Report by Rachael Elliott
Photos courtesy of swarbrick.com
With the sun already setting on the track as the evening started and riders faced with a stiff south westerly wind on the back straight, there was a distinct autumnal feeling in the air for the 17th Reading Track League Event.
The first event of the night was the Hare and Hounds. The gun appeared to catch the group of sixteen B and lady riders slightly unaware which meant the group became disordered from the start. This meant that the orderly group of ten A riders quickly started to make inroads into the B riders. However, as the B riders began to compose themselves, the A chase slowed notably.
Eventually the B riders’ valiant efforts took their toll and, with six laps to go, the group started to fracture. A group of five B riders – Jo Tindley of Matrix Fitness, Tom Sefton and Matthew Lansley of Palmer Park Velo, Joshua Mitchell of Bicester Millenium and Hugh Knudsen – broke away from the rest of the bunch
The five formed a well ordered group and were able to hold off the fast approaching As until the final lap. The acceleration of the chasers scattered even this strong group and when the bell sounded, the remaining A riders were just metres from the Bs which gave Mitchell the incentive to make a well-timed sprint from the final bend to take the win ahead of AW Cycles’ Matt Gittings and Tindley.
In the Ladies’ derny final, Adel Tyson-Bloor of VC St Raphael stayed at the front for the first six laps with no discernable efforts by the other riders to take the lead. With four laps to go, Tindley made her move to the front of the group. Tyson-Bloor was the only rider to challenge in the final lap, but Tindley was able to hold her off to win convincingly by a bike length. Lydia Brookes of GS Henley was a close third.
In the Points race, Newbury RC’s Ian Greenstreet and Sam Sturgeon of NRG Sports Massage put in an injection of pace from the gun. The first two points laps were contested in tight sprints. AW Cycles trio Joseph Crolla, Nick English and Max Stedman led out the third points lap, with the top two points places in the fourth sprint again going to Crolla and Stedman with guest B rider Mark Shepherd of Banjo Cycles taking third.
Such was Stedman and Crolla’s lead over the rest of the field by this point, they were able to hold their advantage for the remainder of the race and crossed the line first and second respectively. Stedman accrued the most points to win the race, with teammate Crolla in second. Nick Abraham took the final podium spot.
In the B Derny Paced final, Mitchell made a determined effort from the gun and quickly put a quarter of a lap between himself and second placed rider Sefton. Any concerns that Mitchell may have started too fast were soon quashed as he was able to slowly stretch his advantage throughout the race, with Sefton also maintaining a significant gap between himself and the other riders. Mitchell and Sefton were rewarded for exceptionally strong displays of riding with first and second place respectively, with Paul Elcock of GS Henley taking third.
As the derny events had taken up a large proportion of the night, most riders were predicting a shorter unknown distance race tonight. The judges didn’t undermine the riders’ premonitions, ringing the bell after three laps. With English leading at that point, Crolla took the opportunity to race Gawain Bailey of Performance Cycles in a sprint to the line. Crolla just pipped Bailey for the win, with English being rewarded with third. In the B race, Elcock’s Derny exploits in the previous event clearly hadn’t got the better of him, and he took first place. Knudsen rode well to collect second place, with Sefton finishing third. Tindley took the honours in the Ladies’ race.
The AW Cycles 20k Endurance formed the last event of the night. 21 riders started the event and, with many riders feeling rested due to not participating in the many Derny races of the night, the pace was quick from the start. After 10 laps, Sturgeon, AW Cycles’ Trevor Bradbury, Elcock and Tindley made a break which, given the fast speed of the race, barely stuck for a lap.
English was next to attempt a break and, while his solo effort was quickly chased down, it was enough take the race to another gear and many riders found themselves immediately shelled out. With 32 laps to go, just 14 riders remained – exactly a third of the field having dropped out. While we have become accustomed to breaks by the AW Cycles riders during the past season, it was refreshing to see Elcock and Nick Cammell from GS Henley make a joint effort to break away from the group. Both riders battled it out at the front of the group for a number of laps with their efforts sadly being in vain.
With fifteen laps to go a group of six, largely AW Cycles, riders, formed a break at the front – with the remaining riders forming into two separate groups spaced evenly around the track. Six laps later, the third group caught the second group. The lead group was able to hold its distance until the final three kilometres when three riders split from the first five, with English, Stedman and their team mate Matt Gittings (who’d spent most of the evening as a Derny pacer) making a move from the front.
B rider Elcock impressively made a break to try and catch the other three and, although he never quite bridged across to the three A-riders, he did put in a fine display of solo pursuiting for the remainder of the race.
With the bell sounding, Stedman made the early move, but was unable to hold off Gittings’ advances with the Marian University student crossing the line first with around a 20 metre advantage to win his last Track League race before returning to his studies in the US. English also overhauled Stedman to finish second with Stedman taking third. Elcock’s efforts were rewarded with a win in the B race, with Shepherd and Sefton taking second and third respectively.