The first of what will, hopefully, be a series of mini-summers drew to an end on Monday night under a cloudless sky, accompanied by the gentle murmuring of Derny motors. With only five Dernies available and, as a result, a lot of heats to run, the decision was taken to run first round of the Senior B Derny championship and the Under 12 Youths this week, with the remainder of the Youths and the Senior As kicking off their series in 3 weeks’ time.

Full Results Picture galleries

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Ian Greenstreet of Newbury RC leads Steven Bradbury of AW Cycles and Trevor Bradbury of Reading CC in the opening 10 lap scratch

Full Results

The evening started with the traditional mixed Senior A & B race – a straight 10 Lap Scratch this week, with As, Bs and Ladies all scoring points for their own respective championships.  Juniors – and AW Cycles team mates – Steven Bradbury and Matt Gittings set the pace early on, but there were few serious attacks. Nick English (Reading CC) went off the front at one point, with Neil Cooper (AW Cycles in pursuit, but the break was chased down and it was Ian Greenstreet (Newbury RC) who lead the final lap dash. He was overhauled off the final bend by Bradbury with Dan Maslin (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) and Rob King (AW Cycles) in hot pursuit. Bradbury held on for the win and father Trevor made it a family affair, taking the B win from on-from Rikki Pankhurst (AW Cycles) and William Macke (Palmer Park Velo).
The As now had an extended recovery period as the Senior B Derny championship roared into life, with several of the Derny drivers who recently gained their licenses at Welwyn making their competition debuts – under the watchful eye of the experienced due of Sean Bannister and Clive Sturgeon.

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That experience proved invaluable to Pankhurst in first heat as he and pacer Bannister steadily chased down early leader Steve Bale (Reading CC), paced by Sturgeon, and Gawain Bailey (Team Zappi’s) and Derny debutant Dave Dentus in his yet-to-be-UCI-approved cardigan with aero ribbing.  Whether it was turbulence from Dentus’ top or simply lack of miles in Bailey’s post-comeback legs, he struggled to hold the Derny in the later stages as Bannister and Pankhurst set a blistering pace to book a place in the final.
Heat 2 was a contrast of styles, with young Frazier Carr of Palmer Park Velo – paced by the newly qualified Andy Pitt – put in a flawless display of smooth, consistent riding behind the motorbike, sat right on the rear mudguard.  The draw meant that he lead on the first lap, but he was soon overhauled by Tristan Natolie – newly resplendent in the colours of Charlotteville CC – who looked strong and was clearly pushing a much bigger gear than that mandated to protect Carr’s Under 16 knees. Natolie and pacer Gisela Bradbury opened up a sizeable lead, but it was clear that the big gear was hurting and Natolie started to lose contact with his pacer. Carr swept past him and, as the laps started to run out, so did Dentus and Reading CC’s Jun Aishima who appeared to be spinning an even smaller gear than Carr. It was the youngster who took a comfortable win and the place in the final – and a first win for the new batch of Derny pilots – with Aishima second and Natolie hanging on for third.

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The third heat was much closer with the Pitt-Palmer Park Velo combination again to the fore, this time with William Macke doing the pedalling. Macke took an early lead and looking set for a comfortable win. With a couple of laps to go, though, he was passed by Joe Holloway of VC10, tucked in behind Dentus and the now notorious knitwear.  By the time Macke re-passed Holloway in the closing stages, a third duo had joined the fight, with Bannister again to the fore, pacing none other than Joe’s dad Kevin.  With all three riders struggling to keep the wheel in a frantic dash for the line, it was Macke who took the win, with Holloway Senior nicking second in the last ten metres.
Heat 4. With the sun finally starting to disappear, it was Reading CC’s Trevor Bradbury who booked the penultimate place in the final with possibly the most controlled win of the evening – and Pitt’s third of the night as a pacer.  Stephen Avery of Team Zappi’s followed them home in second place, paced by Dave Dentus.
In the final heat George Withers had the chance to join his Palmer Park Velo team mates – and fellow Under 16s – Macke and Carr in the final – as well as giving Pitt a shot at four wins in a row on the Derny. It wasn’t to be, though, with Sam Grant (Beyond MBC) taking full advantage of the sweater slipstream, partnering Dentus to his first win as a pacer.


Emma Grant of AW Cycles cruises to victory in the Ladies Final behind the “Woollen Wall” of pacer Dave Dentus


The Ladies had a straight final, which returning Olympic Development Programme rider Harrier Owen (Bicester Millenium – paced by Andy Pitt) lead early on, before being passed first by fellow ODP rider Emma Grant (AW Cycles – Dave Dentus) and then by Jayne Paine of Willesden CC (Sean Bannister). Paine battled hard to get on terms with Grant, but in the end it was an easy win – and two in a row for the Flying Furball.

