After an enforced hiatus ThunderCrit 5 finally took place on the weekend of July 31st to August 1st with an all new format. Two days of racing over two very different types of circuit to test the overall skill, power and endurance of the athletes. We also employed our new gender neutral category system which was a huge success and allowed people who don’t identify as a cis-man or cis-woman to race against those with a similar baseline athletic ability. These two categories would be split into Intermediate and Advanced ability groups by the end of qualifying.
Day one was setup mainly as the qualifying day on the “Tech” circuit. A series of 5 lap races in small groups on a tight and twisty course with little chance of overtaking. The weather conditions also added some spice by soaking the track and reducing grip. Low pressures and wide tyres were the order of the day.
At the end of qualifying, athletes were split into the groups they’d qualified to race in and each had two points races to count towards the GC classification at the end of the weekend. Tensions rose on the start line and the light faded away, but the crowd noise lifted every time the bunch clipped in and elbows touched for another battle.
At the end of the day we had four categories full of riders of similar technical abilities and their first points on the board. These points would translate into starting positions for the next day and also be added to their total after Sunday’s Power course race.
Thunder Intermediate was being led by Simon Jones (London Velo CC), whilst in Thunder Advanced we had a joint lead between Dimitri Demishev (NLTCBMBC) and Sam Andrews (Clash Racing). In Lightning Intermediate Helen McKenzie (Velociposse) and Caz Cunningham (NLTCBMBC) shared the lead. Lightning Advanced was being led by Taylor Doyle (Steezy Collective) and Valentina Vaccari.
Sunday started drier! But then the rain started during course setup and all sighting laps on the open course were taken while the track was wet. The layout of the course meant that there was a lot of discussion about gear choices. The main problem was the course does nearly a full lap of the velodrome which would suit a high gear, but then there are 2 ThunderPins (dead turns) thrown in which makes a high gear a risky choice with the amount of slowing down and acceleration needed. The cat was well and truly amongst the pigeons.
Order of the day was Thunder Int, Lightning Int, Lightning Adv and finally Thunder Adv. Each race being a set amount of time followed by 5 laps on the board. There were also primes up for grabs in each race. In the advanced race there was a first lap prime – The Clean Getaway – sponsored by Weldtite. And in all races we introduced the NLTCBMBC 666 Prime, basically a big cash prize for the person who crossed the line last before the 666th second of the race. The aim of this one was to randomly reward riders who don’t usually fight at the pointy end of the races.
In the Thunder Intermediate race the track was still a bit damp from the earlier shower and this showed with a few spills at the second Thunderpin, one of which was caused by a rolled tub… (we can’t stress enough that wide clinchers are a much better choice than racing tubs for crit races).
Said Portilla had an unlucky start and lost a lap due to a mechanical early on. He dropped a lap but worked with the leading trio of Josef Murmann, Simon Jones and Oli Fairway to get his on track position back. The 666 prime was taken by Louis Woodhouse and late in the race Oli Fairway lost traction and his chance of sprinting for the win.
In the end Josef outsprinted Simon on the last lap and took the win on the day. However, Simon’s results from the previous day meant that he kept hold of 1st place overall. Josef and Oli taking 2nd and 3rd respectively in the GC.
Next up was Lightning Intermediate. Helen McKenzie and Caz Cunningham shared the points lead at the start of the race after some wet races the day before. The track was drying out now and Caz took full advantage and immediately attacked the race in the early laps. Helen worked hard with Velociposse teammate Jo Hooton to try and catch Caz, but the ThunderCat was having none of it and pushed on.
Lucia Adsett took home the 666 prime in only her second ever race, but Caz’s race experience showed as she looked to lap her with a couple of laps remaining. She made the pass and powered through to the end for a magnificent solo win, about half a lap ahead of the Velociposse pair and the Sunday finishing results echoed the overall GC result – Caz in 1st, Helen in 2nd and Jo in 3rd.
