December 17, 2017 – Criterium Championships Day, Victoria Park, Ballarat

OSCAR’S Hotel & Cafe

2017 EUREKA Cycling CRITERIUM Championships

December 17

Ballarat Criterium Circuit, Victoria Park

EVCC 2017 Criterium Championships - poster

The inaugural EUREKA Cycling Criterium Championships were staged in Victoria Park under a blue sky and warm sun.  Proudly sponsored by OSCAR’S Hotel and Cafe, the Criterium Championships promised to be an exciting conclusion to the 2017 Eureka racing season.
In homage to the club’s home base at Learmonth, a strong breeze blew across the circuit and reminded riders that there is no such thing as an easy race.
A later than normal start – to accommodate the Ballarat Triathlon Club staging an event in the park – gave riders time to shoot the breeze and relax before the oncoming storm.
Just after 10:30 AM they were able to roll out on course and practise before pre race ventolin administering was conducted under the watchful eye of debut Race Referee – Dean Wells.

Division 3 (40 minutes plus two laps):

Four riders doesn’t allow for much cover from the wind.
In the early stages Dan Whelan and Kevin Lee shared the pacemaking role and maintained a speed that would eventually wear the other two challengers down.
Brian Lee was making a rare 2017 appearance on the racetrack – he was just happy to be out rolling his legs over.
Phil McLennan has made a great start to his cycling career and in his first season he was keen to collect a medal of some description.

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However, Whelan and Lee’s plan to dominate from the start was simplistic to apply and they soon had their foes stretched.  Halfway through tand the race was at their mercy (barring a mechanical incident).
They received the two lap call and were not far off catching McLennan, having previously passed Brian.  Cat and mouse for the final lap before Whelan ramped the pace up from a long way out. He couldn’t shake the wily Lee though!
Swinging into the home straight “Popeye” hooked out and accelerated way from Whelan for a comfortable win.

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Division 3 Championship (40 minutes plus two laps) results:
1st – Kevin Lee
2nd – Dan Whelan
3rd – Phil McLennan

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Division 2 (45 minutes plus two laps):

With the no-show of a few pre-race favourites, the Division 2 race quickly became a showdown between the two “trackies”…would James “Mac The Knipe” be able to stop the bullocky sprint of James “Ralph Jones” Gretton?
Michael Veal rolled up on his bespoke alloy Kermit The Frog/Miss Piggy fusion. All metallic green and pink, “the Doc’s” bike certainly reminded us of another reason we ride bikes…because they are things of beauty!
Roger McMillan was hoping to collect another Division 2 Championship medal and maybe even go one better than his silver from the Road Champs.
Peter Livitsanis was planning on sheltering behind all the big guys in the wind and trying to out-sprint them at the end.

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From early on McMillan was riding away from the other four – unfortunately it was out the rear.  This required much sharing of the headwind between the other four and they all duly took their turns on the front.
Resigned to the fact that no-one was crazy enough to attempt a breakaway, the race was always destined for a sprint finish and the four had already “turned off” well before receiving the call for two laps.

At the bell and they were all keeping a watchful eye just in case someone tried to steal a last minute break.  All were poised as they swept into the home straight.
Livitsanis lacked the required firepower as Gretton opened a small gap.  Knipe loomed on the outside, but Veal came through smashing the gears and taking great chunks out of Gretton’s advantage with each powerful stroke.
With contorted faces they raced to the line with Veal clearing out to score a length win.

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Division 2 Championship (45 minutes plus two laps) results:
1st – Michael Veal
2nd – James Gretton
3rd – James Knipe

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Championship Event (50 minutes plus two laps):

An impressive mix of new and old lined up in the Championship Race.  Old as in “old hands” at this racing caper and new as in “first year Eureka members”.
Bob Braszell, Rob Phillips and Matt Bowman were flying the flag for the older generation, Tim Canny, Jason Birch, Craig Lee and Jim Crumpler (arguably the best four sprinters in the club), along with Peter Gunston and Jeremy Vanderklift made up the “new” challengers.

The race was always going to be fast and hard on the flat course especially with the Canny/Bowman rivalry.  Canny knew his best chance was to line the field out and drop Bowman early, then out-sprint any challengers that may remain.  Bowman knew his best chance was to time trial off the front and grind them all into the tarmac.
Everyone else knew pain was in their future.  And it was so!

Early attacks by Canny had the field stretched and struggling.  Less than ten minutes into the race and oxygen masks were being handed out.
Surges into the wind broke the field apart and Braszell retired to the sidelines.  Vanderklift was way out the back, however he could still make out Phillips in the distance.
Gunston was in no man’s land with Bowman just ahead.  He tacked on for a few laps, but once Bowman recovered his heart rate he accelerated away to try and rejoin the front of the race.
Crumpler eased off from the Canny, Lee, Birch juggernaut – when your heart is trying to jump out of your chest and you can hear your own death rattles…it’s time to stop.
He linked up with Gunston for a while, but the race was effectively over for them both and like Phillips and Vanderklift they would just enjoy the rest of the day on the smooth surface.

Up ahead and Canny kept pushing the envelope.  Birch and Lee rolled through for the odd turn, but Canny kept the high pace rolling as he wasn’t convinced Bowman was quite done with.  He was right!
Bowman rejoined and took a breather at the back whilst the other three continued the assault.  No friendly pacemaking here, the race was always in the gutter and everyone was always on their limit.

Short attacks soon had Bowman off the back again.  This time the gap blew out to a few hundred metres and with half the race remaining it looked like the three leaders would be the medallists.  But!
The name is Bowman, Matt Bowman.  The man who makes the impossible possible!  And once again…he rode back to them.  Just before rejoining, Birch announced to his cohorts (with a great deal of exasperation) ‘He’s back on!’.
If only Bowman would just concede, maybe Lee and Birch would get some reprieve from the ridiculous pace Canny kept forcing on them…

More short attacks ensued and Bowman was again off the back.  Settling into time trial mode he gradually rode back to the leaders…again!
This time, with less than ten minutes to race, the short attacks did not resume.

Now was danger time, because Canny, Lee and Birch fully expected the freak to ride off the front and put pay to them.  Two laps to go and the four are in tight formation.
Bowman was now in control, because he had won their minds…
Three sets of eyes looking for the shadow…
Three sets of ears listening for the whoosh…
Three hearts pounding…

Bell lap and the formation is still tight.  The ball is completely in Bowman’s court.  He knows they won’t attack.  They know that he will…but when.

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Out of the trees straight and onto the east road, Bowman is winding up and then accelerating.  He goes to the lead and opens a small gap as they enter the straight.

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Birch can’t respond and Canny looks to be the danger.  He comes down the outside and goes to the lead.
Lee is coming down the centre and draws level.
It’s desperate, it’s close, it’s Lee!

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Championship Race (50 minutes plus two laps) results:
1st – Craig Lee
2nd – Tim Canny
3rd – Matt Bowman

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Winners and place getters from each race received a Championship medal and a voucher from event sponsor OSCAR’S Hotel & Cafe.
Craig Lee also received the Club Criterium Champion sash.

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Also presented on the day were the silver and bronze medals from the EUREKA Cycling Club Championship Road Race – to Craig Lee and Jason Birch.

Tony Mirabella received a trophy for winning the 2017 Club Aggregate.  Tim Canny received a silver medal for finishing second in the aggregate.
Peter Livitsanis and Dean Wells received bronze medals for tying in third place.

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