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Steven Bradbury and Matt Gittings of AW Cycles fight it out for the final sprint in the Senior A Points race

Before the male Derny paced final, there was a points race for the long suffering Senior As, who had been kicking their heels through all the Derny heats, Ladies final and a couple of youth races. A fast paced race was ultimately decided when a group of four riders – AW Cycles duo Bradbury and Gittings and Ne
wbury RC duo Donal Linehan and Ian Greenstreet rode clear.  Bradbury took the win, with Gittings second and Greenstreet third.

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Frazier Carr (paced by John Wann) comes round Willam Macke (Sean Bannister) to win the Senior B Derny final


Pankhurst  and Sturgeon led off the Derrny final, with Macke and Bannister tucked in behind and in the early stages the two combos started to open up a gap on the rest of the field.  Grant, Dentus and the Schott sweater soon made their move, followed by Carr and his neophyte pacer John Wann, with Pitt and Bradbury bringing up the rear.
Macke took over the lead and looked to have things sewn up, despite pressure from Grant. It was Carr who finally made the winning move, though – albeit, thanks to a couple of mix-ups with the lap board, on the 12th lap of 10 – coming alongside Macke onto the home straight and lungeing off the wheel of the Derny to take the win by the narrowest of margins.
The final event of the evening was a shortened AW Cycles Endurance race over 15k which was completely dominated by Nick English of Reading CC who lapped the field before half distance and rode most of the second half of the race on the front of the remaining bunch. In the early stages he’d been joined in his attack by Rob King and Neil Cooper of AW Cycles and Nick Abraham who lost touch with him but stayed clear of the bunch for most of the race, before being swallowed up in the last 5 minutes of the race.

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Nick English of Reading CC laps the field then leads the bunch in the final stages of the AW Cycles 15k


With 3 laps to go, Derny winner Carr jumped off the front and opened up a 75 metre lead on the bunch, which he held for just over two laps. He was swallowed up by the sprint for the line, though, with early escapee Neil Cooper taking 2nd as a reward for his efforts, with Under 16 Olympic Talent Team rider Dan Maslin 3rd. Tristan Natolie took the B honours ahead of Bradbury Senior and Gawain Bailey.

Youth racing by Chris Macleod

Brrrring, ting, ting, ting, ting, brrrrrrrrrrrrrring, ting, ting, ting – it’s hard to describe the sound of a Derny motorcycle in complimentary terms but, unlike the sound you’ll hear when being buzzed by a chav-on-a-ped, I’ve come to associate the sound with something rather astonishing, Derny Motor Paced racing. It’s a slightly peculiar form of bicycle racing in that the cyclist slipstreams behind a small motorcycle, but it can be one of the most exhilarating and exciting to watch. So arriving at Palmer Park for the latest installment of youth track racing I was filled with anticipation, as standing bold on the program of events was the aforementioned Derny racing. But before the fun really began the biggest field of youth riders this year started the evening under a cloudless sky with a 1 lap Youth Handicap.

Splitting the field into two groups, the Under 8s, Under 10s and Under 12s were off first being handicapped according to Shane Benson’s slightly less than scientific ‘rough handicapping’ system, with those of greater age and more speed starting further away from the finish and those of smaller stature and a little less pace being closer. The aim being that everyone is in with a realistic chance of a placing. Now, it may be assumed that I’m being critical of Shane’s methods. I’m not. I know that his ‘rough handicapping’ system has developed over many years and his ability to judge each rider and handicap them accordingly is something astonishing. And the first race was nothing short of astonishing with the entire field finishing in extremely close proximity to one another. Charging through the field from positions well back were Under 12 Cameron Thompson, who took the win, and Under 10 Callum Macleod who just failed to catch second placed Damon King on the line. A great start to the night.

In the Under 14 and Under 16s race the main field again finished closely together. But this time something was slightly askew with Shane’s system. He hadn’t taken into account “new bike fever”, an easy omission. And so it was Under 14 girl Toni Griffiths who romped away from the entire field on her new Dolan beaming the biggest smile of the night, followed in second by the spritely Reg Pay with Abi Dentus in third.

A six lap block handicap followed with the ever impressive Harvey Watson and Max Stedman filling the top two spots and Abi Dentus showing most of the boys, and all the Under 16s, that she’s continuing her confident form by taking third.

So to the main event – the Dernies.

