September may have arrived at Palmer Park but the riders were greeted with beautifully warm conditions for the Round 18 of this season’s Reading Track League. These fine conditions, coupled with many riders’ lives returning to normality after summer breaks, led to one of Palmer Park’s highest attendances of the season – the last event of the evening, the AW Cycles 20k saw 30 riders start the event.

First event of the night was the Senior A trackcycling scratch race. Unusually, two female riders from Matrix Fitness, Jo Tindley and Harriet Owen, chose to guest in this race rather than the traditional B race and it was Owen who led the race out at a fast pace from the start.

Perhaps due to the fast pace, no discernable break was made until the penultimate lap when Marty McCrossan of Wyndymilla put in an effort on the back straight and created a gap of 30 metres between himself and the rest of the field. However, with a tidal wave of relatively rested riders behind him, Max Stedman and George Withers of AW Cycles, and Gawain Bailey of Performance Cycles quickly chased McCrossan down and distanced themselves from the rest of the field on the final corner. The three chasers were rewarded with first, third and second place respectively.

The B scratch followed the A race, and the determination of the riders was evident in the number of attempted breakaways in the first eight laps which caused the race to break into many disparate groups. However, with two laps to go the groups were reformed into a single peloton. A fast effort from the final bend saw Tomasz Dereszynski win the race from Jun Aishima. Third place was tightly contested by Tom Sefton and Matthew Lansley of Palmer Park Velo – with Lansley taking the final podium place by a tyre’s width. Lydia Brookes of GS Henley was a worthy victor in the ladies’ race with Sarah Tombs of Performance Cycles taking second and Tindley third.

The Senior A sprint was the next event in the programme and with just six riders contesting, the event was run as a straight final. Three of the six riders broke away on the back straight and were able to hold their advantage until the end. Withers took first place, Sam Sturgeon of NRG Sports Massage second and Nick English of AW Cycles finished just behind for a surprise third place.

The Ladies’ race was also run as a straight final with Owen and Tindley showing their experience to finish first and second. Brookes put in a strong ride and was rewarded with third.

The B Sprint final was the only sprint event of the night which required riders to qualify and the final was held just before the 20k race. In an exciting lap, Mitchell demonstrated his sprinting prowess to take the win by just a few millimetres from Dereszynski with Tom Zittel of Willesden CC putting in a fast display of riding on the final straight to take third.

Twelve riders started the Senior A Devil with Ian Greenstreet of Newbury RC the first rider to make a effort at the front after the first elimination lap. With four laps remaining, English made the decisive move to the front of the group and, despite determined efforts by other riders, was able to hold his lead through the penultimate elimination lap and right through to the finish. English’s strong display earned him the victory, with Stedman taking second and Bailey claiming third.

Seventeen riders started the Senior B Devil. The pace fluctuated significantly as the race progressed, with many riders unable to respond and finding themselves unable to stay with the group. In the final lap Matthew Lansley was able to hold off Mitchell’s sprint efforts to cross the line first with Mitchell in his wake. Mark Shepherd of Banjo Cycles was rewarded for strong riding throughout the race with third place. Amongst the Ladies, it was Owen who once again stole the victory, with Tindley taking second and Brookes third.

As darkness began to fall, the next event on the programme was the WLCA 1km Time Trial. Five riders elected to start this week’s heat and, despite the evening appearing to offer good conditions, the times posted by the riders suggested otherwise. Neil Rutter of Cotswold Veldrijden was unable to improve on his previous time, but nevertheless posted an impressive 1:13.92 – with a 34 second first lap to boot. Sturgeon rode the second fastest time of the night in his first attempt of the season with 1:18.56, whilst Martyn Harris of Banjo Cycles was unable to improve on his previous time with a time of 1:19.84. Greenstreet still leads the event with his time of 1:13.17 from 22 July.

Without any Derny races on the evening’s agenda, a longer unknown distance race than had been seen in recent weeks was anticipated by many of the riders. It was perhaps this anticipation which meant none of the riders chose to break away from the gun – something which has become commonplace in recent weeks. Nevertheless, Mitchell chose to lead the bunch for the first few laps, clearly hoping to sprint away from the bunch if an early bell sounded. However, as the bell failed to toll, it was Withers who was first to break away from the bunch and, with the bell sounding just a lap later, he was able to sustain his lead until the final line. Bailey took second place with Donal Linehan of Newbury RC finishing just behind to take third place. Matthew Lansley took the honours in the B race, with Owen victorious in the Ladies’ race.

As mentioned earlier, the home straight was barely long enough to house the 30 riders who lined up to start this evening’s race. The pace was fast from the start with two early breaks quickly chased down by a determined group of riders. With the pace of the race seemingly accelerating throughout, it was English and Nick Abraham who took the first chance to make a determined effort to break from the bunch. English and Abraham were able to hold their lead for three laps until Stedman led out in pursuit of the pair which, in turn, spurred the other riders into action and the duo were caught. However, with English obviously coming the track this evening with endless energy, it wasn’t long before he formed another break – this time with Lansley. Once again, the pair kept their lead for three laps until a chase, on this occasion by Greenstreet, brought the group back together.

With nearly half the race still remaining, English found himself off the front again; this time with Stedman as his partner. The two were able to impressively gradually increase their lead and it was not until 10 laps when the group finally began to eat back into their clear 30 metre advantage. With five laps to go, Stedman had been swallowed up, and it didn’t take long for English to succumb to the same fate. With three laps remaining, Withers and team mate Frazier Carr found themselves off the front with Abraham and sole B rider Shepherd. First Carr then Shepherd faltered and despite the group chasing hard as the final bell sounded, Withers and Abraham were able to hold their advantage for the remainder of the lap and finished in first and second respectively. While Withers was well clear as he took his third win of the evening, second to sixth were separated by little more than a bike length with Rutter taking third in the As. Sadly for Shepherd, despite his sterling efforts, he was caught in rush to the line by Matthew Lansley who took maximum points in the B race. Shepherd held on for second, with Sean Gorvy of GS Henley taking third.