With the Indian summer in full swing, riders assembling for the final track league meeting of the year were met with warm and muggy conditions – even if the first race of the night was started under floodlights due to the failing light. The darkness did not deter many riders, however: the warm-up area at the western end of the track seemed busier than it had all season with riders keen to get in a last night of racing before the season finished.
The first race of the evening was the C riders’ C lap scratch race. With 28 riders starting the race, the U14 boys and female riders were given half a lap’s head start over the rest of the field in an attempt to create more space on the track. It took three laps for the determined group of older boys to catch the rest of the bunch and the merging of the two groups caused a degree of chaos amongst the peloton. However, the majority of the riders remained in contention and incredibly the first 19 riders finished within four seconds of each other. With Anthony Anderson (Sigma Sport) and Dylan Thomas (Palmer Park Velo) leading the bunch going into the final lap, Alex Jones (Twickenham CC) had to put in an exceptional turn of speed on the finishing straight to take the win, with Cameron Thomson (Palmer Park Velo) sitting firmly on his wheel to take second place. Anderson managed to hold on for third, just outsprinting the vastly improved Thomas on the line.
The A and B riders were combined for the 10 lap scratch race. The large field of 18 riders stayed together for the first seven laps of the race, until an interjection of speed by Neil Rutter (Cotswold Veldrijden) and Nick English (awcycles.co.uk) caused the group to fragment as the pair made a determined effort to break away from the bunch. A strong chase by George Clark (High Wycombe CC) saw him join the pair, ultimately bring the bunch back together for the final lap. Such is the power of Rutter’s sprint, he was able to sustain his advantage in the final straight and cross the line a third of a second ahead of Clark. Nick Abraham (BC Private Member) just held on for third place ahead of a fast finishing Ian Greenstreet (Newbury RC).
Next on the programme were the devil races, and first up were the C U14 boys, ladies and girls. The 16 riders were eliminated at the rate of just one per lap, meaning the four riders left in the final lap had a total of 12 laps in their legs as the final lap bell was sounding. Angus Hawkins (Palmer Park Velo) showed no signs of fatigue however, outsprinting Callum Macleod (Palmer Park Velo) to take victory by 0.2 seconds. Lorna Bowler (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) rode an exceptional race to finish third overall, just half a wheel length ahead of Amber Joseph (Palmer Park Velo).
The next devil race was for the C U16 boys, novices and vets. With 11 riders starting, the group of four contesting the win in the final lap had ridden four less laps than the preceding race. Those left on the final lap were the strong quartet of Charles Page (Hillingdon Slipstreamers), Carl Jolly (Hillingdon Slipstreamers), Thomson and Anderson. Page, who found himself almost eliminated going into the final lap, put in a very speedy final lap to pass the other three riders to take first place, a whole half second ahead of runner-up Jolly with Thomson taking third.
Nine riders lined up for the A devil race which was next on the programme. Riders were pulled out at the rate of one per lap, with just two riders – Rutter and Clark – contesting the final lap. Rutter’s kick in the final straight saw him take the win with Clark doing well to finish just a third of a second down. English, as the last rider to be eliminated, claimed third place. The same number of riders started the B devil race which followed. This time it was Tom Zittel (Willesden CC) and David Ivory (Reading CC) who were left in the final lap. Impressively, Zittel put in a final lap two seconds faster than seen in the A race preceding it to take first place, with Ivory finishing some three seconds adrift. Tomasz Dereszynski (BC Private Member), the last rider to get eliminated, took third place.
Just in case the final 20k points race of the evening was too much for the C riders, they were treated to a nine lap version next in the programme. First up were the U14 and female riders. Winner of the first full points was Chloe Jones (Newbury RC), with Joshua Knowles (Palmer Park Velo) second across the line. Jan Corsten (Palmer Park Velo) took third place. Both Knowles and Corsten went one place better in the next set of points, with Angus Hawkins (Palmer Park Velo) snatching third place. Fourth place in this second set was enough for Jones to claim a well earned third place overall, with a fourth place in the final set sealing the win for Knowles. Hawkins took the full points in the final lap which was enough for second place.
