Stars show their class as Welsford wins and Spratt successful at the opening day of the Lexus Of Blackburn Bay Crits
The 2020 Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits began under a hazy sky with smoke from the Victorian bush fires descending upon the Geelong foreshore earlier today.
But conditions cleared just in time for the elite women’s and men’s races on the tight Ritchie Boulevard circuit, with thousands of holiday makers enjoying a picturesque evening at the event.
In the Men's race, the world record holding Team Pursuit track team rode together as 'Lexus of Blackburn' and controlled the front of the race from the early stages, before NICHOLAS WHITE (Team BridgeLane) established a small lead around the halfway mark.
With 17 minutes to go the race was brought back together by the Novotel-Mitchelton team, before LUKE DURBRIDGE (Novotel-Mitchelton) put the pressure on with a relentless turn at the front, shelling most of the 43 riders out the back. Those that remained formed into some flying last laps before track World Champion SAM WELSFORD emerged to take the win over mountain bike star CAMERON IVORY (GPM Schulz) and National Criterium Champion BRENTON JONES (Novotel-Mitchelton).
Welsford getting home with some skin missing after an early crash:
"It was quite early, there was some jostling for position and a few bumps but that was alright. Around the first corner I maybe tipped it in a bit too much or maybe clipped my pedal, I’m not sure but I just slid out I just lost my front end. I got up really fast and ran over the gears and got back in a lap later. I had to gather myself because the adrenaline would have been pumping. I got straight back in and lucky the boys backed me in."
"Laying down this foundation early in January sets us up for a good season especially for the [track] worlds around the corner, I think it’s 50 days away almost so that’s looming, then it’s the big dance in Tokyo."
"I always love winning, especially for the guys that help me. To win the opening stage of Bay Crits is pretty special for me, I always used to watch it on TV with the likes of Robbie McEwan and [Chris] Jongewaard and those guys racing, so to win one of these is special to me."
In the Women's race veteran PETA MULLENS (Roxsolt Attaquer) put the pressure on early before AMANDA SPRATT (Lexus of Blackburn) and RUBY ROSEMAN-GANNON (Appelsec) jumped off the front nearly half an hour in and established a 40-second advantage.
The 21-year-old, who learnt her craft on the track with the Brunswick Cycling Club, found it difficult to hold onto Spratt as they lunged to the line, with the former World Championship Silver Medalist taking the opening stage.
"It’s my 15th time at the Bay Crits so I love to start my season here, it’s showing my age, I probably shouldn’t say that but it’s probably the race I get the most nervous for out of the whole season because you’ve just had your whole off-season, it’s the first race since the World Championships and to get a win confirms the training is still on track.
"I’ve been smashing myself at sessions at home but you never know [your form] until you come out and race. It’s a lot of fun out there, we have a lot of fun with the Lexus of Blackburn team, so it’s kind of getting the world’s team back together and we’ve got Shannon Malseed and Sarah Gigante too so it’s a great group to race with."
Spratt has been training locally for the last week:
"I live up in the Blue Mountains and we’ve had a lot of smoke there for the last month so I made the decision to come down here early, but honestly I can’t complain given how much devastation there is everywhere. I don’t want to make a huge thing of it given how many people are suffering and how many homes are burning down. For me it was a health thing to come down here and get a bit of clear air. We had the smoke visit us here before our race so it brings you back down the earth to think we’re here racing a bike and there are people out there fighting the fires so I’m thinking of them when I’m racing here too."
Race Director John Trevorrow has initiated a powerful but sad title change for the Men's support race:
"The Men’s Support race has been an integral part of the Bay Crits for nearly thirty years. It has been the event that young stars of the future have cut their teeth and only a few years back we had to limit the numbers to 100.
"For 2020 the race takes a significant name change - It will be called the Damion Drapac Trophy in honour of the brilliant young man that was tragically taken from us way too soon. After finishing his medical degree Damion decided to race the support race as part of his come back last January. He was loving every minute of it racing back at the pointy end and grabbed the coveted yellow jersey on day two only to lose it by the barest of margins in the finale in Williamstown.
“I urge all cycling fans to support the Damion Drapac Trophy and let’s all make it really special."
While the final trophy result will be decided on Sunday, the Day 1 Winner Shannon Johnson knew the significance of being part of something important:
"Today was a really important day for me because I knew it is a stage that I could win, the name and title in Damion Drapac is quite important to me. The Drapac family had a bit to do with my cycling career when I rode for the Charter Mason Drapac Development team."