March 26 and April 2, 2017 – Autumn Criterium Series

Autumn Criterium Series 2017

Round 1 – March 26

Production Drive, Alfredton

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In the week of Mario Cipollini’s 50th birthday, it was the most un-Cippo racers that we raise a glass to.

A Grade

What does it take to beat Tony “The Italian Stallion” Mirabella in a crit?  Well, A Grade might have worked it out…but only just.
The signs were there early that something was afoot – a “no-so-fresh” Tony who had raced the day before – and three likely lads showing up together at the last moment to sign on, perspiring like horses from a pretty intensive warm up.
It was a cunning plan, so cunning you could bang a tail on it and call it a fox.

From the start Greg Ley was keen to set a pretty good pace to toughen up affairs and perhaps take the sting out of the sprinters.
Dean Wells was also prominent early but then for some inexplicable reason toned it down and stopped being the pacesetter, even when he found himself off the front he actually sat up!  Most un-Phantom like!
Stu Brien has a reputation as a bit of a crit monster and found himself in elite company, but undaunted he attacked about 12 minutes into the race, putting 30 metres into them in the blink of an eye.  His lead stretched to the length of the home straight before anyone really tried to reel him back in.
Greg and Tony Mirabella did the bulk of the work, with little assistance from Rick Calvert and Richard Taylor – Dean, feet up, whistling quietly to himself, just went along for the ride.

The intermediate sprint arrived with Stu still out on his escapade, and he was rewarded for his 20 minute breakaway with the sprint win (by a handsome 29.5 sec) for $5, good value for effort that.  Anyway, eventually Stu tired after being out front for probably 20 minutes.  He had recovered some energy during the last few laps it took Greg and Tony to catch him, so he was able to latch on to the rear quite easily.

The race careened along at an average over 38 kph, which wasn’t fast enough from President Faulkner who was heard encouraging the lads from the sidelines, “have a go” he bawled at them as they sped past.
Richard Robocop Taylor was also in an uncharacteristically watchful mood, content to counter Greg’s attacks but not ambitious enough to launch his own, and he sat snuggly on Tony’s wheel for most of proceedings.
Tony was keen to animate the race with constant changing of pace and racing out of corners, however there seemed to be an unwritten script to this race as the rest of the field sat off him and rode tempo to bring him back in, he was burning matches for little result.  Is there intelligence emerging in the A Grade field?
Rick “Sudso” Calvert looks like he’s cut his own hair, it is shorter, but he looks like a chewed toothbrush now.  Saturday he was feeling rubbish and could hardly keep up with C grade riders, today he was a man reborn and he threw caution to the wind put in a few flyers throughout the race.  Perhaps not taking these seriously enough, the rest of the field failed to respond until Greg saw a crack of light spring from the door of opportunity and he went with him just before we got the call for two laps.  With that call, Greg and Rick had a handy 20 metre break on the field.
Robocop and The Phantom Wells ramped the pace up behind and closed the gap, but didn’t complete the catch in fear that Tony would probably attack.
Bell lap and Greg dropped off the lead to just leave Rick out in front.  Rounding the bottom corner, The Phantom got onto Rick’s wheel, with Stu and Tony just behind (and in the gutter).
Around Muncher’s corner and Rick was emptying the bottom drawers of courage as he persisted, Phantom stuck it to them on the corner and opened a small gap and clicked up one more gear – time to grit the teeth and hold – perhaps he can sprint afterall?
Closing to the line Tony was moving up fast on the inside.  Phantom redoubled the effort as the crowd was going nuts on the sidelines, wanting to see a darkhorse win.  This seemed to spur Phantom on for just the two seconds he needed to hold his sprint and he crossed the line winning by half a wheel.
Stu got caught wide coming around the home turn but sprinted through the field to claim third.

