by Jayman Prestidge
Twenty-two riders greeted the Endeavour Street Criterium on Saturday in humid and overcast conditions.
A recipe of threatening skies and several inexperienced riders saw the corners swept by the sweeping crew in an attempt to minimise crashes. With two 180 degree corners cleared the riders set off in their bunches.
D Grade saw Bruce Evanson take first place. He has seen his last D Grade race at Warragul. First timer Ben Perry put on a strong showing in taking second place and appears to have what it takes in the racing game. Today’s star in D Grade was the irrepressible Adele Whelan. The flat circuit suits her well and she rode her strongest race to date finishing in third place to Bruce and Ben.
C Grade was won in a ferocious straight up sprint by Frank Benstead who finished half a bike length in front of the ever improving newbie Jason Tubnor. Frank must have been inspired by Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open tennis tournament given the extended grunt he exhaled as he crossed the finished line. There was no doubt about it….he had reached into the bottom of the cookie jar to take victory over Tubnor. In third place was Nicole Summerfield who put in a solid performance to be first female across the line.
The A Grade field of Shane Stiles and David Salton were combined with the eight B Grade riders. The race outcome would prove to be controversial and post race discussions would mean a combined field would never occur again at a Club Race.
The race started sedately until Jayman Prestidge decided to up the race speed on Lap two. The once strong Prestidge must have torn a heart muscle quickly though, as his ‘effort’ only lasted for one lap.
On the main straight at just before Lap two ended Shane Stiles and David Salton took off with a short and sharp attack. Within thirty seconds they had a 100 metre lead. Given Stiles and Salton were A Graders, Rob Monk and Geoff Thomson yelled at the B Grade bunch to ‘let-em go, let-em have their own race!’. When the veterans of your Club talk, you listen!
Several laps later Simon Baxter attacked the B Grade bunch and bridged across to the A Grade bunch.
Whilst there was muttering between the B Grade riders that perhaps they should chase, it was a consensus view that we would let Baxter ‘cook’ out the front for another twenty minutes. After he was ‘cooked’, the bunch would reel him in before the business end of the race.
When a rider makes an early break like Baxter did, very rarely does it stick, and when caught, his legs will be so ‘cooked’ that he will have no chance of winning against a rider with fresh legs.
But just like on the Tuesday and Sunday morning rides where B Grade riders choose not to wait at the top of Shady Creek Hill for slower riders, it was apparent that Rob Monk and Geoff Thomson should not have waited to chase in the ‘real’ race. Baxter was seen for the rest of the race, but never caught. Instead, he latched onto the back wheel of David Salton and Shane Stiles.
Stiles is in form, and he reveled in driving a ‘just easy’ tempo on the front for much of the forty minute breakaway. Salton had completed a 130km training ride prior to the race but still had the legs to hold on to the Stiles train.
Whilst the gap did not increase initially, it was clear that not only were Stiles and Salton working to keep Baxter away, but Baxter was happy to sit on the wheels of higher graded riders like a sucker fish does on a shark.
As Baxter’s train ride slowly increased the gap from his B Grade competitors, the blood pressure of the ultra-competitive Monk, Thomson and Kennedy also increased. They were furious at Stiles and Salton working for Baxter, and furious that Baxter was a passenger on a steam train. His legs would never get cooked! They would never catch him! Baxter would win his first B Grade race in a very long time! Baxter was BACK!
As slick as a great white shark, Stiles sprinted away from Baxter in the home straight with ease and took the A Grade victory against a glycogen depleted Salton. Simon Baxter crossed the line and took first in B Grade.
The B Grade bunch was almost three quarters of a lap behind. In a last ditch bid for Rob Monk to compete in some type of ‘race’ he lead the sprint out strongly. Whilst he looked strong for the first 100 metres, George Tambassis and Brett Kennedy decided they would not wait for Monk any longer. They accelerated past him at speed with Brett Kennedy taking second and Tambassis third.
After much post-race discussion about the race the riders will return to racing next Saturday certain they would never be foolish and wait again. What they need is to be able to time trial. We have a teams TT in 3 weeks. ed.
Racing is fun!
If you don’t feel like a crit race next weekend, get along to the Victorian Masters Track Championships being held at DISC over the weekened. Saturday sees ITT and Pursuit ride offs and the Sunday features sprints and the scratch/points races. We have one or two of our riders chasing state championship glory.