Next was the turn of the U16s, the novices and vets. Taking the lead from his daughter in the previous race, Lee Jones (Newbury RC) took the first full set of points and, with a second place in the next set, he took second place overall. Page impressively managed to grab full points in the second and third points laps to take the race win. Guest rider Jonathan Ralph took third place with a second and third place in the first and second points laps respectively.
The A&B Hare and Hounds followed next on the programme, with the A riders chasing the Bs. With the B riders much improved with a season of racing in their legs, it took a whole seven laps for the A riders to catch them. As the bell sounded, it was Clark’s turn to demonstrate how to ride the final lap, riding decisively and strongly to take the lead going into the final straight. Clark impressively managed to hold off Rutter’s sprint, who was relegated to second place for the first time in the evening’s racing. English took third place.
The next item on the programme was the final chance for riders to compete in the coveted West London CA 1km time trial competition. Oliver Hitchings (Peter Hansford Racing) had been contesting the event each week to try and steal the crown from Greenstreet and this evening represented the last chance for Hitchings to better Greenstreet’s mark of 1:12.5, set two weeks previously. Despite his best efforts and an exceptionally fast opening lap, Hitchings clocked a time of 1:13.1 – his best time of the season, but not enough to unseat Greenstreet from top spot. Greenstreet was presented with his impressive trophy after the event, with Hitchings having to settle for the runner-up spot. Matt Roper (Brixton Cycles) finished in third place with his ride of 1:13.63 on 23 June.
22 riders assembled under the crescent moon above for the last scratch race of the season – the C riders’ 10 lap scratch race. The race was fast and tight from the start, and victory could have belonged to any of the first 10 riders going into the final lap. It was Thomson who, by putting in the fastest lap of the race at 31.4 seconds, was ultimately able to claim victory – just half a wheel ahead of a fast finishing Thomas. Nel, showing no signs of fatigue from the kilo previously, took third spot.
The penultimate race of the season was the A&B riders’ unknown distance race. At four laps, the race was one of the shorter ones of the season, and many of the riders – including most the A riders – rode the race as more of a warm-up for the John Ralph Memorial 20k points race which was immediately following it. The final straight saw Dereszynski pip Zittel by just two hundredths of a second for the win, with guest rider Harry Strudley taking third. Nick Cammell (Mountain Trax RT) took third place amongst the Bs. The A riders finished considerably behind, with Clark, Hugh Knudsen (Team Tor 2000) and Hitchings taking first, second and third respectively.
The final race of the season was, as is traditional, the John Ralph Memorial 20k Points Race. 20 riders started the race, and a fast place was resumed from the start with many of the riders getting shelled from the group within the first few laps. With the main bunch staying together for the first three set of sprints, it was sprinter Rutter who claimed full points for the first three sprint laps with Clark and C riders Anderson and Thomson taking the majority of the minor points. Nick Abraham (BC Private Member) scooped maximum points in the fourth points round with Rutter once again taking the maximum points in the fifth points lap. It was at this point that English seized the opportunity to take to the front of the race and impressively timetrialled his way through the final eight kilometres of the race to take maximum points in the final four points laps. Heartbreakingly for English, however, a second place for Rutter in the final sprint was enough for Rutter to seize overall victory of the race. Meanwhile, Anderson, who collected points in every points lap except for the last, claimed third place. Abraham finished as third A, with Cammell, Trevor Bradbury (awcycles.co.uk) and Knudsen taking first, second and third respectively amongst the Bs. Harvey McNoughton (i-Team CC) was the only other C rider apart from Anderson to finish.
The race made for a magnificent end to a top quality season of racing, and congratulations to all riders for completing a successful – and exciting – 2014 season.