Up first were Max Reed, Emily Conn, Euan Macleod and Conor Hindman whose combined height can’t be much more than about 16 feet. So picture the spectre of four, four footers each riding behind their own Derny all screaming “ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ” at their respective Derny Pacers. The energy is quite amazing as was the competition. Making an early move was Conor Hindman who drew level with the Andrew Pitt paced Euan Macleod before slightly tiring. The riders then held position until the pace really picked up in the final lap with Emily Conn putting in a late effort to take an excellent second behind Euan with Conor a close third just in front of Max.

Next in-line was Anna Linehan followed by Damon King, Callum Macleod, Cameron Thompson and Max Rigby. With Pacers obviously aware of the need to gently increase the pace throughout the race stations were held for the initial few laps with Damon King making the first push for the front. With two to go the pace increased dramatically. As Seán Bannister paced Callum to the front he seemed to be in control of the race, or so I thought. A perfect run round the outside of the final corner saw Andrew Pitt pace Cameron to a brilliantly timed dash to the line for an excellent win with Callum second and Damon third.

Now we were getting into the meat of the heats with the next set to be one of the most fiercely contested. We weren’t let down. Pacer and Follower pairs were; Seán Bannister & Emma Pitt, Gisela Bradbury & Luis Hindman, Dave Dentus & Samual Oliver and last but, certainly not least, Andrew Pitt & Carl Jolly.

As was apparent
in the two previous heats, the enthusiasm of these riders was patently obvious. But one thing none of them yet realizes, Derny racing is a particularly attritional form of racing (I know this from painful first-hand experience) and it is the responsibility of the Pacer to ensure that they pace their follower to the finish, not just three-quarter race distance as is often witnessed in the senior races where the adults often go too fast, too quickly and then blow-up at the critical moment. So in spite of persistent hollering of the now familiar “ALLEZ” the group of pacers started off steadily and built the pace as the race developed.

At this point it’s important to understand something of critical importance to Derny racing. So youths – listen up!! When you and your pacer are at the front you are in the best position to control the race. Your pacer can run his Derny, and you his follower, right up to the blue line with no fear of being undertaken. Undertaking in a Derny paced race results in instant disqualification. The consequence of this is that overtaking becomes MUCH harder. So while your speed may increase by 1 mph that of the passing pair has to increase by as much as 4 or 5 mph to travel the greater distance needed to pass. That’s very hard to maintain for any length of time so generally pacers try to make passing moves smooth, fast and efficient. But while you are not in any danger of being passed, bide your time, save your energy and trust that your Pacer will increase their speed at the appropriate time to make life very difficult for those on the outside. Remember, when you can you must conserve energy. Anyway, I digress, back to the race.

The early laps saw Carl and Emma open up a healthy lead ensuring that the chasers had to do a lot of work to get back on terms, which they all did very well. As the pace steadily increased, moves from behind were made first by Danny, then by Luis followed by Sam. These moves were expertly countered by the Pacers up front making it too hard for a pass to stick. One by one the chasers faltered and fell back in line. As the penultimate lap started the pace was high with Andy and Carl looking fully in control. With the final lap bell ringing out the race appeared to be in their hands. But the experience of Seán Bannister coupled to the super leg speed and control of Emma gradually started show. As both pairs ran flat out round the final bend, on the rivet, I was out of my seat as if witnessing the winning kick by Scotland in a Calcutta Cup match. It was momentarily as exciting as any sporting event I’ve ever witnessed with Emma taking the feverish sprint by less than a wheel. On another night it will go the other way. All the Pacers and Followers deserve a lot of credit for making this a wonderful spectacle throughout.

Having regained my composure I settled for the final race of the youth program, a 10 lap Scratch. With four separate groups around the track each running at a steady pace it took a little time for the action to get going. As the race formed into one big group the attacks came thick and fast. First off the front was John Ellis who very quickly pulled out a 100 meters only to sit up in a rather defeatist manner. Two thoughts came to mind. If you’re going to attack off the front fully commit and keep the move going, you just can’t tell what might happen. If you’re not going to fully commit yourself then save your energy for later. Next to go was the improving Jack Smith followed by George Needham with both Abi Dentus and Reg Pay putting in good kicks. The race developed with Duncan Lawrence breaking away to form a group of five with Max Stedman, Jason Brown, Daniel Lansley and Harvey Watson. With Jason faltering a little, the group fought hard to the line resulting in a well-taken and thoroughly deserved win for the ever-persistent U14 Max Stedman, Duncan Lawrence in second and Harvey Watson in third. First girl was Abi Dentus, who impressed later in the evening by competing in the senior ladies Derny Paced event.

While I fully understand an individual rider’s wish to win, who won does not matter to me. What is important from my observational perspective is that each rider take a positive from these races and learn a little each time they compete. By doing so you will improve.

Well done everyone, Pacers included, a very enjoyable evening from which there is a lot to learn.

See you in a fortnight.

Full Results

Youths

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Seniors

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