PPThumbYou cannot keep riders away from Preston Park. Despite decidedly doubtful weather conditions, 71 competitors signed on for the fourth meeting of the season at the Brighton track. There were cloudy skies as the normal evening start-time approached, and the track surface was still drying out, but chief commissaire Rob Fuller decided that play could begin at the slightly later-than-usual time of 7.15pm.

Seniors

PP_13.5.09_SENIORS_by_Dan_DunbarThe 8-lap opener was slow to ignite, with Martin O’Brien the first to show on the front of the 31-strong bunch along with Lee Povey and Martyn Potter. League leader Felix English injected pace to proceedings on lap 2, with Charlie Sayer sticking to his wheel like superglue and Charlie Heffernan and Sean McClelland very much in attendance. At half-distance, Mark Mergler made a move and managed to create daylight between himself and the bunch, gaining a maximum of approximately 70 metres. His adventure lasted three laps, during which time Mark Burgess, Jason Salter and Charlie Sayer were the chief pacemakers for the fast-moving peloton. Just before the bell, Sayer attacked and got a small gap, but despite his name he didn’t get the last word, and it was the TGV Felix English who thundered home first, ahead of Jean Spies, Potter, Heffernan, Andy Parle and Nick Smith.

The first senior handicap race of the season is always an interesting event, with several unknown quantities for the handicapper to deal with. Three riders went through to the final from each of three heats, which were won by new rider Andrew Edwards, fast-improving George Webster and stylish Mark Burgess. Starting from scratch, Lee Povey managed to avoid getting stuck in traffic and he overhauled all his rivals to take a fine win, with Philip Burnett, Edwards, Webster, Lea Denison and Brock Duncumb-Rogers in his wake. As it happened, handicapper Dave Gerrey had made a fine job for the first handicap event, with little distance between the first few finishers.

The B seniors points race was going to be a key event, with B league leader Andy Parle needing just two more wins to take the B title for the season. Richard Bailey took the first maximum, and next time up it was Ben Miller who bagged the five points. With everything to ride for and points having been distributed to several riders, Paul Barnard put up a great display by going away with just over a lap to go. He succeeded in staying ahead to take the final maximum, and the event, while next in line on points were Bailey, Miller, Mergler, Parle and Paul McCarthy.

PP_13.5.09_Felix_at_speed_by_Dan_DunbarFelix English dominated the equivalent A points race. After two sprints he already had an unassailable lead with 10 points. By the bell, he and Jean Spies had broken away, Spies taking the final sprint and second place behind English. Mark Burgess’s early efforts secured him third spot and Martyn Potter took fourth. Driss Jones had managed to join English and Spies on the final lap and this grabbed him fifth place, while Edwards came in sixth.

With light fading quickly, there was just time for an unknown distance race. New rider James Lowden pocketed the first £5 prime, and Jean Spies became £5 richer when he took the next. Both the bell and the prime whistle
sounded next time round, and it was Felix English who rounded off a very successful evening with a great sprint to take the win and the money. Inevitably, Spies was runner-up, then came Heffernan, Jones, Burgess and Salter.

On the night, with three wins out of three non-handicap races English consolidated his lead in the A-league, with Povey second and Burgess third. Worryingly for all, though, South Africa champ Spies is moving up the rankings with good results last week and tonight. Paul Barnard’s win has brought him well and truly into the B-league tables, where Andy Parle leads with three victories. On points alone, Parle is ahead while Mark Mergler is second and Richard Bailey is third.

Youths

PP_13.5.09_keen_youngster_by_Dan_DunbarThey just get younger and younger! After last week having Oscar Denman-Gould (aged 5), this week we had 4½-year-old Freddie Davies on the start-line. The youths racing was as well-contested as always, and this week it was Jack Oliver-Blaney who took the special prize for the most deserving youth (see below). Now that we are into the fourth week and most of the riders’ abilities are known, the handicaps are nearly always very close calls.

U16/U14

The joint U16/U14 race was an eventful affair. U14 Kim English was first to show at the front, though U16s Elliot Tabraham-Dowers and Jack Oliver-Blaney as well as U14 Amy Jacobs were also well up there. By the bell, Elliot had broken away alone, though U14 Ashley Dennis put up a spirited chase and Emily Barnes was at the head of the bunch at this point. Alas for Elliot, raising both arms at the finish brought him disqualification, which he accepted with good grace. Next came Ashley, then it was Amy, Jack, Emily, Kim and then Jack Hoyle.

The U16 2-lap dash was well and truly won by Elliot, though Jack’s determined and energetic chase helped secure him the weekly youth prize. Second place in the event went to Milo Burdeau and Jack hung on for third.

Ashley won the parallel U14 race alone, followed in by Emily, Amy and Jack. Next came Matthew Hill and Jake Marley, both of whom were riding well all evening.

Matthew made very good use of his allowance to win the block handicap race out on his own, then came a quartet featuring Jake, Elliot, Jack Oliver-Blaney and Jack Hoyle in that order, and the bunch sprint was then won by Thomas Myers.

U12

PP_13.5.09_young_speed_by_Dan_DunbarSpencer Thomas gave a great display to win the 2-lap scratch race on his own, while the bunch was led in by strong Amy Barnes, with Megan Lewis, Harris Redgrove, Luke Stacey and Ben O’Brien next in line. Drew Miller-Hyndman won the handicap race in style, ahead of Ben, Harris, Luke, then Will Paine and Spencer. The scheduled devil-take-the-hindmost was replaced by a simple 2-lap dash because of fading light and this was won by Amy, in front of Spencer, Harris, Luke, Megan and Ben.

U10/U8

There were no surprises in the U8 1-lap dash, with league leader Evelyn Parle coming in first ahead of Dominci Kazlauskas, Oliver Brooker, 5-year-old Oscar Denman-Gould and 4½-year-old Freddie Davies. There was exactly the same result in the 200-metre dash. Douglas McCauley won the 1-lap scratch race, with Harry Stacey, Thomas Burnett, Joe Hill, Cory Anderson and Bethany Lewis next over the line. Cory rose to the occasion in the dash event to take a fine win followed by Douglas, Harry, Thomas, Joe and Bethany. Joe won the combined handicap contest, and next to finish were Sam Barnes, Oscar
, Harry, Lois Parle and Cory.

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