The Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits are back headlining the summer of cycling, with race founder and race director, John Trevorrrow, excited for the possibilities this year of the event he started back in 1989.
The Bay Crits return for 2022 after a year off due to coronavirus restrictions, with the man who has seen and persevered through it all since the late 80’s excited for the return of the race that has been his passion.
“It’s fantastic,” said Trevorrow. “1989 was the first one, so it’s been around for a while. We’ve gone through a lot of different things, now COVID has thrown a curveball, so it’s great to get back on it.
“We’re lucky to have all our amazing supporters stay onboard (sponsors). It’s great to have them with us again.”
This year, naming rights sponsor Lexus of Blackburn will help the 'Bay Crits' go green with the lead car a brand-new electric Lexus UX 300e, reducing the carbon footprint of the event and taking on the social responsibility of a healthy globe. Together with PSC Insurance Brokers, the backing of the event is in good hands for major partners.
The theme of 2022 is returning to the head of the summer of cycling again, but Trevorrow is also excited for the racing action that will hit the criterium circuits in Geelong’s Eastern Gardens.
“It was the actual Council that asked us to race in the Gardens, the whole COVID thing has affected things there,” said Trevorrow. “Saturday, it’s around the large circuit, it’s 1.9 kilometres and clockwise, which is the easier way. There’s the new hill that they built a few years back, but you get a good run at it, so it’s more of a sprinter’s course.
“Then on Sunday, it’s the same course, but anti-clockwise and it’s much tougher. The climb from the beach to the carpark is much tougher. There’s also the wind, it’s a hard course without wind, but if it gets up there, it gets that much tougher again.
“The men’s support race will be the Damion Drapac memorial race. That’s always a brilliant race, and we’ll also have the Victorian state criterium championships, which should be great fun for the guys and girls.”
The moniker of the ‘fastest criterium series in the world’ has stuck, with the long-lived event a beacon for hard and fast racing packed into a spectator-friendly circuit. That format has lent itself to cash grab events in the wake of big races like the Tour de France in the past, but the Bay Crits are the real deal.
“A lot of the criteriums around the world are more like World Championship Wrestling, more of a show than anything else,” said Trevorrow. “But our crits have always been super fast and it was actually Robbie McEwen that gave it that name, he called it the world’s fastest crits and I’ve run with that ever since.”
The women’s event will be raced over the same length as the men, with the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits having led the way in Australia for prizemoney equity between the men and women winners years ahead of the competition. The event has come a long way since its inception, the men’s race starting in 1989, with the first women’s event in 1994.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the event however, as Trevorrow recalls.
“One of my worst memories was from the first race, back in 1989. It was in Sorrento and it poured rain the whole day,” said Trevorrow. “The set-up, the race, we had to do the interviews under an awning in the hotel, I was thinking ‘what have I done’.
“The whole idea of the Bay Crits was to bring the racing to the holiday venues, bring the racing to the crowds. But it rained all day and barely anyone showed up. Thankfully, it didn’t rain for any of the next four or five years of the event.”
The story of the Bay Crits is revealed through the champions that have ridden the event, or have been discovered as top talents during the high-paced racing, with legends of Australian and international cycling lighting up Port Phillip Bay.
“I remember Phil Anderson riding there in the nineties, taking a fantastic win at Ocean Grove one day,” said Trevorrow. “Gary Sutton dominated around then as well. Robbie McEwen was extraordinary not just for the number of Bay Crit wins he took, but also the way he took them. Some great duels, he and Browny (Graeme Brown) had some fantastic run-ins which got a bit of publicity.”
“In the early days of the women’s race there was Kathy Watt and the race has really just kept going from strength to strength. Over the years we’ve had great female riders, the likes of Rochelle Gilmore, Anna Wilson, Chloe Hosking, Grace Brown will be there this year in her first race back from injury.”
Australia’s most famous cyclist, Cadel Evans, drew some attention to a potential future on the road, while Caleb Ewan was prodigy even at a young age when he took on some of the best sprinters in the world on the streets of Geelong.
“The first time I ever saw Cadel was in one of the Geelong crits,” said Trevorrow. “A group went away and lapped the field, it had Robbie McEwen and Rik McCaig and some others but also this skinny kid. I remember asking Dave Sanders ‘who’s that?’ and said ‘Oh, that’s that mountain biker, Cadel’. He went on and lapped the field on his own and I thought to myself that he’d end up as more than a mountain biker.
“Then we saw the young kid from New South Wales come out called Caleb Ewan. He was only about 17 but gee he was quick. He finished second overall in his first one, but the way he took the day in Williamstown was special. He went past Allan Davis and Leigh Howard – who was leading him out – so fast. I just thought ‘wow’. Of course, he went on to win the series many times as well.”
Who knows if 2022 will see the next generation of Australia champions emerge, there are certainly some talented youngsters looking to test their abilities against the best in the ‘world’s fastest crits’.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Trevorrow. “I think it’s going to be great.”