Palmer Park was drenched in sunshine for the fourth event of the year and, with car thermometers reading 22 degrees as riders left the park, it was one of those rare evenings where the air held the temperature right through to nightfall. This was perhaps useful – a night of sprints and pursuits meant a lot of waiting around for many riders.
After weeks of experimentation with the new “C” league it was decided that the league should adopt a new format: such was the popularity of the new league, groups had become too large which, particularly for beginners to track racing, could, at best, be intimidating and, at worst, be dangerous.
As such, the first race of the night was the “C” scratch race for U14, U16 girls and women. The group remained united for most of the six lap race, with Sasha Quarrington (RP Racing Team) being rewarded for her strong sprint with first place. Amber Joseph (Palmer Park Velo) took second place, with Lydia Brookes (GS Henley) riding well to take third place.
The U16 boys, novices and vets toed the line for the following C scratch race. The race finished with the familiar figure of Anthony Anderson (Sigma Sport) riding strongly in the final straight to cross the line first ahead of Dylan Thomas (Palmer Park Velo). Cameron Thompson was rewarded with the final podium spot for his strong final lap.
The 10 lap “A” trackcycling scratch race formed the next item on the programme. With Neil Rutter (Cotswold Veldrijden) positioned on the front with two laps remaining, the sprinters found themselves eyeing each other wondering who was going to be the first to make the early move. In the end, it was Ian Greenstreet (Newbury RC) who put in a supreme effort to gap himself from the field. With none of the other sprinters willing to challenge Greenstreet with a kilometre still remaining, he was able to continue to hold his distance. Such was his advantage, he was able to hold off the sprint might of Matt Gittings (awcycles.co.uk) and Rutter who finished in second and third respectively behind Greenstreet.
The 10 lap “B” scratch was the final scratch event on the programme. It was eventually Matthew Roper (Brixton Cycles) who managed to overcome the rest of the field in the final sprint to cross the line in first place, with Thomas Holden (Hargroves Cycles) finished in a close second and Tom Zittel (Willesden CC) just behind in third place.
The next senior event on the track was the final of the Reading Track League Individual Pursuit. Nick English (awcycles.co.uk) and up and coming junior, George Clark (High Wycombe CC), were positioned at station 1 and 3 respectively. English had qualified with a faster time than Clark in the previous week, but with Clark’s relative inexperience at the discipline it was difficult to predict which rider would come out on top. The riders remained exceptionally matched throughout: English stole the early lead and, as in the previous week, Clark then started to turn the advantage to himself as the laps progressed. As the riders crossed the line at the end of the nine laps, it was difficult to determine which rider was victorious such was the even pitting of both riders. As the results came in, it turned out Clark had managed to beat English by 0.7 seconds clocking 5:09.5 ahead of English’s 5:10.2 – both exceptional rides nonetheless.
The ladies’ pursuit final followed. Three ladies started: Quarrington, Brookes and newcomer to the track league, Melanie Sneddon (Newbury RC). Sneddon, who has not competed on the track for a number of years, showed she has not lost her old skill: despite a shaky start, Sneddon made inroads quickly into the other two riders and crossed the line in an excellent time of 3:55.71. Brookes took second place with a creditable 4:11.72 with Quarrington less than three seconds adrift with a time of 4:14.6.
The first sprint final of the night was the U14 “C” boys’ final. Joshua Knowles (Palmer Park Velo) took the victory just ahead of Max Reed (Palmer Park Velo) with Jan Corsten (Palmer Park Velo) taking third place. The ladies’ “C” race was next, and it was the power of Quarrington in the final straight that saw her rewarded with first place. Natasha Reddy (Palmer Park Velo) took second place), with Amber Joseph (Palmer Park Velo) taking third spot. The final “C” race of the night was for the U16 boys, vets and novices. Thompson managed to turn around the result of the scratch race: his excellent effort in the final half lap saw him take the victory ahead of Anderson. Thomas took third place.
The “A” sprint final was contested by five riders: Gittings, Rutter, Josh Mitchell (RP Racing Team), Max Stedman (Pedal Heaven RT) and Trevor Bradbury (awcycles.co.uk). None of the riders were able to outclass the power of Gittings who crossed the line in first place, with Rutter taking second place and Mitchell just a fraction behind in third place. In the “B” final, Roper took the victory, ahead of Holden and Sam Grant (WDMBC).
The Devil races followed. In the first “C” race consisting of the ladies and the U14 boys, it was Amber Joseph (Palmer Park Velo) who held her nerve to the line to clench the top spot. Knowles took second place, with Corsten just marginally adrift in third. The remaining C riders took to the line for the next race, and the final lap saw a repeat of the scratch race earlier in the evening: Anderson took the victory, ahead of Thomas and Thompson. The A devil followed, and, after a frustrating evening of narrowly missing out on victories, Rutter finally got his deserved win, crossing the line just ahead of Stedman and Clark. In the B devil, Nick Cammell (GS Henley) took a well deserve win, ahead of teammate Nick Beech and Malcolm Freeman (High Wycombe CC).
The final event of the night was, as usual, the AW Cycles Endurance 20k. And anyone watching the race was treated to the most exciting race of the season so far. A trio of riders made a break from the gun but, despite their valiant efforts, were reeled in by the bunch after ten laps. Clark, English, Stedman, Gittings and Rutter took advantage of the field relaxing after the catch to make a further break and, given the calibre of the riders in the break, there was the possibility that this group could stay out for the entire race. However, it appear that the bunch were not prepared to wait and find out as a second group consisting of Greenstreet, Mark Shepherd (Banjo Cycles) and Holden formed a chase to catch the five riders in the breakaway. After a long chase, the trio caught the front group just as Gittings and Rutter pulled out of the original breakaway. This new enlarged group then caught the field. However, half the group was blocked which forced the original breakaway to fragment and it was just Clark, English and Stedman who managed to get through and started to make inroads into their second lap of advantage. The final result was decided in a sprint, with Stedman taking the decisive victory ahead of Clark and English. Holden was rewarded for his earlier efforts to take first place amongst the “B” riders, with Anderson the best of the “C”s. Reddy took first place amongst the ladies.