As the eyes of much of the world were on World Cup football, the ninth league meeting at Brighton’s Preston Park kicked off with a grand total of 79 riders for another action-packed evening of track-racing in fine weather. And by full-time, senior league leader Felix English had successfully tackled all his opponents and notched up four wins.
Seniors
Once more, English dominated the racing tonight, but he had his work cut out this time, notably with some gutsy attacking riding from Jack Oliver-Blaney, Nick Jepson, Ashley Dennis and others.
The first half of the 8-lap opener featured several efforts to flee the pack. Nick Smith, Elliot Tabraham-Dowers, Sara Gent and Milo Burdeau all made moves, then it was the turn of Stuart Bettis, Andy Parle, Dennis, David McElhannan and Mark Burgess to move slightly ahead. At mid-race, though, they were all together, before visiting VC Londres rider Euan Cattermole moved up front with Oliver-Blaney, Dennis, Brock Duncumb-Rogers, Anthony Rogers and Tabraham-Dowers. In his first meet this season, Sean McClelland then sped to the front of the bunch along with Paul Barnard and Matthew Butt. By the bell, it was obvious it would all boil down to a bunch sprint, and almost inevitably English sprinted ahead to take the win, ahead of Drew Holmes, Dennis, Burgess, Duncumb-Rogers and Ben Miller.
With three riders going through to the final from each of three heats, it was anyone’s guess who might come top in the handicap competition. As it happened, Lee Povey, starting from scratch, successfully negotiated the traffic in front of him to win the final in style, followed in by Cattermole, Burgess, Gent, Sam Cheesman and Zoe Lewis.
There were two separate points races. In the A-category event, Oliver-Blaney went away early on to take the first maximum, followed by Dennis and Tabraham-Dowers in a promising move. By the next payout, English had gone into overdrive and he took the maximum in front of his three breakaway companions. English notched up all remaining maximums to take a clear overall win, with Dennis, Oliver-Blaney, Duncumb-Rogers, Smith and Tabraham-Dowers being the other points-scorers.
The B-cat race featured maximum points for Steve Kane, Jack Hoyle, Jepson and also John Aston twice. For his consistent scoring, though, it was young Hoyle who won the event, followed by Aston, Jepson, Burnett, Burdeau and Kane.
Aston, McElhannan and Paul McCarthy created a gap at the start of the B2 3-lap dash and they succeeded in staying away for most of the race. However, in the tightest sprint of the night, neither the judges nor the finish-line film could separate the first two, so Aston and Matt Wise shared victory, with McElhannan a fraction adrift in third place. Cattermole rode strongly to take the B1 dash ahead of Hoyle and Cheesman, then English won the A-cat race, with Dennis second and Burgess third.
Dennis and Holmes broke away near the start of the unknown distance race, the former grabbing the first prime on offer. Riders regularly appearing at or near the front of the peloton were Bettis, Oliver-Blaney, Tabraham-Dowers, Cattermole, Gent and Burdeau. English and Miller flew from the bunch and before long everyone was back together. English turned the screw even more and away he went, just in time to pocket the next fiver, and intent on staying out front. The bunch had other ideas, though, and collectively they kept up the pressure on English, with some strong turns at the front from Jepson, Dennis, Burnett, Oliver-Blaney and others. Amazingly after the high tempo with repeated attacks, there were still about 20 riders still in with a shout and no-one was going to let victory slip if they could avoid it. The final lap-prize went to English, but he was back with the bunch soon afterwards and an all-up sprint appeared inevitable. While some riders were struggling to hang on at the back by now, the most prominent were Jepson, Oliver-Blaney, Dennis, Holmes and of course English. The bell signalled a frantic last lap, at the end of which English stormed home the winner, followed by Holmes, Dennis, Oliver-Blaney, Burdeau and Cattermole.
At the midway point in the season, English has a healthy points lead, but intriguingly he will not be able to attend some meets, so the title is still in the balance. Behind him are Duncumb-Rogers and Dennis, both ready to pounce if given the chance.
Y
ouths
Having won his handicap race last week, Noah Ridgway-Brown saw his allowance drastically reduced this week. However, he still managed to storm through the Under 10/Under 8 field to take yet another handicap win and also grabbed two other wins and the weekly youth award.
Under 16 / Under 14
Amy Jacobs, Kimberley English, Jake Marley, Matthew Hill and Mark Jacobs were the first riders to show in the joint 4-lap scratch, but in the end it was Amy Jacobs who led the Under 16s home in front of Jack Priddle and Michael Dixon, while Kimberley English won the Under 14 section ahead of Matthew Hill and Jake Marley. The Under 14 2-lap dash was won by a storming Matthew, with Kimberley second and Jake third. In the Under 16 dash, Michael sped home with a great sprint to take victory, with Amy second and Imogen Farlie third.
A novelty race ended tonight’s youth racing, in the form of a girls v boys team pursuit, which brought tremendous interest to all. The girls had about 200 metres start from six laps of racing (approx 3.5km). Amy Jacobs and Kimberley English went away from their rivals early on, but at mid-race it was just Amy out ahead on her own. There followed a fantastic chase by on-form Michael Dixon, but in the end victory went to Amy, Michael was second, and Jack Priddle won the bunch sprint for third. They were followed by Gabriel Parle, Olly Moors and Spencer Thomas. From next week, the Under 16/Under 14 riders will have an extra race at the start of the meet, giving them four events each evening.
Under 12
Amy Smith came home alone to win the 2-lap scratch, with Thomas Burnett second and Douglas McCauley third. Isaac Wright won the handicap race, just in front of Amy, with Sam Booth third. Riders were pleased to be riding a “grown-up” event, the devil-take-the-hindmost, and this was dominated by Amy ahead of Isaac and Douglas.
Under 10 / Under 8
The Under 8 1-lapper was dominated by Rahul Fortescue-Talwar, ahead of Ben Battle and Samuel Nicholson.  The parallel Under 10 event was won by Noah, followed in by Bethany Lewis and Richard Hoyle. Noah got the better of his rivals in the handicap race, with Bethany next and Dominic Kazlauskas third. Noah made it a hat-trick by winning the block handicap race, while Rahul came second and Samuel was third.

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