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South/Central Season preview

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Welcome to the first trackcycling South/Central column. We’ll be looking back at an excellent Winter League series from Calshot and looking ahead to Reading Track League which kicks off in April.

This year’s Calshot Winter League may have been short of ‘A’ riders, but the competition proved fiercely competitive and big fields saw the ‘B’ races frequently split into two fields.

There were a number of fierce battles that raged throughout the winter – none more so than that for the the ‘B’ series itself between Paul Harris (Poole Wheelers) and Matt Gittings. Harris had the best of the opening round, taking three victories to Gittings’ two – although the Youth rider also picked up a win in one of the Veteran, Juniors & Ladies race.

A week later, Gittings narrowed Harris’ lead from 4 to 3 points – taking 2 wins to Harris’ 1 – with Steve Willcocks (DHCyclesport) taking a win and a couple of seconds to prevent the two title contenders finishing 1-2 in every event.

The pattern continued, with Gittings closing the gap to a single point after 3 rounds. With honours even in round 4, the first change of lead took place at the end of November, with Gittings taking 4 wins and a second place to lead the series by 5 points.

The lead didn’t last long, and with Gittings missing the penultimate round of the year, Harris was back in front by 5 points! There was very little to separate the two of them in the last round of the 2008 – possibly the thought of the Christmas buffet distracted them – and Harris ended the year 6 points ahead.

Gittings had the best of the opening round of 2009, taking two wins to Harris’ 1 and cutting the lead to two points. The Palmer Park rider missed another round and fell 13 points behind with Harris cleaning up in his absence – but he returned with three rounds to go and won three races, with Harris having to settle for a couple of second places; lead back down to 8. In the penultimate round, the Youth rider took the lions’ share of the points and managed to close the gap back down to a single point going in to the series decider.

The racing in the final round was deadly serious, with the Chief Comm, Shane Benson, having to take the two protagonists aside at one point to ensure that everything was above board. In the end, though, it was Harris who took it comfortably with a series of good results in the last round.

It wasn’t all about the top two, though. During the course of the season 18 riders scored points in the B League, with no less than 11 winners of individual races.

The Youth series was also fiercely contested, with Daniel Maslin (Hillingdon Slipstreamers) and Frazier Carr (Palmer Park Velo) and Matt Gittings all capable of taking the title going in to the penultimate round. Carr dominated the racing that day and took an unassailable 8 point lead into the final round. Cameron Swarbrick (RNRMCA) took maximum points on the day, but Carr added two seconds to his tally to finish with a commanding 12 point lead.

In the youth categories, another fierce season-long battle in the the combined Under 14-Under 16 category saw Harvey Watson (Velocity – The Exercise Deck) take a narrow win from Ed Hampton-Matthews (Team Axiom) with Andy Shackel (i-Team) taking third. In the Under 8-10-12 category it was a Palmer Park Velo clean sweep with Joseph Linehan taking first from Reg Pay and Daniel Lansley.

In the Vets, Paul Stedman (Reading CC) took the title from Doug Conroy (Redmon CC) and Michael Goodwin (Team Axiom) and team mate Sarah Farmer took the Ladies title.

So much for the Winter Series. The summer season kicks off on the 11th of April with the Portsmouth Open (of which more soon) and then, on the 20th of April with the opening round of Reading Track League. Things will unquestionably different this season with Chris Legg, who dominated last season’s endurance competition having hung up his cleats after narrowly missing out on a place on British Cycling’s Olympic Development program. While that’s bad news for Chris – and the growing band of spectators who enjoyed his dominant performances last year – it’s good news for the likes of Neil Cooper and Matt Gittings (AW Cycles), Sam Sturgeon and John Paul (Team Terminator), Rob King, Trevor Bradbury and Nick English (Reading CC), Ian Greenstreet and Donal Linehan (Newbury Road Club) and Stephen Bradbury (Palmer Park Velo). A couple of last season’s youth riders – Frazier Carr and William Macke (Palmer Park Velo) will be moving into the Under 16 category and racing in the B League with the Seniors.

In the youth competition, last year’s champion Daniel Maslin will face stiff competition from some of last year’s rising stars – Harvey Watson (Velocity – The Exercise Deck), Jamil Gaida, Jason Pitt and George Withers (Palmer Park Velo).

As well as the regular Monday nights, there’s a Bank Holiday meeting – the highlight of the season for many of the riders – the Bordeaux-Paris meeting, which sees both youth and seniors going at it behind the dernies on May the 24th (or, if the weather plays the same games it has d
one for the last two seasons, some time in August or September). There are also a series of Central Division Championships either combined with the Monday night racing or on a Tuesday evening (full program below).

Reading’s trackcycling’s local track, so we’ll be at (almost) every round with full reports and pictures.

15th June 2009
Monday 7.30pm 500m Sprint Heats and Final

16th June 2009
Tuesday 8.30pm Individual Pursuit Heats and Final (9 laps)

7th July 2009
Tuesday 8.30pm Club Team Pursuit Heats and Final (9 Laps)

20th July 2009
Monday 7.30pm Club Team (Olympic) Sprint Heats and Final (11/2 Laps)
3rd August 2009
Monday 8.00pm 20km Scratch Endurance
(The 20km Scratch Endurance will be integrated within a Track League race)

7th September 2009
Monday 7.30 pm Women’s Omnium (Sprint, Pursuit and Points) 31stAugust 2009

Full details and closing dates for the Central Division Championships can be found at the Reading Track League site.

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In the Sprint competitions, track league regulars David Jack and Rob Drinkwater (Twickenham) will face a stiff challenge again from Lee Povey and John Paul (Team Terminator), David Dentus (Team Quest) and Eddy Sobieralski (sports-coaching.com) and, a little bird tells is, Sam Serruya – formerly of Palmer Park Velo and A W Cycles. Moving up to the Under 16s, Cameron Swarbrick (Royal Navy & Royal Marines Cycling Association).

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