The early events of the year are normally dogged by cold weather. However, the new season of the track league was welcomed with blue skies and sunshine. The new season meant a new league format, with a “C” league being introduced for newly accredited riders, ladies and U16 and U14 boys. With chip timing also being rolled out on the same evening, it led to a rather fraught start to the night – particularly as many riders were delayed arriving due to severe traffic congestion.
The event opened with the inaugural C league scratch race and, in a clear demonstration of the popularity of this new league, 24 riders started the race. The group largely remained together throughout the race, with a number of new riders defying their novice status. Alex Jones (Twickenham CC) took on much of the work at the front of the race. However, with one lap to go, it was Anthony Anderson (Sigma Sport) who took the race on and led through the entire lap to win from the front, with Joseph Linehan (Palmer Park Velo) taking second place and Cameron Thompson (Palmer Park Velo) in third. Amongst the ladies, Lydia Kirsten (GS Henley) put in a strong performance to take the win, with Sasha Quarington (RP Racing Team) finishing second and Emma Pitt (Palmer Park Velo) taking third.
The trackcycling A scratch race followed. 12 riders started the race, and the group remained ordered until two laps to go when Max Stedman (Pedal Heaven RT) accelerated away from the bunch with Neil Rutter (Cotswold Veldrijden) in pursuit. Stedman was unable to hold on to his advantage, and Rutter accelerated past to take the lead, with John Wager (BC Private Member) and Ian Greenstreet (Newbury RC) putting in strong final laps to finish in second and third respectively. A valiant effort by Josh Mitchell (RP Racing Team) – the only rider in the race to clock a 30 second lap – saw him finish just outside the podium spots in fourth place.
The B race became fragmented after four laps, with various riders attempting to break from the front. In the end, it was was George Clark (High Wycombe CC) who rode an exceptional final lap to take the win, with Thomas Holden (Hargroves Cycles) taking second place and Tom Zittel (Willesden CC) finishing in third place.
The 500m sprints were next on the schedule. Four “A” riders qualified for the final, and it was the experience of Neil Rutter which saw him ride an exceptional lap to take the victory, with Matthew Lansley finishing second and Max Stedman crossing the line in the third place. The race was exceptionally close, with all four finalists finishing less the 0.3 seconds apart.
In the “B” 500m sprint final, Matthew Roper made the first move and looked like he might just be able to hold on for the duration of the lap. However, Thomas Holden (Hargroves Cycles) had been sitting in his slipstream and was able to overtake in the final straight to take victory, with Roper taking second and George Clark (High Wycombe CC) finishing in third place.
The “C” sprint final was taken convincingly by Alex Jones (Twickenham CC), with Anthony Anderson taking second place and Angus Hawkins finishing in third. In the ladies’ final, Sasha Quarington demonstrated her fast twitch prowess by finishing nearly a second ahead of U14 rider Lorna Bowler (Hillingdon Slipstreamers). Emma Pitt (Palmer Park Velo) took the final podium spot.
The energy of the C riders clearly did not wane throughout the evening: 24 riders started the “C” devil race – exactly the same number that had started the scratch race earlier in the night. The riders stayed in a bunch throughout the race, and were eliminated two riders at a time until the bell sounded with six riders left. With no discernable gap until the final bend, the result could only be decided with a sprint. Cameron Thompson showed he had the best sprinting legs of the race to cross the line first, followed by Anthony Anderson and Alex Jones.
The “A” and “B” riders were combined for the devil race, and a large field started the line. Nick English (awcycles.co.uk) led the group around for the first few laps, with riders being eliminated two at a time. Matthew Lansley (RP Racing Team) was leading into the final lap, but Neil Rutter again demonstrated his astonishing turn of speed to win the race, with Max Stedman taking second and Matthew Lansley eventually finishing in third place.
With nightfall closing in, the unknown distance race was skipped and the A and B riders combined for the 20k. The first convincing move was made after 10 laps, but Ollie Hitchings (Peter Hansford Racing) led a determined group of three riders who chased the break down. The disruption caused the race to break apart, although notable breaks by George Clark and later by Nick English and Neil Rutter were quickly closed up. Ollie Hitchings was the first to make a clean break and, with Martyn Harris (banjocycles.com) joining him, the two started to escape away from the chasing pack. Initially unfazed by the Hitchings/Harris pairing, the main group slowed but after they had gained half a lap’s advantage, the main bunch were spurred into action and a fresh group of four consisting of Nick English, Tom Holden (Peter Hargroves Cycles), Neil Rutter and Matthew Lansley consolidated to catch the tiring duo. In the ensuing chaos, George Clark (High Wycombe CC) took advantage of the jumble and made a concerted effort to break away – and quickly succeeded in gaining half a lap on the peloton, with 10 laps remaining, Clark continue to bury himself and, despite becoming visibly tired with four laps to go, he managed to maintain his lead. Unfortunately for Clark, he made the error of raising his hands in victory before the line and was initially disqualified before being reinstated with a warning. Matthew Lansley took the victory amongst the A riders, with John Wager (BC Private Member) taking second place and Ian Greenstreet taking third – with each of the riders riding a 31 second final lap. Stuart Stow (Hounslow & District Whs) took victory in the “B” race, with Nick Cammell (GS Henley) in second and David Ivory (Reading CC) in third. Anastasia Welsh (RP Racing Team) and Emma Clarke (Palmer Park Velo) both rode well to finish first and second lady respectively.