The sun was already setting as riders assembled for the penultimate track league meeting of the year. Any semblance of warmth did not last past the first scratch race, and riders were soon reaching for armwarmers and tights. Nevertheless, still conditions prevailed for an exciting night of racing.
The first race of the evening was the C riders’ Hare & Hounds race. 22 riders started the race, with the U16 boys chasing the rest of the bunch. With a fast and determined pace set from the start, it took just two laps for the older boys to catch the rest of the bunch. Despite the fast catch, the hounds needed no time to recover, using the hares to catapult them to even faster laps in the closing stages. As the finish line approached, the familiar trio of Anthony Anderson (Sigma Sport), Charles Page (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) and Cameron Thomson (Palmer Park Velo) who were involved in the ferocious sprint at the end of the race, with Anderson taking the crown just three-hundredths of a second ahead of Thomson. Page took third place, finishing just a wheel length Thomson.
All season, the A and B trackcycling 10-lap scratch race has seen riders riding in tight formation until the final lap. However, the combining of the two groups of riders this week injected a degree of twitchiness into the bunch with the group fragmenting from the first lap. Although many riders attempted to make a decisive getaway from the group, 10 of the 12 starters were still together as the bell was sounding. Many of the usual sprinters were absent from the meeting this evening, which meant giving talented sprinter Neil Rutter (Cotswold Veldrijden) any advantage going into the home straight was always going to be dangerous. Rutter seized his moment to shine, powering through the closing 100 metres to take the win by 1.5 seconds ahead of Nick English (awcycles.co.uk). Nick Cammell (Mountain Trax RT) put in a strong performance to finish third overall and take first B. Just behind, Frazier Carr (awcycles.co.uk) took victory in a minor sprint for third “A” from Ian Greenstreet (Newbury RC) by two-hundredths of a second. Tom Zittel (Willesden CC) took second place amongst the Bs, with David Ivory (Reading CC) claiming third.
The familiar sound of dernies filled the stadium for the final time this season and, with the slightly reduced number of riders this evening, the races were run as straight finals. First to contest the derny races were the ladies and girls, with a total of seven lining up to start. Emma Pitt (Palmer Park Velo) took the early lead and never looked back; riding strongly in a textbook example of derny riding. Pitt finished by crossing the line a clear four seconds ahead of her nearest competition. The battle for second ensued between Lydia Brookes (GS Henley) and Amber Joseph (Palmer Park Velo). With Joseph taking the lead in the early laps, Brookes bided her time to close the gap in the final four laps; speeding past Joseph with four laps remaining. Despite a strong effort in the closing lap, Joseph was unable to overcome Brookes with the two finishing third and second respectively.
The U14 boys were next to duel behind the dernies, and this time it was Callum Macleod (Palmer Park Velo) who took the lead of the gun. Like Pitt, Macleod defied his young years and relative inexperience to put in a fine display of derny riding to take victory some eleven seconds ahead of his closest rival, Jan Corsten (Palmer Park Velo) who paced his race well to come to the fore in the final three laps. Callum McQueen (Palmer Park Velo) held his pace to take a comfortable third place.
The final C derny race was delayed until after the 18 lap points race which again saw the A and B riders combined. Both the A and B races saw two riders dominate, with Rutter taking full points in each points lap for the As, and Ivory stealing maximum points amongst the Bs. English successfully finished runner-up on each lap for the As by keeping a close rein on Rutter, whilst the minor points for third and fourth place were shared between Greenstreet and Carr. Greenstreet, who had been denied third place in the scratch by such a small margin, got revenge in the points race by stealing two third places ahead of Carr’s one; which was ultimately enough to claim third place. Behind Ivory’s clean sweep in the Bs, consistency also won through for Henry Dawson with three third places earning him second place overall. A convincing second place in the first points lap and two fourth places were enough for Zittel to take third.
The final derny race followed the exciting points race, with six U16 boys lining up for the race. The tightest race of the evening ensued, with the first five riders ultimately finishing within six seconds of each other. Jolly took the early lead until an injection of pace in the sixth lap by Page saw him take the front and never look back. Jolly looked to be holding on for second place, but an incredible lap by Anderson (and the fastest of the race at 28.448 seconds) saw him pass Jolly to take second; Jolly having to make do with third place.
The C unknown distance followed, with the conditions still not cold enough to stop a healthy field of 15 riders starting the race. Page and Pete Osborne (BC Private Member) made an early break away from the bunch, and worked well together to increase their distance from the bunch. With the bell sounding at five laps, the pair had enough advantage to play cat and mouse with each other; Osborne perhaps hoping Page’s legs contained residual fatigue from his win in the derny race just seconds before the unknown distance started. Any hopes were soon dashed, however, when a sprint from the final bend enabled Page to take a convincing win by half a second from Osborne. U14 MacLeod won the minor sprint for third, just ahead of first placed girl, Amber Joseph.
The A&B riders’ unknown distance race followed and a fast pace was taken on from the start, taking many riders by surprise. However, when it became clear the race was not going to be over a small number of laps, the pace subsided and the bunch became united once more. A feigned bell ring at seven laps injected pace into the bunch, but it took a whole eight laps for the bell to finally sound. Rutter, who was positioned at the front of the race as the bell sounded, was able to hold on to his margin to take victory from English who managed to convincingly hold off a fast finishing Carr. Ivory took his second win of the evening amongst the B riders, ahead of Cammell and Zittel.
Final race of the evening was the awcycles.co.uk 20k race. Whether it was because of the cold or the fact that the season’s racing is almost over, a fast pace was injected from the start. It took just three laps for the first discernable break to form containing talented C riders Jolly, Thomson and Cameron, as well as the fast improving B rider Cammell. Hugh Knudsen (Team Tor 2000) was the only A rider to make the break. A number of breaks formed from the second peloton, but none made convincing roads into the quintet at the front of the race. Furthermore, with Knudsen falling off the back of the front pack after 18 laps, there was less incentive for the A riders to bring the group back. The group were able to hold their advantage for the entirety of the race which, for the first time ever, saw three C riders take the first three places: Anderson’s forceful sprint saw him get the better of Jolly by just five hundredths of a second, with Thomson barely half a bike length adrift for third. Cammell, the remaining rider in the breakaway and perhaps buoyed by an excellent performance in his first indoor track championship just a day previously, ended an string of good finishes for the evening to claim first B. The bunch of A riders finished a lap behind and it was Rutter who cemented his 100% win performance for the night. Second place once again went to English, who did well to hold off an accelerating Greenstreet in the final straight. Ivory took second place amongst the Bs, with Sam Grant (WDMBC) claiming third.