As has become the norm over the past few years, Palmer Park was once again blessed with glorious sunshine for the seventh staging of the Reading DernyFest. An impressive pool of riders featured on the startsheet including 2014 British derny champion, Matt Gittings (Texas Road House Cycling) and last year’s winner, Oliver Moors (Project 51). With Michael Mottram (Spokes of Bagshot), John McClelland (Bush Healthcare CRT) and Alastair Rutherford (The Nab Racing) also featuring, an exciting afternoon of racing was sure to unfold.
The first heat of the omnium saw Oliver Moors and Michael Mottram (Spokes of Bagshot) triumph fairly comfortably to get through to the 25k final, with Tom Simpson (Brixton Cycles Club) and Glenn O’Brien (CC Luton) qualifying for the 20k final.
The second heat proved to be a closer affair, with Gavin Mitchell (Twickenham CC) taking the early lead, but the gap was soon closed. With 10 laps remaining on the board, Gittings took the race on and put nearly half a lap between himself and the remaining riders in the space of just just two laps. McClelland fought back well to snap up the second spot in the major final, with Frazier Carr (University of Bath CC) just missing out by two seconds to qualify for the 20k final – despite arguably being the most attacking rider in the heat. Brendan Drewett (Fareham Wheelers CC) took the other spot in the 20k final, with early leader Mitchell sadly only able to qualify for the 15k final.
The final heat had a rather frantic start with Harry Strudley (University of Bath) taking the early lead. However, this dominance faded after six laps with Vojtech Blazejovsky (Brixton CC) and Alistair Rutherford taking charge at the front of the race. The two riders stayed at the front for the remainder of the race, qualifying for the major final nearly a lap ahead of third placed Connor Woodford (Willesden CC). Johannes Roux (Giant Cycling Club-Halo Films) took the other place in the 20k final.
The 15k derny final was contested by just four riders and the riders remained bunched together – and in the same order – for the entire race. In the closing three laps, Strudley and Mitchell broke away from the other two finalists, with a frantic sprint ensuing in the final straight. Strudley, paced well by Jason Pitt, came out on top to win the race, finishing just a five metres clear of Mitchell. Beth Engvis (Scarlet Fire Racing) rode well to finish third, with Jacob Kilby (Palmer Park Velo) taking fourth spot.
The 20k final saw Tom Simpson steal an early lead in the race; a lead he was able to sustain for a full 10 laps. However, perhaps due to going off rather harder than planned, the group caught the tiring Simpson with 30 laps remaining on the board. It was now Drewett’s turn to take to the front and, under the expert pacing of Tony Hibbert, he managed to maintain it until Frazer Carr, who had clearly been biding his time, attacked the lead with just four laps remaining on the board. Despite the fast pace, the race remained tightly packed until the last lap when Drewett attacked Carr’s lead, passing him in the final straight to steal the top spot; his final lap ultimately proving faster than any lap in the major final. Carr finished just half a bike length adrift, with Roux and O’Brien taking third and fourth respectively just a few metres back.
The 25k final featured a veritable line-up: Matt Gittings may be reigning national derny champion, but Alistair Rutherford has a string of impressive track credentials including gold medals from the recent National Masters and a win in the 30k derny race at the Bordeaux-Paris race at Reading in May. Competition would be tight. Gittings took the early lead, successfully holding it for 25 laps until last year’s winner, Oliver Moors, who had been lying in wait and passed Gittings with 30 laps remaining on the board. Despite the best efforts of Mottram, the race for the win soon became a three-horse race between Gittings, Moors and Rutherford. Rutherford charged past Gittings with 15 laps remaining on the board, resisting further attacks and slowly increasing his dominance on the race. In the duel for second place, Moors looked to be the stronger rider in the closing laps, but a last burst of speed by Gittings in the final lap saw him pass Moors. Rutherford ended up finishing nine seconds clear of Gittings, with Moors a further four seconds further adrift. After losing contact with the leading three riders, Mottram was unable to contest the final podium places but took a convincing fourth spot.
Rutherford adds yet another derny victory to his impressive credentials and Gittings, who was undoubtedly carrying a level of fatigue having only flown in from Texas two days prior to the event, should be pleased with a well fought second place. Moors’ display of dominance in the previous year could not be repeated this time, but he must surely be satisfied with his ability to launch attack after attack throughout the closing stages. The pacers themselves also deserve credit: Pip Taylor piloted the winning derny for Rutherford, with Gittings having George Gilbert to thank. Sean Bannister paced Moors to third place.