BART DURAJ BACKS UP HIS RECENT KERMESSE WIN WITH ANOTHER COMFORTABLE VICTORY AT THE TOP GRADE IN SUNDAY’S CRITERIUM. GAVIN BUTLER WINDS BACK THE CLOCK IN A MARVELLOUS RETURN TO FORM IN THE B’S. In a nail biting sprint to the wire GABY THOMASZ was RUN DOWN LATE BY THE IN FORM MATT GRILLO AT THE C GRADE LEVEL, AND MICHAEL ETHERINGTON LEFT EVERYTHING ON THE TRACK AS THE WARRIORS DID BATTLE IN THE D’s.
Racing on the reverse course at Woree, a shorter and obviously less technical circuit with half of Spotto St under repair forcing the change in distance and direction. There was speculation that maybe the odds on favourite Duraj could be vulnerable, with one commentator at the ABC’s Saturday’s sports show saying ‘’I think Bart needs a tougher track and if they can stay in touch, well there could be an upset.” Duraj had seven contenders to keep him company including Astute team mate Brenden Skerke, the MAD DOG trio of Andrew Harper, Jaime Holman and Tobia Kipper plus the enigmatic Peter Bridgewater, the track champ Brandon Hutton and danger man Gary Haydon.
Through the first lap and Jamie Holman led team mate Andrew Harper with Gary Haydon third wheel. Holman was then joined by the Easy to Spot Tobia Kipper sporting the best pair of socks I’ve ever seen and the speed clicking around 42 klm ph. Small field however lots of interest as Duraj on the third lap upped the tempo and led from Haydon and Holman. With the lead chopping and changing a roar from the crowd on lap 6 alerted the caller who had claimed it was Duraj rolling in front of Holman had got it wrong, as it in fact it was teammate Brendon Skerke leading Holman and Peter Bridgewater with The King of the road at the tail with Brandon Hutton.
Through the next 6 laps leading to the sprint, Kipper, Haydon, Holman and Bridgewater along with Duraj and Skerke all were prominent at the top, Harper appearing happy enough for teammates Kipper and Holman to hold the fort whilst champion track rider Brandon Hutton showing signs that he indeed needs the opening of the track season to be a force at this level, was starting to struggle at the back. Leaving the 13th lap astern on the sprint lap the order was Duraj in front of Bridgewater, Haydon and Kipper. Swinging into Ponzo St for the run to the line it was a match between Bridgewater and Duraj with Bart edging away from Peter over the concluding stages to comfortably take sprint honours and they were followed by Haydon and Kipper.
Not much difference in tactics from the Sprint right through to lap 22 on their 34 lap journey when Tobia Kipper, Gary Haydon and Bart Duraj went to the front together and started to slowly edge away. Despite some spirited efforts from Bridgewater and Brandon Skerke to keep in touch, although with his teammate up the road Skerke probably was never going to help Bridgewater cross the gap, so the leading trio looked to have the podium positions to themselves. However, with 3 laps left Bart Duraj had pinched a 5 sec lead over Gary Haydon and Tobia Kipper and try as they might the pair in pursuit were losing a couple of seconds per lap to Duraj at the bell the battle for second would be close as Duraj was never going to be caught from here.
With Bart Duraj an easy winner eyes were straining to who would fill the second spot and the pair didn’t disappoint as they flashed to the line locked together Tobia ( I love those Socks) Kipper narrowly shaded Gary Haydon by mere centimetres a gap back to fourth was Peter Bridgewater followed in by Jamie Holman in an very entertaining A grade race.
It never unusual to see Muscle man Gavin Butler burst from the blocks in any event he rides in and this race was no exception he along with Tom Cook and Nathan Bursztynowicz showed tremendous pace through the opening 3 laps. That trio were joined for the next few by Scott Beaven, Greg Reynolds and Nick Lucas and for anyone walking in off the street they would have been excused for thinking this was an A Grade event as the ten riders were setting a hectic pace. Through the seventh and Butler was back in command with Grahame Allen and Rod Larcombe joining the above mentioned as they headed toward the lap prior the Sprint, Josh Rayner was sitting around mid-field in company of Greg Hutton who was starting to feel the pinch. However, the order past the judge on the sprint lap was Butler leading Beaven, Reynolds and they were closely followed by Allen and Bursztynowicz. So who wanted Sprint honours as the field straightened up for the run in? Up the slight incline and it was the track men vying for bragging rights as Scott Beaven very narrowly nudged out Tom Cook in a blanket finish just in advance of Greg Reynolds, Grahame Allen and Nathan Bursztynowicz last of the main group was Gavin Butler.
Sprint gone and using stop start tactics Gavin Butler once again was the Lamp Lighter and held that spot from lap 17 to 22 when Grahame Allen took over, he along with strong riding from Reynolds, Loukas, Bursztynowicz, Beaven and Rod Larcombe, the spectators were witnessing a cracker of a race. At this point Butler having a breather had settled back Midfield. Laps 23 – 24 it was Allen who led, however, on the next lap it was “Mr Cat and Mouse“ Butler, then with only Three to go Tommie Cook hit the front what a race, two out and Nick Loukas held sway. The BELL and Riding one of the most aggressive races seen for a while Gav Butler again shot to the front and this time pinched a break THE CROWD WHISPERING ‘’ COULD Gavin have finally turned back the clock, ’’Can he hang on.’’
