For the first time in many years we had cycle racing back in the centre of Bunbury on Sunday with an action packed round of the Ring Criterium Series.
The course got a big thumbs up with the spectacular backdrop of the Bunbury Inlet on the home straight and the great vibe of packed cafes on the other side of the course.
First to test it out among the local riders were Jessica Lawler and Isabella Commons in C Women.
Jessica has a renewed enthusiasm for riding and put in some strong efforts on the front endeavoring to lead out the younger Isabella.
In the end Emily Wiggins from Albany was too strong in the sprint and took the win from Kirsten Simpson with Isabella crossing for a well deserved third place.
The South West was well represented in D grade with Pete Frawley, Steve Camarri, Andrew McGruddy, Frank Calcei, Russell Horlin, new racer Dougal Herd and Brian Johnson as well as the President of the Busselton Cycle Club Claes Qvarnstrom.
The pace was on early and Brian Johnson who has been competing in several rounds of the Ring Series was in the early move quickly joining a group of six who got a small break on the rest of the field.
Johnson tried several times to break this group up further and did plenty of work on the front but in the end the younger legs in the group were too quick with Calum Milne from Peel taking the win.
Russell Horlin led home the chase group after doing a lot of work on the front throughout the race.
C grade was a large field with the South West again prominent.
Marten Howes broke away early with one of the juniors from Peel and the pair quickly established a good break.
Gradually the bunch chased them down however and although there were a number of counter moves, there was still a large group heading into the bell lap.
With the pace not really on in the last couple of laps, riders were jostling for position resulting in a significant crash in the final corner.
Those fortunate not to be caught up in the crash sprinted for placings with Saxon Adams from Midland crossing the line ahead of Jarryd Heldt from Busselton with Steve Roberts doing well to get on the podium in third place.
Young Lowen Ferry was fifth with Chris Howard seventh and Marten Howes ninth with Busselton’s Adrian Wood rounding out the finishers in sixteenth place.
After witnessing the spectacular crash, B grade started more conservatively but the pace was soon hot with those who knew they had to get away before the sprint attempting moves regularly.
Jordan Dawson from Peel was one of the main protagonists either off the front or on the front chasing down the breaks.
Cadel Adams was one of the early escapees although his break was only short lived.
Mick Darlington also put in several strong efforts pushing the limits through the corners to get a break.
Young Ben Hastie and Busselton’s Courtland Wood rode strongly in this grade with the pace up well over 40kph.
With the field together, the pace was definitely on for the last few laps with riders strung out.
Coming into the last corner, Eddy Hollands showed his years of experience leading the field and spring boarding his sprint into the home straight.
The crowd were cheering for local favourite Josh Commons, a first year under 17 with an amazing power output in the sprint.
Josh gave his all but came up just short of the veteran Hollands.
Second place in a quality field with an average of around 43 kilometres per hour is still an amazing result for such a young rider and Josh certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
Following the B grade action, the Little Critters took to the course with over 20 under 11 riders having a go at riding around the circuit.
Young Sam Morrison from Margaret River was very enthusiastic resplendent in the Australian colours and was first across the line after two laps.
Showing a good pedalling style, Morrison will no doubt be looking for the next event to take part in.
All the kids were winners on the day and enjoyed their time in the lime light riding through the centre of Bunbury and were rewarded with a medallion for their efforts.
Next up it was A grade women on course and although there were no local riders competing, there were plenty of tactics on display to keep the crowd interested.
Out in front Rebecca Mackey and Emily Mascaro had to work together to keep the chasers at bay but were reluctant to form too much of an alliance with the overall victory on the line.
In the end Mackey was too strong with Mascaro second and Natalie Britz claiming third ahead of Anna Heitz.
With the A grade men then lining up for 50 minutes plus two laps, there was once again plenty of local interest with over half the field from the South West.
Connor Lambert from the 225 Racing club was on the attack early with a series of moves that forced the field to react.
Unfortunately an accident at the back of the field saw Justin Ghosh out of the race and SWCC’s Nicholas Lawler who was behind this incident also lost contact with the group meaning the end of his race.
The South West’s Scott Sunderland was riding well on or near the front with a number of the Satalyst Verve riders putting in efforts to get away.
In the end it was Aaron Barclay from Midland, JP Van der Merwe from 225 Racing and Craig Wiggins from Albany who established a break just over halfway through the race.
They quickly got a decent gap on the chasers and seemed to have the podium stitched up.
SWCC’s Bryce Lanigan decided to have a go at bridging across and put in a strong solo effort gaining ground for several laps before realising he was not going to make the junction.
This did however pull the main field to within striking distance and for a few laps it once again looked like the front group could be reeled in.
This was not to be however with Craig Wiggins taking the win, the third for his family in a very successful day for the Albany Cycle Club.
JP Van der Merwe put in a great ride to claim second with Aaron Barclay in third place.
Scott Sunderland sprinted strongly to lead the chase bunch home ahead of Connor Lambert, Bryce Lanigan and Bradley Linfield with local rider Tony Doherty rounding out the top ten.
Many thanks to the City of Bunbury for supporting this event with traffic management and to Melo Velo for rewarding the many volunteers.
With positive feedback on the course and a great atmosphere down Victoria street, planning is already underway to take this event to the next level and look at an evening event next year.
In the meantime the Ring Series heads to Gnangara next with the SWCC hosting the last event in the series at Pemberton on the long weekend in March.