I’d been anxious about race day for the past couple of weeks. Trying to balance work, family and ThunderCrit organising had worn me down. I only had myself to blame, as I struggle to let go of tasks and delegate properly to my team mates. Without them, the race wouldn’t have happened.
The start list was packed with a mix of big names and local racers eager to get some race experience with a lack of UK races currently on the calendar. There were 4 men’s qualification groups that would see the top 20 of each move into the Men’s A final in the evening. The remaining riders would battle it out in the Men’s B final. We had 19 women racing too, not quite enough to allow us to run two separate races, but enough to let us run an A and a B group in the Women’s final.
Qualifications got underway and the first group was fast and furious, perhaps too fast. There was a bunch sprint for the line (top 10 places in each heat are gridded in the final) and a clash of wheels took Liam Yates (The 5th Floor) out and to the ground. Heats 2, 3, 4 and the women’s heat went without incident and we had our qualifiers sorted for the A finals.
A delay following a nasty crash in the Men’s B final meant we needed to shorten the two main races. We took the Women’s final down from 24 to 20 laps and the Men’s final from 30 to 25 laps.
The women lined up in order of their finish in the qualifying heat. Eeva Sarlin (Love&Rockets Basso) had won the heat and lined up on the front row with her team mate Brooke Philips, Fixed42 winner Giorgia Fraiegari, defending ThunderCrit champion Jo Smith (NLTCBMBC) and Lina Bivainyte (Cadence Factory Team). I went over the rules and explained where the prime laps when going to happen. We counted them down and off they went.
It was a fast start as we had a first lap prime prize of a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and cadence sensor. Eeva took the opening prime. The race was starting to settle and Caz Pulford (NLTCBMBC) took control of the group and dragged the peloton around for a few laps, above that would see her win the top antagonist prize from Hiplok, until it was time for the mid-race prime. Giorgia Fraiegari showed her class and moved up around the pack to take the honours. The race settled again.
There were a few attacks off the front, but no one was allowed to escape. We were definitely heading to a bunch sprint. On the last lap Eeva and Brooke were at the front of the race with Giorgia and it looked like there were some team tactics going on. They sprinted off to the far end of the course and we waited at the finish line to see who would come through first. Eeva came around the last corner with a small gap to Giorgia and Brooke and neither of them could catch her.
The sun was starting to set (we were running late) and it was time for the Men’s A final. The riders who had finished in the top 10 in their heats were gridded with the front row being Olivier Leroy (Aventon), Euan Cattermole (Nvayrk), Alec Briggs (Specialized/Rocket Espresso) and Owen Blandy (East London Fixed). Once everyone was in place we honoured the memory of Nico Oury who had tragically passed away exactly one year ago to the day.
The crowd counted down with us as we got the last final underway. 80 top class riders going full gas from the start to get that prime. Miqui Rueda of Santafixie BLB Team took the first lap honours and the pace stayed high throughout. Olivier Leroy launched an attack just before the mid-race prime lap and he managed to get a decent gap to take the Selle San Marco prize before being joined by Stefan Schäfer (Specialized/Rocket Espresso) to form a two man break.
Cykeln Division Corse and One Life Cycle led the chase, but the gap wasn’t going down. The next lap round and Alec Briggs and Justin Williams (Specialized/Rocket Espresso) had got to the front of the group. Alec got a small 5 second gap over the main group and on the next lap launched an attack before the hairpin and sprinted full power down the back straight. He bridged to the leaders in just one lap. An incredible move. We now had a front three and Justin Williams controlling the pack behind. The laps ticked down and the gap to the leaders had grown to about 20 seconds, we had our top three and just needed the order confirmed.
Heading into the last lap, Briggs and Schäfer led Leroy around the first corner and Briggs started to get away from the other two down the long straight to corner 3. The seconds ticked by and the crowd were searching down the track to see who would emerge first. It was Briggs with a healthy gap and a trademark wheelie over the finish line. Followed by Leroy and then Schäfer. There were still more places to be decided though and Justin Williams launched an insanely fast sprint to take 4th ahead of James Ambrose-Parish (1 Life Cycle), Time Ceresa (8bar Team), and Roberto Pagliaccia (Cykeln Division Corse).
A hell of a finish to a long but successful day of racing. Thanks so much to everyone that was there or was a part of the race. The after party drinks were well deserved! More of the same next year.