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Burnie Criteriums - NE
Burnie, Tasmania, Australia, December 31, 2005
Burning up the streets
By Anthony Tan & Les Clarke in Burnie
A series of three criteriums along Burnie's seaside esplanade marked the penultimate day of racing at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals. Some chose to stay at home (or in their hotel rooms) after a hard week of racing, saving their legs for tomorrow's Burnie Carnival, but those who came out to race were rewarded. With the Dagwood Dogs stand at the top end, the 1.35 kilometre hot-dog circuit fitted in well with the surroundings, and a strong headwind down the main straight made for visually digestible racing.
Junior U15/U17 combined criterium, 15 minutes + 3 laps
Under 15 and under 17 riders combined for the first of the evening's criteriums, and it was no surprise to see Ben Grenda, son of Tassie Carnivals handicapper and former Los Angeles gold medallist Olympian Mike Grenda, assume control of proceedings and stay in control. In the end, it was this talented 15 year-old Tasmanian who won both sprint primes before comfortably outsprinting David Lyons and Alex Benson in the final dash to the line.
"Yeah, that was the main aim here, just to have a hit-out," said Grenda. "I planned to have a good, hard race, a good hit-out for tomorrow's carnival. The main aim is to try and go well in the rest of the carnivals in training for the national track titles in April," he said, speaking about the next year's junior track championships in Perth, Western Australia.
Already by the end of the first lap, Grenda's early accelerations had split the group to six riders in the 15 minutes plus three laps race. Four under 17 riders - including Grenda, David Lyons and Alex Benson - and two under 15s - Sam Brett and Brandon Stewart - made the cut.
Grenda and Lyons' repeated accelerations out of the two hairpin corners softened the legs of their breakaway companions, which also saw the former take out both intermediate sprints. Explained Grenda: "I was pretty confident in the sprint but I just wanted to make sure I had it in my legs at the end there - pick up the early sprints, make the guys a bit weaker and have a good hit at the end."
At two to go, Stewart was dropped. Shortly afterwards, a lull in the pace saw the remaining quintet roll nervously over the line on the bell lap. Coming out of the bottom hairpin, Grenda hit out hard to clearly distance himself from Lyons and Benson at the line; young Sam Brett wasn't far behind, riding a commendable race to finish as the first under 15.
"Yeah, it was pretty tough when these blokes picked up the pace," Lyons said. "I just tried to stay with them." With Lyons and his arch-rival, Luke Ockerby, winning two scratch races apiece, the victor of tomorrow in Burnie has become all the more important.
Women's A/B combined criterium, 20 minutes + 3 laps
The next race up saw a surprise result as a well-timed move late in the race rewarded breakaway riders Apryl Eppinger and Kate Warren. Both admitted afterwards nothing was planned, with Eppinger going as far as saying she wasn't even targeting the race before stealing the show.
"Actually, no!," she said when asked if the move was premeditated, a member of the Carnegie Caulfield cycling club who rides for the Jayco-VIS team. "I was just thinking, 'Ooh, twenty minutes - it's going to be a sprinters' race if we let it.'"
Warren said she was aware of the strength of the TIS/Cyclingnews duo of Belinda Goss and Grace Sulzberger, but added that wasn't her primary motivation for riding near the front. "Last year I got dropped off the back, so I was just aiming to try and get into the corners [early] to stick with the bunch," she said. "It was a surprise - a good surprise! - but I didn't think we'd get away; I thought they'd chase us down."
The race began fast, but when the field stayed largely intact bar two, proceedings slowed to a snail's pace. TIS/Cyclingnews rider Grace Sulzberger took the first of three intermediate sprints, and just when things slowed, Belinda Goss shot out of the top corner on her own. However, a dozen girls weren't keen on the powerful Tasmanian escaping, particularly Apryl Eppinger.
"I knew no one was going to let her get away, and every move she made, everyone jumped," she said. "It did bother me a bit, always starting and stopping, but getting into the headwind, it was a good opportunity to get them to hurt."
Goss comfortably won the following two sprint primes, seemingly asserting her authority. But with two laps to go, Eppinger accelerated out of the bottom corner and when she looked back, only Kate Warren followed. "Well, I thought there's a chance if we work together and just keep up the pace, we'd be able to stay away from them - and it worked out for us," Eppinger said.
