We’ve been travelling since September so our cycling fixes have been few and far between. We’ve managed to do a couple of days touring on bikes in Asia but exposure to proper riders riding proper bikes has been limited to watching a dodgy internet stream of the World Championships back in September. Fortunately we find ourselves in Melbourne at just the right time of year for the grandly titled “Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic” or as everyone calls it, the “Bay Crits”.
The Bay Crits are a series of 4 Criterium races held annually in the first week of the new year in and around the Melbourne area. They attract the cream of Australian riders (as well as a bunch of Kiwis and the odd Euro) eager to get some early season competitive action and serve as a warm up for the Aussie nationals that are held the following week.
Unfortunately for us, a combination of previous commitments, lack of car and the first 3 races being held 1.5hrs away in the Geelong area meant that we were only able to make the final race in the lovely little Melbourne suburb of Williamstown.
We were a little disappointed by the course at first as it’s a flat, 1km long rectangle. As we overheard one of the Roxsolt team saying prior to the race “Ride hard and keep turning left” – very much a course for track riders! However it was to lend itself to some extremely fast aggressive racing in all four races that day.
I’m sure the men’s races will get written up extensively elsewhere but we were mainly there to see a very strong field in the women’s race. Wiggle Honda (or Wiggle Down Under as they’d branded themselves for this race) were there in force. Team Owner Rochelle Gilmore is herself a 3 time winner of this event and had brought a very strong team with both Giorgina Bronzini and Chloe Hosking looking like contenders for the overall title and backed by the likes of Eileen Roe and Emillia Fahlin. Their main opposition came from the well established Orica AIS team that included Gracie Elvin and Amanda Sprat and also the newly formed Roxsolt outfit.
Roxsolt are almost a pop-up cycling team. Set up by Kelvin Rundle (aka Crazycylefan on Twitter) to provide a team structure for the domestic season for Aussie riders who have other teams whilst riding in Europe. This year they came armed with Tiff Cromwell, Lauren Kitchen, Loren Rowney and a strong supporting cast.
Going into today’s decider, the race for the overall competition was down to two riders – Hosking of Wiggle leading with Lauren Kitchen of Roxsolt just two points behind. Basically if Hosking finished ahead of Kitchen then she would take the title.
Racing conditions were perfect – a cloudless 25C day was a marked contrast to Stages 1 & 2 which were held in unbearable 40C heat, with a hot wind adding to the discomfort. The action started straight from the first lap – the 3 teams with the pro riders all had something to play for. Orica AIS held the lead in the team competition whilst Wiggle and Roxsolt were trying for the overall for their team-mates.
Numerous breaks tried to go away but on such a flat course with a strong field, nothing managed to snap the elastic and stay out. Wiggle’s job was simple – keep as many riders in the front bunch as you can and get Hosking over the line ahead of Kitchen. Roxsolt threw the kitchen sink (sorry……!) at them with Tiff Cromwell in particular attacking numerous times but when the last lap bell rang Wiggle were there in greater numbers and managed to get Bronzini the win by inches from Kimberly Wells of Roxsolt.
With Chloe Hosking finishing 3rd (ahead of Kitchen in 6th) and taking the overall title it looked like a great day for Wiggle – however there was some controversy as Roxsolt appealed the verdict. They claimed that Bronzini had pushed Kimberly Wells before the final bend which had ruined her chances of winning. It wouldn’t have affected the overall standings but may have given Roxsolt the consolation of the win. After a long deliberation, the commissaires ruled that whilst there had been a push it didn’t materially affect the result. We didn’t see the incident but it seemed like a very strange decision if there was pushing. Guess we’ll have to wait for the highlights to see for ourselves.
If you’re ever in the Melbourne area in the New Year, we can definitely recommend checking out the Bay Crits. All of the racing was high quality, the weather’s usually great, riders happy to chat and there’s bars all around the course. What more can a cycling fan ask for!
You can find more of our photos from today on Flickr