Results:
1st – Dean Wells
2nd – Tony Mirabella
3rd – Stuart Brien
Int. sprint – Stuart Brien

B Grade

Paul Crack arrived on the start line and with his name tag hovering over A grade on the white board, admits to the handicapper that he’s on drugs today (for gastro), the handicapper takes pity on him, and slots the poor suffering soul into B Grade with the rest of the invalids.  His guts might have been in a twist but his legs seemed to work just fine – lesson for the handicapper.
Mark “Mocha” O’Callaghan, Steve Biram and James “Mack the Knife” Knipe were all backing up from a hard-fought Open with legs that felt like pushing cooked spaghetti through custard.
Today B Grade also welcomed a new rider to Eureka – Brian Ure is no stranger to racing, son of a traditional Ballarat cycling family, and racing himself since before he could walk.  A bit of a test for him today and riding a classic steel Paconi resplendent with downtime shifters.  The handicapper had a wary eye on him and rightly so, Brian is a poised, smooth pedalling, smart rider, who only imposed himself late in the race.
Not so patient, Steve Biram was in a feisty mood, his mantra for the day was Attack-Recover-Repeat.  On occasion he was off the front by 50 metres but was returned to the fold usually by Mocha and Paul riding tempo.

The intermediate sprint was contested by the full field, all together on the turn and an honest dash for the cash, Mocha and Crack seeing it through as the rest eased up once they realised they weren’t in this one.  Paul eclipsing Mocha for $5.

Closing in on the last few minutes of the race and Brian who had been as patient as a temple full of monks, finally selected “the” gear, this went unmarked by all except the relatively unsighted Fifi, who has a keen eye for Italian steel and classic bikes, he knew Brian wasn’t reaching for his water bottle.  Brian roars out of his hibernation and launches a full blooded attack, so late in the race it couldn’t go unmarked, even though it was so far out.  Fifi covered the move, but the rest were strung out like Christmas tree lights on the Christmas tree of carnage.

Bell lap, the rest of the field was pulling itself together for a chase when the second surge kicks in around the bottom corner, however Brian’s matchbook is empty and he sputters to a close in the back straight.  Fifi looks back sees a 30 metre gap, pinning his ears back, he buries everything into the last 500 metres and scampers away a clear winner from a fast finishing Paul and Mack.

Results:
1st – Peter Livitsanis
2nd – Paul Crack
3rd – James Knipe
Int. Sprint – Paul Crack

C Grade

Graeme Parker had sweat on his brow as he rolled up for a start, having left his commute to the race to the last moment, at least he was warmed up, and hopefully not worn out.  Graeme needed his racing legs on today as Eureka welcomed back one of its favourite sons to C Grade, the evergreen Barry Robinson making his first appearance for some time and Rob Young was at the race early pacing around like a caged tiger.

Despite being a group of three, the race was conducted at a cruel pace designed to dampen the enthusiasm of any would-be solo artists.  This lively speed saw C Grade keeping pace with B Grade for much of the first half of the race, and indeed Graeme threw in a few attacks that saw C Grade steam past B Grade.

The intermediate sprint saw Barry skip clear from a less than enthusiastic Graeme to take the modest honours, Graeme had bigger fish to fry today and didn’t know how his dodgey knee would hold up, like-as-not it only had one real sprint in it.

The race settled as it became apparent that these evenly matched combatants were heading to a sprint finish. Barry and Rob were buoyed by their early performance against Graeme so far, and eagerly pursued the rest of the race.  Little did they know that Graeme had a nitro canister still tucked in his back pocket.

The pace quickened with two laps to go as the threesome jockeyed for position into corners.  The bell lap saw Graeme and Barry open a small gap on Rob which they exploited with some hard cornering around Munchers.  Graeme assessed how his knee was feeling, looked across at Barry, smiled, and hit the nitrous, his back wheel spinning with explosive force he kicked clear.  Barry was sucked along more than holding his wheel, Graeme sprinting like a 17-year-old for the win.

Results:
1st – Graeme Parker
2nd – Barry Robinson
3rd – Robert Young
Int Sprint – Barry Robinson

Round 2 – April 2

Production Drive, Alfredton

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Whispered allegations of mechanical doping as two of Tony Mirabella’s bikes were ridden to victory today.
Could this be Tony testing out an early proto-type?