The final lap and there he was a rejuvenated Butler well clear, however he had gone a long way from home and surely the legs can’t keep going, as coming from well behind was emerging Greg Reynold’s However the clever riding of Gavin Butler still had a clear margin over Reynolds on the line in a masterly performance of aggression and guile, Gavin saluted the Judge from Greg Reynolds with Scott Beaven third just in advance of Rod Larcombe.
11 starters including relative newcomers Paul Gibson, Daniel Bakurski, Alan Clarke and Warren Elliot had to take on pre-race favourites Russell Eustace and Track Star Gaby Thomasz. Add to this group the elevation of Matt Grillo and James Whitside from their impressive D grade rides at the Gordonvale Kermesse and you had a race chock full of interest.
Early on the tall frame of Chris Chastre showed out along with Warren Elliot and Russell Eustace. However not much between all eleven through the opening laps and as they swung past the judge on lap 5, Idan Piecy had reached the lead with Gaby Thomasz and Matt Grillo on his wheel. Through the next few laps it was Grillo and Thomasz with Eustace joining in and rolling to the top. Strong work from Daniel Bakurski, Paul Gibson and Alan Clarke saw all riders doing their share. The order heading into the sprint lap saw Gaby Thomasz leading from Alan Clarke and Chris Chastre. As it turned out, Thomasz had heard the whistle for A grade and thought that this was the sprint lap. Taking advantage of this, Chastre surged as they crossed the finish line, taking a solid lead for most of this lap, with most of the pack unwilling to chase.
Pace was right on swinging into the Ponzo St straight for the rush to the line with four riders very prominent Aidan Ewart, Chris Chastre, Daniel Bakurski and Matt Grillo. However, Chris Chastre looming large was winding up, and charged right over the top of them to take the SPRINT from Adam Ewart and Matt Grillo third. Buried away mid pack was Gaby Thomasz not wanting to spend any more bickies, while sending an ominous message to all that she will be hard to toss for the major money.
Sprint over Warren Elliot together with Idan Piercy and Daniel Bakurski swept to the top followed by Thomasz. Then Russell Eustace surged to the front with Bakurski staying with him and the pair led from lap 16 through to 20 with Eustace in particular working hard. Warren Elliot then joined Bakurski with 3 to go and right on their wheel was Thomasz and Grillo. With the BELL ringing the order was Bakurski, Elliott, Thomasz and Chastre with Grillo midfield and Eustace now last looking to surge again? Into the final straight and Gaby Thomasz instantly caught the commentator’s eye as she appeared to leading with 200 metres left, and over Gaby’s shoulder emerged Matt Grillo as he slowly edged upside and the pair went to the line locked together with Matt Grillo snatching victory on the line from Gaby Thomasz by a tyre width with Russell Eustace with a brilliant ride in third place. Next in came James Whiteside and Chris Chastre.
Only seven in this race however always tremendous rivalry in the group, that has become very much a favourite of the author. A lot of interest in the husband and wife duel between Kelly and John D’Andrea with Kelly holding the honours at this point. Two newer arrivals to this group Nigel Hales and Steven Davies added interest. Regular track riders Jaime Thurtell and Veteran Jimmy Larcombe added spice and of course King Warrior HIMSELF Michael Etherington being touted by the ABC as the man to beat.
Well there was no doubt about the tactics of Etherington as through the first 6 -7 laps Michael was always ONE or TWO he was rolling in the company of John D’Andrea, Steven Davies, Nigel Hales and Jaime Thurtell, where on the 5th lap Jamie took control. The seven riders were always bunched throughout the early stages and past the judges on the SPRINT LAP the order was Nigel Hales leading from Michael Etherington, Jamie Thurtell and Jim Larcombe however all seven in close attendance. Into the slight headwind in the straight Steve Davies showing strong sprinting skills as he took the points comfortably from Etherington with Jamie Thurtell close up in third place and she was followed over by John D’Andrea.
Sprint over and Michael Etherinton continued to force the pace along with Jaime Thurtell and Steve Davies until a roar from the crowd indicated that the husband and wife duo of Kelly and John D’Andrea had swept to the front together and they held the top until Nigel Hales joined Kelly in the lead, they held that spot through until the bell. This was a small field however all the spectators were glued to what would be a thrilling finish. As they left on the final lap Hales led Kelly D with Etherington and Jaime Thurtell right on their wheels.
Into the straight Davies was battling it out with Etherington with Michael starting to edge clear. In the run to the line Michael Etherington having put up a herculean effort of sustained front running riding, took the race from a brave Steven Davies with Jaime Thurtell a terrific third, just in advance of John D’Andrea, therefore winning the battle of the spouses by evening the score.
The Women’s race
Well this was all Nicole Holt, she led from the start to the finish. Fast becoming a crowd favourite, Nicole a true character handled her walk over with aplomb even stopping for a coffee break as she careered away for the easiest win of her life. See you trackside Nicole, when it all begins.
A million thanks to all the volunteers and don’t forget the MAMILS
Yours in Commentary