Once again, drizzle lingered in the air for the fourteenth track league of the season. However, if any of the many absent riders were secretly wishing for rain to halt racing in order to stagnate the points situation for a week, they obviously did not wish hard enough and racing went ahead as planned – albeit with a slightly revised programme.
The first race of the evening was the C riders’ 6 lap scratch race. Despite the absence of a number of the more experienced riders, the race assumed a fast pace from the start and the bunch of 13 riders became immediately fragmented. It soon became clear that the race was going to be decided in a sprint, and it was an early move by guest rider Charles Page (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) which saw him accelerate away from the bunch on the final bend and finish nearly five seconds ahead of Dylan Thomas (Palmer Park Velo). Pete Osborne (British Cycling Private Member) took third place.
Although separate A and B scratch races were due to follow according to the programme, the lack of riders meant the two races were combined to form a Hare & Hounds race with just four riders representing each of the As and Bs. With the A-riders having a non-conventional rolling start with half a lap’s disadvantage, the group quickly made inroads into the B competitors and, with the bell sounding, the bunch were united. A trio consisting of Matthew Gittings (awcycles.co.uk), Neil Rutter (Cotswold Veldrijden) and Nick Abraham (British Cycling Private Member) broke away from the rest of bunch on the final corner with Gittings crossing the line less than a tenth of a second clear from a fast finishing Rutter. Abraham finished barely half a wheel behind in third place.
Derny racing was replaced with keirin races for the night, and first up were the ladies. Four ladies contested the event, and it was U14 rider Chloe Jones (Newbury RC) who took to the front at the final bend. Lydia Brookes (GS Henley) looked like she was going to steal the win with the gap closing in the final straight, but Jones held on to take victory by just 0.07 seconds. Harriet Mellor (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) took third.
The A keirin was run as a straight final, and a close race ensued. The final result saw all riders finish within less than a second of each other, with Gittings just getting the edge over Rutter on the line to win. Abraham took third place. The B keirin final was an even closer affair than the A race, with all three podium finishers crossing the line within a tenth of a second of each other. This time it was Sam Grant (WDMBC) who, despite his best attempts, got the better of Nick Cammell (Mountain Trax RT) by a hundredth of a second. Tom Hemmant (British Cycling Private Member) took third spot.
All thirteen C riders present at the evening’s racing started the Devil race which followed and, with a single rider being eliminated each lap, the veritable trio of Page, Carl Jolly (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) and Osborne remained in the final lap. In the end, it was Page’s sprint talent which saw him get the better of the other two riders to cross the line first, with Jolly taking second and Osborne third.
The A&B riders were then combined for the devil race which was decided with a sprint between the familiar faces of Abraham, Gittings and Rutter. Despite Rutter’s forceful sprint in the closing metres, it was again Gittings who took victory barely a tyre’s breadth ahead of Rutter. Abraham finished in third.
The C keirin final followed, and an amazingly tight race ensued with all six riders finishing barely a metre apart. Jolly put in a stellar sprint in the final straight to take first place, with Thomas riding well to take second. Lee Jones (Newbury RC) clocked the fastest lap of the race to steal third place from Osborne.
A 10-lap scratch race was added to the programme for the A&B riders. The eight riders stayed together until the bell, and we had one of the tightest finishes we have clocked since we started using electronic timing at Palmer Park: Gittings won by just a thousandth of a second ahead of Rutter. Abraham was third amongst the A riders. B rider Cammell took third place overall for first place amongst the B riders, with Hemmant taking second place and Nicholas Beech (GS Henley) claiming third.
The 10 lap scratch race for the C riders followed and a fairly brisk pace was assumed from the start. With the bell sounded, any chivalry within the bunch was thrown to the wind, and a breakaway group of three riders took off from the rest of the bunch. It was once again the fast finish of Page which saw him claim the win, with Thomas riding well for second and Jolly taking third.
With the evening running significantly ahead of schedule, many riders were anticipating a longer than normal unknown distance race. However, these thoughts were not enough to stop a number of determined riders attempting to break away from the start. However, with the bell failing to sound early, the group were united again after just two laps. The bell sounded as the riders completed four laps, with Gittings once again winning in a sprint ahead of Rutter and Abraham.
Just fifteen riders started the awcycles.co.uk 20k this week and, with so few A and B riders, the C riders had a real chance to shine this week. It took 15 laps for the group to fragment, with the front bunch of seven riders (containing all the remaining A competitors, Page, Jolly, Cammell and Osborne) slowly breaking away as a unified bunch away from the rest of the dispersed riders on the track. The pace of the septet accelerated in the last 20 laps and, with 10 laps to go, riders started to make breakaway attempts from the field and the pace increased as a consequence. Going into the final lap, it looked like we could be in for the as yet unheard occurrence of a C rider winning the 20k with Page leading out into the final lap. However, Rutter’s determination to steal a single win for the evening was such that he stole the win with a wheel length to spare from Page. Abraham was second amongst the A riders and Frazier Carr (awcycles.co.uk) finished third. Cammell was first of the B riders to cross the line, with Beech second and Grant in third. Jolly managed a creditable fourth overall for second placed C, with Osborne taking third. Claire Kitching (Newbury RC) was best of the ladies.