(Top left: Jeff Provan has a word with Simon Gerrans. Top right: A grade winner David Loakes leads the break. Centre: Brett Perez takes out the B grade sprint. Bottom Left: Simon Gerrans with wife Rhana and Sprint King sponsors Damon Krongold of Beller Real Estate and Jeff from NEOMETRO. Bottom Rt C grade place getters).
The spring carnival didn’t finish at Flemington yesterday, because the main straight at the SKCC crit was filled with spectators, and like the horse racing the fashion stakes were high with plenty of deep dish carbon, bright shoes, Italian bikes and Campagnolo. The queue for coffee at the Soul Kitchen van was longer than the make-up line at the L’Oreal tent at the Birdcage. A Grade welcomed some big names back racing, but none bigger than Simon Gerrans from Team Sky. Simon, after only his first week back training, just wanted to the roll legs over, and he did it beautifully looking a million dollars with his golden tan and perfect sock height.
A Grade had 54 starters with current SKCC Club Champion Rico Rogers (Giant) back racing after racing all over the world. The NEOMETRO / Beller race series was thought to be perfect for Rico as he is a pure sprint king, and with 3 intermediate sprints he was a short priced favourite to take the crown. The race was like watching a prize boxing fight with attack after attack and with all the main teams watching everything that moved it was always going to be a tough day. Nick Bensley & Mark Guirgus (Nacional) worked hard early to force breaks, as did fast man Chris Tymms (O2 Networks). But the first really threatening break came from former masters Tour of Bright winner Michael Day (Celtic Décor). He was quickly joined by new Nacional signing Peter English, O2 legend Andy Naylor and Aaron Salisbury (Bike Now).
Michael looked to adapt well in the step up in class from his normal racing and was doing a lot of the hard work, but with form man Aaron Salisbury in the break the bunch was not going to let that stick with Robert Crowe hitting the turbo jets to reel the break in. The NEOMETRO / Beller intermediate sprints were hotly contested with Patrick Drapac (Porsche Drapac) winning the overall Sprint King title in a count back.
After 50 minutes of tough, hard, fast racing a break went that was to be the one that got away. Smart man Daniel Nelms was joined by O2 Networks pair David Loakes and Allan Iacuone as well as Robert Crowe (Ridewiser), Stuart Hill (Nacional), Joey Esterhuyzen (TFM) with fast man Adam Murchie rounding out the break. Aaron Salisbury (Bike Now), Cameron Brindley (LSD), Matt Cowderoy (Giant) and SKCC regular Luigi Vecchio were all kicking themselves for missing the break as all had been near the front and riding strong all day.
Coming into the bell lap the break had a gap of 23 seconds and with the dangerous Robert Crowe (Ridewiser) detached from the group this was going to be an exciting finish. O2 Networks played out their advantage brilliantly as Allan Iacuone led out dynamite David Loakes for a strong and comfortable sprint finish win with Adam Murchie 2nd, Daniel Nelms 3rd and Stuart Hill (Nacional) 4th.
B Grade had a strong field with Becoz and Bike Force making their presence seen and felt early with Becoz’s twin towers Michael Neal and Adam Kliska dishing out the pain early with team mates Lloyd Henricksson and new signing Ernie Arriagada both riding smartly. When the first break went with 6 riders it was up to Nicole Whitburn (Prime Estate), fresh from her women’s A Grade domination, Club President Adrian Vlok and Matt Gordin (Bike Force) to close down the gap.
Brett Perez (Biggin Scott), now being coached by Caulfield Carnegie legend Dennis Bowen-Day, made a mockery of the NEOMETRO / Beller intermediate sprints and even had time to turn around to look to see how far he’d won by, but his reign was threatened when Brent Woodlock (Degani) launched a blistering attack into the wind that left everybody stunned and behind.
The Bike Force boys of Matt Gordin, Gareth Knight, David “Bug” Byrne & Paul Jackson did some great work to get Matt Gordin across to the break however they were tragically caught on the bell lap. The final sprint was won by “Sandbagger” Brett Perez (Biggin Scott) with Brent Woodlock (Degani) amazingly hanging on to 2nd with Stephen Rackham 3rd.
C Grade rode a fast race today, so fast was the pace that ride marshal Heath Jackson was dropped from the bunch! It was a really tough hard race that went down to the wire and after a game of cat and mouse Chris Smith stormed home from nowhere to claim the win ahead of Ash Abdou and mountain man Peter White (Richmond Cyclery).
Men’s D Grade was an interesting affair and great to watch as there was really strong work done by Barry Walton and Gerald Liew. Chris Hindley was looking strong and dangerous but as was the case with C Grade this was going down to a bunch sprint. Sam Madden looked great and won the sprint comfortably ahead of Jeremy Soawyer and James Lotting.
Men’s E Grade was won by a solo break away by Stuart Tripp, with the bunch fighting out for 2nd and 3rd with Iain Clarke and Chris Miller taking out the minor placings ahead of a very fast finishing Ewen Stuart.
The Women’s field was impressive with approx. 30 riders taking to the start line. Women’s A grade welcomed the return of club champion Amy Bradley (Degani) back from overseas & a broken collarbone. XOSIZE teammates Ingrid Trotter and Mary Rogers did a lot of work with Mary breaking away solo, which at once stage stretched out to 15 seconds. But Cristine Foster, who was riding beautifully, closed the gap. (Cristine was a later casualty in the mixed B Grade race, taken out by a fellow rider who clipped his pedal and lost control. Cristine was taken to hospital. Our thoughts are with you Cristine for a speedy recovery). Justyna Lubkowski looked strong and was watching everything like a hawk, but when there’s a sprint finish and Nicole Whitburn (Prime Estate) you need a Porsche 911 engine to overtake her. Nicole won comfortably by 3-4 bike lengths and on top of that picked up every intermediate sprint to dominate the days result. Jane McInnes (SKCC/Giant) took 2nd ahead of a fast finishing Justyna Lubkowski (Becoz) 3rd. The hard work of the XOSIZE duo of Ingrid Trotter and Mary Rogers was too much in the end with club champ Amy Bradley lacking k’s and race fitness.
Women’s B was a great race to watch with the Becoz duo of Shauna Tupper and Nat Howard looking very strong and attentive. Erica Knight was looking Pro and paid for her hard work early on in the race because when it came down to the bell lap Jane Hill was like lightning as she ripped the other girls legs off to claim the win ahead of Delphine Astier 2nd and Shauna Tupper 3rd.
All in all it was a fantastic day of racing as you don’t get to see Simon Gerrans rolling around at St Kilda every week. A big thank you to sponsors NEOMETRO project developers now in their 4th year of sponsorship with SKCC. This year they partner with Beller Real Estate who have generously supported this great series. The next race will be the Women’s Feature race on Sunday Jan 30 next year.