THE CAIRNS HARDWARE CRITERIUM SERIES CONTINUED ON SUNDAY WITH THE SATURDAY’S ABC CYCLING SEGMENT REFERRING TO THE A GRADE RACE, AS THE BEST LINEUP THUS FAR THIS SEASON featuring the return to the road of top class riders Paul Mashford and Simon Hubbard both ready to mix it with Last Week Kermesse winner Victorian young gun Liam Edwards and the brand new State u/17 road champion Luke Azzopardi. However they all had to battle wits against the recognised King of the Road Bart Duraj. Add to that the quality of Mark Hogan and Gary Haydon and of course the very in form Damien Ingram who was only narrowly defeated by Edwards last week at Gordonvale.
Away and disappearing down Spotto Mark Hogan quickly set the race alight by setting a sizzling pace but on the completion of lap one it was youngest riders in the race Azzopardi and Edwards who swept up and led through the first few laps. However Ingram, Hogan and Hubbard were not prepared to let an early breakaway succeed as Ingram then went to the top and had Haydon and Duraj for company. Completing the first 7 laps Edwards, Azzopardi, Ingram and Haydon were the most aggressive. Preparing for the sprint a lap out, and Azzopardi was back in front closely followed by Hogan, Ingram and Duraj and it appeared the entire field were looking for sprinting honours. Sweeping up the Spotto St rise for the run in Bart Duraj and Simon Hubbard had drawn to the lead with Hubbard just grabbing the win over Duraj next was Edwards and he was followed in by Azzopardi, however all eight riders were well bunched.
Sprint gone and Liam Edwards once again powered to the front and was thereabouts over the next few laps being joined at times Haydon, Ingram and Hogan. Then on the fifteenth lap Duraj had his turn as pacesetter until the reigning junior State champ Luke Azzopardi took over and led through to two to go, when Mark Hogan unleashed and burst to a strong lead and started to edge away. His lead at the bell was a heathy 8 sec and held that margin heading for the back stretches of Ponzo, where Liam Edwards set out after him followed by Luke Azzorpardi showing tremendous speed beyond his years, narrowing the gap on both Hogan and Edwards, and in doing so giving Hubbard, Duraj and Ingram the perfect cart back, by jumping on the young riders wheel.
With Hogan well caught before the straight run in, and Azzopardi doing his unassigned role as lead out man taking its toll, the field bunched as they swung into Spotto. Bart Duraj went through on the inside and headed Liam Edwards with Ingram getting shuffled behind Haydon allowing Duraj and Edwards to pinch a slight break and the two topped the rise with not an inch between them, with Simon Hubbard finishing strongly behind them. 50 metres out It was Duraj very narrowly in front with Edwards upside of the local champ and in a titanic struggle to the line Liam Edwards just had the better of Bart by less than a half wheel making back to back wins for the promising Victorian with Simon Hubbard third followed in by Luke Azzopardi and Damien Ingram in a Woree thriller. Crossing the line Bart acknowledged the win of Liam by a pat on the back indeed a sporting gesture from the former European pro circuit rider.
A solid field of 13 faced commissar Richie Bates, with the inform Kieran Harrison quickly to the top followed down Spotto St by Scott Beaven, Grahame Allen and Andrew Harper, and that foursome were whipping up a hot pace through the first couple of laps. Not to be outdone Alex Starmer, Jamie Holman, Tom Cook and Greg Reynolds were up to the early speed and did their share of the early bullocking work. Next to roll to the top were the Cagey Gav Butler and Mr Smooth Nick Loukas so indeed we had a very competitive race. However seven laps in and the pace was taking its toll Kath Deed had dropped off saying later that simply “the pace was too hot early’’. Don Huyser appeared to have a shoulder injury rolling with Kath for a few laps before surrendering to pain and then there was the Talented Daniel Bakurski inexplicably off the back, however still rolling. So now there were ten.
One lap out from the sprint the order was. Beaven, Loukas, Cook and Reynolds with Harper in behind them. Back into view for the dash for the cash the imposing frame of Alex Starmer loomed large topping the rise however he was being gunned down by Woree circuit specialist Scott Beaven who drew away to comfortably defeat Alex Starmer, third home Grahame Allen followed by Jamie Holman. Sprint gone and with the place getters easing a little, Gavin Butler pounced and instantly there was no rest for the wicked, as Butler steamed his way through the next two laps giving no one any short term respite. From the sprint to the two laps to go mark, along with Butler strong efforts at the top from Harrison, Allen, Reynolds, Starmer, Beaven, Cook and Holman keeping the race genuine.
Only two laps out the order flashing past the judge’s area Tom Cook had wrested the lead from Butler with Allen, Harrison and Loukas hot on their wheels. A slight change at the bell with Greg Reynolds on top with Beaven on his wheel followed by Butler and Allen however not much distance between 1st and last of the contenders, and that rider was Andrew Harper so it was anyone’s race. With all eyes staring toward the foot of the Spotto Straight a packed field swung the corner. Up the rise the caller could not miss the unmistakable style of the MAD DOG Captain THE DIMINUTIVE HARPER relishing his return to the B ‘s and coming from last at the bell Andrew Harper went on to win from Greg Reynolds, another miner placing for Greg . Third in Kieran Harrison and he was followed home by Scott Beaven and Alex Starmer in a crowd thrilling B grade encounter.
