A 2 minute 15 second gap between the four man breakaway and the pack at the bottom of the Corin climb wasn't enough to stop prevent Will Lind from climbing to victory in the Corin Classic.
The race started in a similar fashion to last year's event with a breakaway heading up the road. Velo Canberra's Steve Blackburn was joined by Matt Linden, young Karl Michelin-Beard (who was making his debut in the A grade ranks) and James Quinton. The gap quickly opened up to over two minutes, with the main pack quite content to just roll along in the early stages. Heading back past the junction to Tidbinbilla Tracking station on the first part of the lap the pack started to form up and Suzuki/Trek riders, Phil Jermyn and Brendan Johnston were prominent at the front, along with Argonaut rider David Gillies.
Once the chase started the gap hovered between 1:30 and 2:00 minutes. Whenever the pack caught a glimpse of the quartet in the break they appeared to be working well and the question was always going to be whether the gap would be enough to let one of them stay away. Coming back from the Point Hut turn-around the front group was still working well and the time gap was roughly 1:45. Steve Blackburn looked the most likely candidate for the victory from the front group and with the strong Velo Canberra team helping control the pace in the pack it was going to be tight.
At the bottom of the Corin climb the gap had opened back up to 2:15 and it appeared that team Velo had played all their cards right. As the main pack started to hit the rollers early on the climb it was the Suzuki/Trek team who came to the front with Phil and Brendan joined by Ivan Michelin-Beard to start closing the gap. This was somewhat ironic as last year Ivan was in the breakaway and this year he was leading the chase on his brother who had managed to find the successful move early on.
As always happens on this climb, the rollers started to take their toll and riders started dangling off the back as they pack approached the pivotal Woodman's Reserve. Team Jayco rider Mitchell Lovelock-Fay was one of the early casualities, along with Velo's Mick Tolhurst. Once the pack hit the gate at Woodman's the pace lifted a notch and Brendan Johnston was seen riding clear of the main pack. At this point the first of the breakaway riders was in sight, with Karl being the first of the front quarter to give way to the main pack. A few seconds later Will Lind chose a slight increase in the gradient to launch his main move and the quickly lead to the pack shattering. Sean Moran was the only rider who appeared able to respond however he didn't quite manage to get on Will's wheel. Will, quickly bridged across to his teammate Brendan and the pair quickly set about catching the remaining three leaders.
By half way up the climb the gap was down to just 20-25 seconds and the catch was inevitable. Matt Linden, who only recently returned from a long lay off due to injury, was starting to lose contact with the leaders and shortly before the catch Will's pace up one of the many small rises lead to Brendan becoming detatched. Will quickly moved to join the front pair and the extra pace immediately lead to Steve Blackburn losing contact, while Brendan continued to gain more ground.
As the leading pair approached the KOM, Brendan had moved into a clear third place, followed closely by Sean Moran. On the final pinch up to the KOM the relentless pace of one of the ACT's best climbers was too much for the Quinton and Will crested the KOM with a clear gap. Will continued to ride hard for the line and eventually took the victory, clear of Brendan Johnston, making it a 1-2 finish for Suzuki/Trek.
A few worthy mentions: Sean Moran had a great race despite not having many climbing k's in the legs. Despite unhitching early on the climb, Mitch Lovelock-Fay paced himself quite nicely to finish in good position. Young Nathan Booth, who outclimbed several more seasoned A and B graders to stay with the pack past Woodmans and before succumbing to the pace after Will attacked. Finally to Matt Linden, who continues to improve every week after returning from a broken leg at Bathurst earlier in the year.
All up and outstanding team effort by the Suzuki/Trek team and it was nice to see some really good team riding by them today.
The Men's B grade field was quite small and they were combined with the A grade field on the start line. Nathan Spillane was somewhat unlucky, with an early puncture putting him out of contention. Avi Vasudeva was prominently positioned in around 5th, 6th position for much of the race and the only question was whether he would have the legs to stick with the A graders once the climb started, as would the other B grade riders. As the pack approached Woodman's the B graders were starting to scramble for wheels and ultimately it would be more of an individual climb for these guys. Just waiting on the official results to know how they all ended up.
Men's C was sporting a large field and with the addition of a few Women's A grade riders they set off on their journey at a comfortable pace. As they passed the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station for the first time two riders glided off the front. At the first turn these two riders were still away and as the A grade field approached Tidbinbilla the C grade field could be seen closing in behind them. The two leaders never enjoyed too much room, as its often the case in C grade, and the pack remained largely intact as they made the turn at the Point Hut end of the course.
As I was watching the A grade race unfold I cannot tell you much about the climb for C grade, however it was worth noting that in her first Women's A grade race, Lisa Keeling was not only victorious in here category but she finished 5th overall and not too far behind the winner of C grade. Watch out for Lisa at the Tour of Bright this year as she is really turning in to a great climber. Lisa is well supported by the dedicated VMaxx squad and many of their riders performed well today.
PS: sorry for no commentary on D, E and Women's B grade. You will need to check the offical report for that one.