At the line, the Victorian's finishing speed was far superior, winning by three bike lengths over a fatigued-looking Warren. Nonetheless, the Tassie girl was delighted to have finished second: "A bit tired from the week's racing... but pretty good now!" she chuckled. Predictably, the bunch sprint for third was taken by Goss over Peta Mullens and Jessica Berry.
"I've been looking forward to coming down here for a while," said Eppinger, a first-timer at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals. "I've been hearing a lot of stories about the Tassie Carnivals, so I thought, 'We'll get a team, come down and have a whirl.'
"The fields are really good, I've enjoyed the racing, but it's been pretty hard - definitely not easy!" she grinned.
Men's A/B Grade combined criterium, 35 minutes + 3 laps
Wes Sulzberger signalled his intentions for the Tour Down Under with a strong win in the men's A Grade combined criterium in Burnie to kick off that city's leg of the Tasmanian Christmas carnivals. Another member of the Sulzberger dynasty, Bernard, took second while Victorian rider Tim Decker took a well-deserved third place.
A field boasting names such as Health Net's Karl Menzies, former Barloworld pro Sean Sullivan and 19-year-old Matt Goss lined up for Saturday night's main event in Burnie, and with a powerful TIS crew present, the riders not part of the Tasmanian juggernaut certainly had their work cut out for them. And sure enough it was the TIS team that put the hurt on early, lifting the pace during the control lap enough to drop several riders who found the going too tough.
From that point on each of the 'blue bullets' took their turn to control the race pace; Menzies, Sullivan and Goss all had the bunch strung out, and after just three laps it looked like a TIS rider - any one of them - would take the win. An early break developed, with Goss, Bernard Sulzberger, Sullivan and Evan Oliphant having a go out front into the ever-increasing headwind.
Sullivan then broke from the select group and Victorian Leigh Howard gave chase - but it was short-lived, with the gap bridged just half a lap later. It was then time for Karl Menzies to show why he's one of the stars of American pro bike racing with a strong burst to further hurt the riders who were already having a tough time hanging on.
As the headwind picked up and the approaching storm loomed, Wes Sulzberger went off the front, with Tim Decker following his wheel. This was to be the start of the decisive move, as Travis Meyer joined the selection of the brothers Sulzberger and Tim Decker to make a group of four that would lead the race until the finish. Despite attempts by Mark Kelly, Christian Lademann, Menzies and Nathan Clarke to bridge the gap to the leaders, there was a distinct lack of urgency amongst the field to put themselves at the head of the race.
The gap between the leading group of four and the main field continued to grow, and at three laps to go the only acceleration was to come from the break, with the main bunch too tired to chase any harder. Barring accident or injury, it was now a certainty that the top four finishers would come from this group. With 1.5 laps remaining it was Wes Sulzberger who decided to flee the leading bunch, holding on for a comfortable win ahead of brother Bernard, who beat Tim Decker for second place, with Travis Meyer coming in for fourth place.
Following his commanding win, Sulzberger outlined the simple tactics that led to the win. "We just decided to share the load, hold the gap, and it all paid off," he said. A feature of the race was the way the two Sulzbergers worked well together, something that was planned before the race. "When we started the race we did have a tactical plan; and when we got away we definitely helped each other out. The wind really made it difficult and the hill livened it up a bit."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
Junior U15/U17 combined criterium, 15 minutes + 3 laps 1 Ben Grenda 22.25 2 David Lyons 3 Alex Benson Sprint primes 1 Ben Grenda 2 Ben Grenda Under 15 1 Sam Brett 2 Brandon Stewart 3 Amy Cure Women's A/B combined criterium, 20 minutes + 3 laps 1 Apryl Eppinger 2 Kate Warren 3 Belinda Goss 4 Peta Mullens 5 Jessica Berry Sprint primes 1 Grace Sulzberger 2 Belinda Goss 3 Belinda Goss Men's A/B combined criterium, 35 minutes + 3 laps 1 Wes Sulzberger (TIS) 2 Bernard Sulzberger (TIS) 3 Tim Decker (Vic) 4 Travis Meyer (WAIS) 5 Matt Goss (TIS) 6 Nathan Clarke (Tas) 7 Simon Clarke (Vic) B Grade 1 Daniel Furmston 2 Aaron Jones 3 Jiri Jezek