The biggest field of the day 21 riders took off on what was to be quite an eventful race on the main Woree course, having recently raced over the short circuit due to road works. Race on and Chris Chastre , Gary Perkins, Paul Mitchell and Aaron Locke led the way over their 13 lap journey. Very Prominent early were (The Flying Vet) Demian Bullock, with new comer Keith Fearon not at all concerned of riding the speed in his first race. Others showing out through the early laps were Jason Whiteside, Andrew Mills, Paul Gibson and Gaby Thomasz. However when the big field topped the Spotto Rise it was akin the CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE making the callers job a nightmare. Along with Gaby there were two other women in the event Julie Scharf and young Tablelander Klare Marcic who were at times hard to spot as the field went passed sometimes six deep.
So heading up for the sprint lap Andrew Mills led Paul Mitchell, Gaby Thomasz and Gary Perkins and the rest jam packed behind them. However as the field searched for a position to possie up for the drive to the line Demian Bullock and Gaby Thomasz had singled out to have the sprint between them and in a photo finish Demian just held of Gaby with Alan Clarke and Damien Newton filling the minors. Dust settled after the sprint and still Demian Bullock held sway he was joined again by Keith Fearon riding a terrific race first up, he was followed by Idan Piercy starting to make his presence felt as well as the iridescent colours of Mark Procter.
In the opening lines of this report I mentioned the word Eventful. As the field headed to turn towards the back straight, somehow two recreational riders appeared out of nowhere, casually rolling along Handle bars up basket on the front and they were directly in front of this massive peloton baring down. It very much reminded me of a scene from the movie TORA TORA TORA, where a flying instructor and her pupil were flying over the mountains of Hawaii, when they were suddenly enveloped by Japanese Zeros on their way to Pearl Harbour. In this case, the two were surrounded by Men and Women in Lycra. The Sunday bikers wanted to go straight ahead and while the peloton, wanting to go left, yelled out to the bikers to stop, which was answered by a thumbs up only, but no stopping, we CLOSED our eyes. Poor Mark Procter and Gaby Thomasz had nowhere to go but join the bikers by going straight ahead losing heaps of ground by the time he turned around and catastrophe averted. However the stunned look on faces of those two riders told the story as they pedalled on passed and Mark re-joined the race. Through the remaining laps heading toward the bell Riders conspicuous at the top were Keith Fearon, Idan Piercy, Warren Elliot and Mark Procter having recovered after his ordeal plus Gaby Thomasz and Damien Bullock who were always in the firing line, and it was noticed that Brian Nesbit was slowly emerging from his mid field position. The Bell and order on the last lap was Chris Chastre leading from Gaby Thomasz, Mark Procter and Demian Bullock. As the field turned for the run in, Brian Nesbit put the hammer down and picked up the pace on the back straight, stringing out the bunch considerably. Mark Procter putting up a terrific show considering he almost ended up on JONES DRIVE and he looked for a fleeting moment that he may have a remarkable victory, until the solid frame of Brian Nesbit burst into the open to take the win over Mark Procter with Aaron Locke close up in third place. Aaron was followed in by Gaby Thomasz and Damien Bullock in an exciting C grade event.
Just like the family of A GRADE winner Liam Edwards who fled the icy conditions of the Deep South for a warmer climate. Stephen Flood escaped the cold from a similar region in Victoria in his case Bendigo to race in our popular Warriors division. Could he make it a double for the Big V. Stephen had to contend with Race Favourite Michael Etherington, Nick Massaso, Steven Davies, Jon Pearce and popular Table lander Alios or call me AL Marcic. We also had the women’s event added to this field I refer to Nicole Holt and Kylie Anderson having her first go at Criterium Racing. All riders in this grade did their part either having the lead or close to throughout the race. Probably most notable Steven Davies, Nick Masasso and Stephen Flood although Jon Pearce and Al Marcic weren’t loafing and were visible at the top on occasions.
Lap before the sprint Al Marcic had worked his way to the front from Steven Davies and Michael Etherington however all riders were in with a show. Up over the rise and Michael Etherington was trying to fend off the challenge of Steven Davies and Stephan Flood however with Davies being a little stronger on the line and he defeated Stephen Flood with Michael Etherington third. Sprint over This time Nick Massaso and Jon Pearce led the way. Up to the bell the only rider not in contention was Al Marcic who slowly dropped off the back although still battling on. The order at the bell, Nick Massaso held sway over Michael Etherington, Steven Davies and Jon Pearce. Into the straight and it looked a match in three with Etherington, Davies and Flood now starting to finish hard, and finish hard he did as Stephen Flood made it two wins for Victoria on the day by winning from Steven Davies and Michael Etherington with Jon Pearce fourth.
Women with only the girls in the race they shared the honours with the SPRINT going to Nicole Holt and the RACE to Kylie Anderson in her first go with the club.
YOURS IN Cycling,