Onto the Advanced races. These were bound to a bit more tactical with lots of different permutations possible after some aggressive points races on Saturday evening. First up, Lightning, where 2 points separated the top 5 riders at the start.
A front group of 5 formed from the start as athletes battled for the Weldtite prime, which was taken on the line by Kitty Dennis (NLTCBMBC). This front 5 continued to work away and stretched their lead through the race with the lead continuously changing on each lap. The 666 prime was won by Harriet Ashworth (Fixed Beers).
As we entered the final 5 laps the lead group of five who had been out front since the start were still together. Valentina Vaccari, Taylor Doyle (Steezy Collective), Kitty Dennis (NLTCBMBC), Nelsy Casallas (Velociposse) and Alice Clews-Smith (Fixed Beers) all had a chance of winning the GC. It was all to play for.
In the end Kitty positioned herself well out of the last Thunderpin and started the sprint with a couple of hundred metres to go. Alice followed her wheel with Taylor not far behind for the 1, 2, 3. That result meant Kitty won the GC (on her birthday too!) with Taylor taking 2nd and Valentina picking up 3rd overall.
Last up was the Thunder Advanced race. Dimitri Demishev (NLTCBMBC) and Sam Andrews (Clash Racing) both started the day on the same points, 2 ahead of Aaron Hardin (Fixed Beers) in 3rd place after day one. James Griffiths (London Pistons) was another point back and then a whole slew of riders were separated by another 4 points. It was tight and some strong riders were looking to make up for disappointing results from the Tech course.
Immediately Sam and Dimitri burst off the front of the pack and into the first Thunderpin before attacking the rest of the first lap. This would be the last time any of the rest of the field would get close to them as the lead two showed their strength and race experience. They battled it out for the Weldtite Clean Getaway prime which was taken home by Sam and then continued to work together to build an insurmountable lead for the next few laps.
Behind them there was some confusion. Would they be able to work together to pull back the front two? It didn’t look like it and the race settled into the chasing group of five riders starting to battle between themselves. Eventually Lewis Bloyce (GFTL), Daniil Sadomskiij (Cafeteros do Colombia) and Aaron formed a smaller group and battled it out for 3rd position on the day. Lewis and Daniil hadn’t finished as highly as they would’v liked after the first day and were looking to make up for it. Aaron needed to mark any moves from them, but his points difference meant he had a comfortable gap in GC. Chris McGovern rolled over the line with two seconds to spare to take home the 666 prime!
By this point Sam and Dimitri were way ahead. With 10 minutes remaining of the timed laps Sam made his move. On the last Thunderpin of the lap he accidentally caught a cone which flicked out in front of Dimitri who had to take evasive action to avoid it. By the time he regained his rhythm Sam was already too far ahead and this gap remained as the pair continued their assault on the rest of the race and finished in a dominating 1st and 2nd place.
The battle for 3rd went down to the end of the race. Aaron eventually got dropped by Lewis and Daniil who demonstrated their endurance and strength in this race. These two battled it out until the last couple of laps, at which point Lewis put the hammer down and sped away from Daniil to take 3rd place on the day. As the rest of the athletes finished the race the GC standings became clearer.
Sam Andrews took 1st, one point ahead of Dimitri Demishev in 2nd. Aaron Hardin held onto 3rd while Lewis and Daniil stormed up the rankings to seal 4th and 5th overall. Anthony Downing and James Griffiths finished on the same points as Daniil, but positions in Sundays final race determined their finishing position in GC.
The weekend good vibes continued onto the podium presentations where we managed to give away our biggest prize haul to date. Massive thanks to our sponsors and to Herne Hill Velodrome for enabling us to put on this race again after the enforced break and trusting us to deliver the goods. In the end, it’s the people who come and take part and come down to create the atmosphere that makes ThunderCrit special and we can’t wait to start planning the next one and inviting our international Fixed Crit Family back over to race all the new talents that have started racing in the UK. Leeeeeeet’s GO!
Full results can be found here.