Cloudless skies and sunshine prevailed for the penultimate meeting of the Reading Track League. However, the cold westerly headwind on the back straight and the fast fading light left little doubt as to why outdoor track meetings are kept largely to the summer months.
However, in defiance of the distinctly autumnal conditions, a large field of 12 “A” riders and 16 “B” riders started the first race of the evening, the Hare and Hounds. Both groups started at a fast pace, with the “B” riders demonstrating perhaps their most ordered racing of the year so far. However, despite the ordered riding, the “A”s started to make inroads into the “B”s after the first lap and, with the “A”s accelerating throughout, caught the “B” riders with three laps remaining. With no discernable break forming, it was clear the race would be decided in a sprint for the line. In the end, it was Neil Rutter (Cotswold Veldrijden) whose strong charge in the final straight saw him cross the line just ahead of Stephen Bradbury (PCT Tomacc). Nick Abraham (BCPM) took third place.
The “B” points race formed the next event on the programme. With sprints determining the points order for the first set of points, Mark Shepherd (Banjo Cycles/Raceware) took the opportunity to make a break and held his convincing lead until the bell. He ended up being pipped on the line by Nick Cammell (GS Henley) for the second set of points. Joshua Mitchell (Bicester Millennium) took the next set of points and, after barely needing to sprint to collect these maximum points, he had plenty of energy left to win the final set of points in a tightly contested sprint. Cammell finished in second place and Tom Sefton (Palmer Park Velo) collected enough points for third. Lydia Brookes (GS Henley) took maximum points in the ladies’ competition.
The “A” derny final consisted of the three winners of the heats and the fastest second-placed rider: Nick English (awcycles.co.uk), Stephen Bradbury (PCT Tomacc), Max Stedman (awcycles.co.uk) and Nick Abraham (BCPM). After just four laps, Stedman made a break from the front and, although able to hold a lead of around ten metres, he was soon chased down by Bradbury. Bradbury was able to sustain his lead until the finish, with Stedman taking second place and Abraham riding a strong race to finish in third.
With the temperature getting colder and many riders seeking solace in the warmth of the commentary box between races, it seemed the judges took pity on the riders: the unknown distance race was longer than recent weeks and provided the opportunity for riders to generate valuable bodyheat. With no riders making an early break, the race had a similar conclusion to the earlier Hare and Hounds race, being decided in a final sprint. In the “A” race, George Withers (awcycles.co.uk) was victorious by just a tyre’s width from Rutter who collected second place and Gawain Bailey (Performance Cycles) who finished a convincing third. In the “B” race, Matthew Lansley (Palmer Park Velo) used his sprinting prowess to collect the victory, with David Ivory (Reading CC) finishing in second and Cammell taking third place.
The AW Cycles 20k formed the last event of the night as usual. The race started at quite a pace and had splintered into four disparate groups after just four laps. The front group of three consisted of Rutter, English and Frazier Carr (awcycles.co.uk). The group worked well together and, with a number of “A” riders seemingly unwilling to give chase in the main bunch, were able to lap the field with half the race still remaining. Undeterred by the lap advantage, the group continued to further speed away from the main bunch. With 13 laps remaining, English and Rutter put on another burst of speed and managed to distance themselves from Carr and further increase their unassailable lead over the rest of the field. English and Rutter held their advantage for the rest of the race, with English narrowly pipping Rutter on the line. Carr took a well earned third place. The “B” race remained a tactical affair throughout, with riders jostling for places. It was Shepherd who made the first move with 300m to go and was pipped on the line by a matter of millimetres by Cammell who claimed the win and his third podium position of the night. Sean Gorvy (GS Henley) took third place.