A Grade

Tony “The Italian Stallion” Mirabella restored order to the universe by easily accounting for a much depleted A Grade field of three.
With registration drawing to a close it looked like Tony might be racing himself, when finally Stu Brien and Rob Phillips rolled up.  Stu and the Big Mig were probably looking for a bigger field to share the load, but they took up the challenge like the masochistic individuals we know them to be.
A small consolation was the knowledge that, even though they were probably racing for second, they would both finish on the podium.

Stu decided the best form of defence was self-annihilation as he animated the race early, Rob took a counter race plan of sitting in and have his legs pulled off slowly.  Surely it was all just a matter of time before Tony dropped the hammer and asserted his dominance.  However, Rob and Stu were not going away easily and seemed to enjoy their time in the hurt locker, perhaps even taunting Tony like condemned men on the gallows.

With two to go, Tony regally dismissed the pair from his presence and sauntered off to claim his prize.
In the sprint for second, Rob still had a few matches left while Stu’s sprinting wallet only had a couple of dead moths and a used train ticket in it.

Results:
1st – Tony Mirabella
2nd – Rob Phillips
3rd – Stuart Brien

B Grade

Jeremy Humber was in the right place at the right time to take an untidy sprint.  Jeremy expertly navigating the confusion from the front, while shutting the door on a couple of the main contenders.  B Grade had heads on ‘em like mice, the 11 starters making this the biggest crit field ever assembled at Eureka, and a unique racing experience for those accustomed to more intimate racing experiences.
The main aggressors Duncan Bates, Paul Crack and Matt Ayres with an occasional flourish from James Knipe.
Bob Morley content to stay mid pack and let Mark O’Callaghan and Roger McMillan close down the sporadic sortees.
Danny Whelan and Brian Ure watched proceedings from the rear discovering that with such a large field, the exit out of each corner was a bit of a sprint to stay in touch, they were blowing smoke by mid race.
Jeremy kept himself tidy and patient for the race and looked the most unlikely of winners until it really mattered.

The big field kept everyone watchful, not so much for who was jumping off the front but for who went second or third, and what sort of combination that made out the front.

As the race entered the final 10 minutes attacks became more frequent and vigorous but seldom did the field allow any more than two riders away and by less than 50 metres.
With two to go it seemed everyone was content on a late sprint, no long distance raids and the slightest suggestion of someone even changing gears was met with a howl of alarm.

Final lap and the pace picked up with 500 metres to go, then almost stopped into the wind around the last corner, no one wanted to lead this one out.  This allowed Jeremy to claim the prized inside running, the slackening pace also encouraged Mocha to accelerate from the rear of the field cornering wide, Bob and Roger accepting this gift lead-out to move up.
A messy last corner saw nine riders exit almost together, with wheels crossing and curses thrown it was just a slugfest to the line.
The blanket finish saw the first six over the line with less than two bike lengths in it.  Matt Ayres made up some ground on the inside as did Paul Crack but it didn’t open up for them, and they were left sprinting in third gear.

Results:
1st – Jeremy Humber
2nd – Paul Crack
3rd – Matt Ayres

C Grade

Rob Young stormed home to win C Grade in a final sprint from Graeme Parker who faded late in the sprint, was that his knee or his brakes that locked up in his reverse sprint for second?
C Grade also welcomed back Brad Crit Monster Eppingstall for his first race since Moses was a boy.  Brad has got a bit of building to do and while he rode in the wheels for the first half, a series of attacks from Rob and Graeme saw him distanced to ride out the race by himself.

In a repeat of last week the C Graders kept pace with, and occasionally went past the B Graders, however this week there were only two of them and eleven B Graders, both Graeme and Rob are in better knick than you might expect and will be a more than a handful in the handicap races coming up.

Results:

1st – Robert Young
2nd – Graeme Parker
3rd – Brad Eppingstall

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