By Paul Ingwersen
The summer criterium racing resumed last week with a warm breezy afternoon throwing up a new fastest lap in A grade, and a solo win by 10-year-old Max Holgate against his more senior D grade competitors.
With a firm westerly blowing, creating two head wind sections on the twisting race circuit, the general expectations on the start line were for fast but no record beating laps. The first two times around the circuit for A grade proved to be the case with riders steadily swapping turns or sitting on Jess Featonby’s wheel and avoiding any singular attacks that would mean facing the wind solo.
On lap three, Bended Elbow rider Charly McMillan had enough of this parade and launched himself solo off the front to complete a lap and a half with the bunch chasing. This effort earned him a new all-time lap record of 1:59 and the first rider to go under two minutes.
Back in the bunch, there were a few counter attacks and solid chasing until it came back together. Then it was Dean Holgate from Yarrawonga, possibly inspired by his youngster’s impressive win in D grade, managing to get a gap off the front.
The process continued with attacks, followed by a chase. Jess Featonby glided up and down the bunch with the ease and strength of someone who has done 500 Monument Hill repeats over the last couple of years. As he moved around it was like him and the bunch on a first date. A mixture of nerves, and waiting for someone to make the first move. Featonby proved to be the frisky one, and constantly rolled off the front, while the like good dancing partners the bunch quickly followed suite, leaving no chance of a solo act.
Others tried, Lachlin Hutchins, Timmy Guy and Charly McMillan, while some sat in and did the chasing. With three laps to go the pace was lifting. McMillan went off the front again and on the top corner a rider blew a high pressure tyre, forcing him to ride straight into the grass with Ryan Clifford and two others following his wheel to stay upright.
The reduced bunch reformed and looked around at the big hitters to lead the chase. By now they had victory on their minds rather than consolidating the group. On the final lap, Timmy Guy flew off the front and bridged across to the tiring McMillan. Guy sat on his wheel briefly, until a peak over his shoulder showed Featonby towing Hutchins across the gap. With McMillan fading, Guy was forced to step out of the slipstream and wind up his big gears for a final assault on the finish line.
Featonby showed class in almost closing the gap, and enough for Hutchins to launch off his wheel and fly past Guy on the finish line to take the win. Guy was second, followed by Featonby, McMillan and Marcus Warner of the Alpine Club.
While the A grade was fast, the D grade provided the upset. On the early laps the bunch rode together. A mix of women, guys and the diminutive Max Holgate on a small bike, junior gears and everything to ride for. The other riders could be heard giving young Max some advice. He either took it to heart or had been foxing about his experience and half way into the race he rode off the front. Any late arrival spectating on the state of the race would have wondered if the bunch had dropped him, but he was in front and rode solo over three or four laps, cruising to a win ahead of Ruth Little and Anna Trnka. If he was little bigger the handicapper would move him into C, but for now, the other riders will have to rethink their tactics, or perhaps take advice from the young man himself.
In B Grade, while a smaller-than-normal field took to the start, the average speed didn’t allow any successful solo moves. In the end it was Mitch Ennis first, followed by Andrew Lang, Ken Payne, Geoff Damm and Steve Young. In the C Grade, the sprint king Chris Little finally conceded a win with Luke Morrison crossing ahead of him and Tony Egan in third.
Racing continues on a weekly basis during daylight saving. Registration opens 5.30 pm at the driver training centre.