The sea-mist was drifting over Preston Park track tonight, but visibility was good enough for the twelfth meet of the season to take place, with a total of 78 riders on the start-line for the various categories of racing.

Seniors
Martin O’Brien, Drew Holmes and Nick Jepson were the first to show at the head of the bunch in the opening 8-lapper, but the first actual break went away at mid-race. Nigel Burrows teamed up with Philip Burnett and Elliot Tabraham-Dowers to forge a useful advantage, with the bunch hesitating bigtime. As Burnett was dropped from this trio with two to go, Felix English leapt from the peloton and it was “game over” for the two remaining fugitives. League leader English stormed home alone for the win, followed in by Tabraham-Dowers, Martyn Potter, Burrows, Paul Barnard and Charlie Burrell.
Adam Gent won the sprint competition minor final in front of Burrell, Nick Smith and Ben Miller, then it was time for the final itself, with English pitted against recently-crowned Preston Park sprint champion Mark Burgess as well as Barnard and Steve Kane. These last two were out of the running with 200 metres to go, then at the end of a superb tussle English came home first with Burgess just behind, then came Barnard and Kane.
Two devil-take-the-hindmost events took place, firstly featuring all the B riders. At the end of the usual skilful skirmishes to avoid elimination, Jack Hoyle won the final sprint in style, with Jepson, O’Brien, Burrell, Kane and John Aston next in line. At the end of a similar A-race featuring a host of talented youngsters in command, Gent took the honours while Jack Oliver-Blaney, Holmes, Tabraham-Dowers, Sam Cheesman and Andy Edwards were the other league points-scorers.
Alan Cooper won the B2 3-lap dash in front of Sean McClelland and Zoe Lewis, then in the B1 event Burrell, Hoyle and Jepson filled the top three places in that order. English scored his third win on the night in the A-contest with a lone breakaway, with Burgess runner-up and Oliver-Blaney third.
The only person on earth who knew how long the unknown distance race would be was chief commissaire Vern McClelland, and he was giving no clues to riders, judges, spectators – or anyone else for that matter. Cheesman and Kane were the first to escape, and they were soon joined by Milo Burdeau, Andy Edwards and Oliver-Blaney, the last-named taking the first £5 prime. Two laps later it was B-league champion Cheesman who grabbed the cash on offer. He then paid for his efforts, going back to the bunch with Kane, which left just three in the break. Burdeau took the final lap-award, but by now the once-100-metre lead was down to about 50 and Felix English was sensing the end of the race. As it happened, the young Irish star judged his effort to perfection, joining the escapees at the bell then rocketing home alone for his fourth win. Next over the line, in order, were Edwards, Oliver-Blaney, Andy Parle, Cheesman and Hoyle.
The overall league standings will take a shake-up over the next fortnight, as league leader Felix English will miss the next two meets. He’ll be participating in the Junior Tour of Ireland, then he has international duty representing Ireland in the European Junior Road Championships in Turkey. This will give second-placed Brock Duncumb-Rogers the chance to bridge the gap. After that, the final four weeks of the season should see some sparks fly in the quest for the league title.
Youths
Tonight’s deserving winner of the youth £5 award was Gabriel Parle, whose gritty riding impressed the commissaires and judges all evening.
Under 16 – Under 14
As expected, the Under 16s dominated the joint 4-lap scratch race, Michael Dixon finishing first, followed by Jack Priddle and Amy Jacobs. Next over the line were Under 14s Kimberley English, Matthew Hill and Jake Marley. Jack fought his way through traffic to win the handicap
event, beating Spencer Thomas and Amy in a super-tight sprint. Many of this age-group rode the devil like seasoned pros. Michael sprinted home first at the end, with Jack and Amy just behind him, as per the first event. The top Under 14s were Matthew, Jake and Gabriel. Amy put in a blistering first lap to take victory in the joint win-and-out race, with Michael second and Jack third. Under 16 Imogen Farlie was next, then came Under 14s Matthew and Gabriel.
Under 12
Isaac Wright put up a spirited sprint to win the 2-lap race, in front of Ben O’Brien and Thomas Burnett. Isaac also took the handicap victory with a fine turn of speed, holding off Matthew Deacon and Ted O’Brien. Matthew made excellent use of his advantage to win the block handicap race ahead of Louie Dalmon and Ted.
Under 10 – Under 8
League leader in the Under 8 competition Rahul Fortescue-Talwar won a close sprint in the 1-lapper to beat Samuel Nicholson and Ben Battle to the finish. Noah Ridgway-Brown had to fight hard to stave off the challenge from Richard Hoyle and Bethany Lewis in the equivalent Under 10 race. Richard came first in the close handicap contest, just outsprinting Bethany, with Dominic Kazlauskas third. Noah dominated the joint block handicap race, in which Richard came second and Rahul grabbed third spot.

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