Wow, what a day! Thank you to everyone that helped make it happen from my team mates to the volunteers and the spectators to the competitors. A special thank you has to go out to the event sponsors though, who helped make it possible to build our little race up into something really special.
18 months ago I couldn’t even dream of creating an event on this scale, but it’s happened now and who knows what we can create for next year?
Lots of planning goes into the creation of the race and the promotion and, typically, it all comes down to a lot of running around on the morning of the race. Thanks to Tom at Lee Valley VeloPark for accommodating us and helping with last minute decisions for barriers and safety.
After rushing through the bike checks and rider sign on we managed to open 95% of the course while we sorted the timing system at the start/finish line and thankfully we managed to get it working and the rider briefing sorted without too much of a delay.
Once the first heats were under way then I could relax for a while and let the racers do the talking on the track. The heats were split into 3 for the men and 1 for the women. This way we could determine who was riding in Category A and B. The timing system had a few errors in the first couple of heats, but we managed to get around that the old-fashioned way and got our list of finalists sorted.
The Men’s B final was the first main race to get underway. This wasn’t a last chance race with the option to qualify for the A final, but a chance for some of the less experienced racers to get some laps under their belts and get a good taste of fixed crit racing. No primes, no fastest lap bonuses, just a straight up race to the finish line. Russell Peace had found himself in this race after an unfortunate crash in qualifying where he was taken out by another rider and soon decided that his best tactic was to time trial it from the front. The move stuck and he took a comfortable victory ahead of Alex de Cortada of SantaFixie BLB Team and Felix Speller of KYCU Velo.
The Women’s heat was so tight that it was hard to define a line between A and B categories. In the end 4 riders were separated for the B final and the rest of the women raced in the A category. The women all started at the same time and the A category soon separated from the B’s as the pressure to get those early race primes stretched out the field. Jo Smith took home both of the primes and the race then settled into a pace as each of the riders in the front group were thinking about the overall victory.
The B category women made it to lap 11 before being pulled as the A women were about to pass them. Elly Feeney of Velociposse took the win, followed by Heather Anderson (KYCU Velo) and Sarah Jones (Team False). Not long after we were left with a group of 14 women at the from of the race and it was looking more and more likely that it was going to end with a sprint finish. Aoife Doherty and Sophie Edmondson of The 5th Floor tried putting some attacks in on alternating laps to soften up the field but the pack pulled them back in. The attacks earned Aoife the Top Attacker award after the race.
As we got to the final lap the front 14 were still all together. Caz Pulford (NLTCBMBC) had led the last couple of laps around the tight hairpin at turn one, but this time the more seasoned racers had positioned themselves for one last push around the circuit. As they went down the hill and out to the far side of the course it was anyones race. Who would return up the short climb in front? The finishing sprint wouldn’t be easy with the kick of the short sharp incline draining their legs on every circuit. In the end all 14 appeared together, it was going to need a photo finish! Jo Smith took the win by 0.3 seconds and then Hayley Edwards (Stanridge) and Brooke Phillips (ELF Huez*) were split by a tyre width! There was just 2.5 seconds between 1st and 14th, such an exciting finish to the race.
I regained my composure and got the Men’s A final lined up on start line. Teething problems with the timing system meant I couldn’t grid them as accurately as I would’ve liked to, but they seemed to understand. I briefed them all, gave them a countdown to the start of the race and sent them on their way. After they were all safely around the opening hairpin the gun fired to start the race.
The race for the first lap prime was on and it was taken by Matt Payne of ELF Huez*. Brian Megens (fixedgearcrit.com) launched an attack straight after and got a decent gap, but the pack pulled him back in again in time for the second prime which was won by Owen Blandy (also ELF Huez*). The constant pressure on the front meant that quite a few of the riders were struggling to keep up with the pace and by the half way point more than half of the racers had left the track due to being a lap down.
Like the women’s race, we were soon left with an elite group on the front. This time made up of 25 men. Eike Haumann (Fixedpott) attempted a couple of breakaways before one stuck and he managed to get a 15 second gap. The gap stuck for nearly 4 laps before the pack started to reel him in and then eventually collected him a few laps later. The move was enough to secure him the Top Attacker award. The laps had ticked by quickly and it was looking like another exciting sprint finish for the crowd that had swelled to more than I could’ve imagined in my wildest dreams.
We had some world class athletes at the front of the race and as they rounded the hairpin for the final time Alec Briggs (Specialized Rocket Espresso) put the hammer down and dragged the peloton behind him as they all knew how dangerous he was over one lap.
And they were right. Alec emerged first from under the bridge and up the kicker. Arms out wide he took in the roars of the crowd as he crossed the line in style. Paul Vanotti (Disorderly Habits) and Alessandro Mariani (IRD Carrera SC) battled it out and both wheelied over the line for the final podium positions.
3 seconds split 1st to 17th. It was great to have two such close and well fought races for the crowd to watch at the VeloPark and online as there were lots of feeds appearing of the final on Instagram and Facebook.
The only thing left to do was award the prizes, clean up the track for the public to use again and go for some drinks at Mason & Taylor.
Full results can be found on www.thundercr.it.