliver Wacek roll in front of Gary Perkins, Sarah Kaehler, Russell Eustace and Alex Hall however all bunched waiting for something to happen. It didn’t take long before Russel Eustace, Gary Perkins, Mark Procter Al Hodge, and Gabbi Thomasz quickened and the race gathered momentum. Fifth lap and Joel Mulligan had taken over, in a lap that saw Chris Chastre riding in his first ever criterium crash. However nothing serious, Chris stood out the mandatory lap and was back in business.
Through laps 6 to 9 Russell Eustace pounced and led or was near the lead leading up to the sprint he had the company of Sarah Kaehler, Mark Procter, Alex Hall and Joel Mulligan with Perkins and Hodge in close attendance. Away from view on the Sprint lap it must be said that at this point the riders mentioned were very visible in or near the front. However the big field cruising along behind carried some very in form riders, not the least of those was young up and coming rider in Ethan Chamberlain , Gabbi Thomasz and Mel Pryde all who could feature.
Over the Spotto rise however Sarah Kaehler reaping the benefit of recent track Success looked the Sprint winner until booming down the outside came Ethan Chamberlain and in a dashing display of power went to beat Sarah with Joel Mulligan third they were followed by Gary Perkins and Al Hodge. Heading up to the final three, the pace steadied and the top order past the judge was Gary Perkins leading from Eustace, Hodge and Justin Bell edging closer. Two to go Sacre Bleu ( meaning holy mackerel ) Chris Chastre back from his crash had reached the lead from Procter and Bell but you could throw a blanket over the rest.
THE BELL and the first four out of site heading for the Ponzo back Straight were in order Eustace, Hodge, Hall, and Thomasz riding a clever race. Necks straining to catch a glimpse of who will lead up the rise and Gabbi Thomasz very prominent with Al Hodge and Russel Eustace. However HERE HE COMES AGAIN this time flashing not Booming ETHAN CHAMBERLAIN right over the top, wins riding away from Russel Eustace 2nd and Gabbi Thomasz close up in third spot .they were followed by Hodge, Kath Deed who rounded the race of nicely and Sarah Kaehler next.
A very good ride from the young rider destined to climb grades when this series is over.
D GRADE AND WOMEN.
Wound into one race Kelly D’Andrea, Kellie Eustace, Jaime Thurtell and Townsville’s Mandy Doolan (Formally Cairns) were the women’s division pitted against the D graders which also carried a female rep in Julie Scharf confused, so am I. So away they went 14 in total and adding to the Italian flavour of the day Tony Nastasi blasted his way through the first lap to sneak an 8 second lead over Julie Scharf and Mandy Doolan. Mandy Doolan then joined Tony in the lead over Michael Etherington, Julie Scharf and Al Marcic the rest bunched together.
From that point on it was GOOD NIGHT said THE FOX. Mandy Doolan took control and lap by lap at a perfectly timed rate Mandy slowly disappeared from the rest of the field leading from lap 3 to the finish. The Sprint was hers as was the race. I always knew Mandy Doolan was a good rider but maybe the clear Townsville air has sent Mandy to a new level as she rocketed over the line miles in front to grab line honours in both contests.
Right – With Mandy out of sight the D grade sprint went to Adam Ewart from Julie Scharf with Michael Etherington third. The next few laps leading to the final three saw Damien Smith, Jeffrey Hartley, Jaime Thurtell and Julie Scharf all realising there were important points up for grabs in this series. The order behind Mandy with three to go was Smith, Etherington and Scharf. However with two left, the man carrying the RED WHITE and GREEN colours on his sleeve Tony Nastasi had regained the almost top spot and was leading his division. The only ones out of contention at the bell were Phil Anderson, Al Marcic and Kelly D’Andrea all who will benefit from the hit out. In a quick chat after the race a smiling Kelly told me she was just glad she had finished, I love that attitude.
Into the Spotto straight, the fight for the D Grade prize turned into a battle between Adam Ewart and Julie Scharf as they had singled out from Etherington and Hartley and the ever improving Julie had the better of Adam over the last fifty and took the race with Michael Etherington in third place.
To Our wonderful Volunteers, big fields are always difficult to deal with, and our brilliant team worked together like clockwork. As there were a couple I don’t really know I won’t mention names. However selfishly, Thanks Kim for the sugar less Cake SENSATIONAL needless to say it didn’t make it home.