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HomeTrack LeaguesReportsPreston Park Track League 20th May 2009

Preston Park Track League 20th May 2009


The fifth meeting of the season was action-packed, with the Sussex League scratch-race championships adding spice to proceedings and a massive total of 80 riders signing on. Title races for all categories featured in the first half of the meet, with medals presented by League President Frank Blake, and these events were followed by supporting races.


The 20-lap senior championship is the longest race on the Sussex League calendar, and before the start Preston Park was abuzz with the prospect. The long list of Brighton regulars on the start-line was supplemented by some renowned visitors. Top of the list of regulars was young star Felix English, the lad whose palmarès is already almost as long as an MP’s expenses claim form. Also riding was Preston Park sprint legend Lee Povey, looking fitter than ever, and South African champion Jean Spies, rapid Mark Burgess, super-strong Martyn Potter and last year’s B-league champion Charlie Heffernan. Top visitors on the night were ex-Tour de France star Sean Yates and former Preston Park A-league champ Gyles Wingate, who has been racing in Belgium for the past few years and notched up some wins there when he was still in the junior ranks.

PP_200509_Jean_Spies_at_speedThis championship featured non-stop action from the gun. English and Heffernan rocketed away at the start, with Spies already chasing on his own and the bunch being led through by Phil Smith and Brock Duncumb-Rogers. With a strong effort Spies joined the leaders, and spectators were beginning to think the medals may have already been decided as this trio increased their lead. Wingate, Potter, Yates, Povey, Burgess, Nick Smith, Andy Parle, Mark Mergler and Sean McClelland between them, however, contributed to the high tempo of the bunch, which meant that the leaders were never out of sight of the chasing pack. The sheer pace out front began to take its toll, and after four laps of freedom three became two as Heffernan dropped back, then Spies eased up his efforts to momentarily leave English out on his own, before the young speedster also found himself swallowed up by the peloton.

Just before half-distance, therefore, it was all together and no fewer than 20 riders were still in with a shout in the lead group, with hot favourite English certainly not having it all his own way on this occasion. Richard Bailey attacked with 9 to go and he was joined by Ben Miller, with an ever-alert Spies on the front of the bunch. English gave one of his trademark accelerations and joined this duo, and these three then lasted out front for three laps, Parle, Spies, Yates, Potter, Nick Smith and Philip Burnett being the most prominent thorns in their sides by keeping the bunch pace high. The impressive Bailey survived longest, but he came back into the fold with five to go to set up an exciting dénouement, with – still – around a score of competitors in the frame for the title.

Remarkably, there were no further serious attacks and as the bell rang it was all going to be down to a desperate dash to the line. The judges grabbed their clipboards with trepidation and the finish-line camera was activated in p
reparation for a 20-up bunch sprint. At the finish, Spies sped through to take an excellent win ahead of English, the only rider to have featured in both major breaks of the ra
ce, while the bronze medal went to Povey. Next came Burgess, Potter and Bailey.

Reigning South Africa keirin and Olympic sprint champion Spies is enjoying a season representing In-Gear to gain further racing experience. “I very much enjoy doing the track here at Preston Park and I had a win at Dunsfold recently”, he told me as he stepped down from the podium after the presentation ceremony.

The supporting events also provided entertainment for spectators. Ian Craig was the first to attack in the B2 3-lap dash, then at the bell it was Tim Hill and Frazer Clifford who led through. At the end, Clifford sprinted home ahead of Charlie Booth, Matt Wise, Tim Hill, Craig and Oliver Tuckley. Neil McClelland showed strongly at the start of the equivalent B1 event, but with no breakaways the sprint was won by Bailey, followed by Parle, Mergler, Martin O’Brien, Nick Smith and Bruce English. The A-dash came down to a thrilling close bunch sprint won by Spies from Povey, English, Burgess, Potter and Heffernan.

Surely the worst event on the track menu is the “win and out”, which is won after the first lap when the winner pulls out to leave the others to fight out second place next time round, and so on down to sixth place. So often – as tonight – this means that riders who just lose out on a placing are left hanging out to dry on their own while the fast-moving bunch reels them in just before the next placing is decided. After a neutralised lap, English launched a blistering attack at around the time the whistle was blown by commissaire Rob Fuller to signal the start proper. He held off Spies to take the win, then Spies was forced to endure that long, lone lap to secure runner-up spot, which he did. The bunch had completely splintered by this time, and the next placings were grabbed by Brock Duncumb-Rogers, Mergler and Bailey, while Yates took sixth by just overhauling Phil Smith on the line.

For the final event, commissaire Fuller asked the lined-up riders whether they would prefer a devil/scratch or an unknown distance, and the overwhelming vote was in favour of the latter. So democracy well and truly rules at Preston Park. After three laps, the first £5 prime was won by Jean Spies just ahead of Mark Burgess, following which Spies made a lone break, with Felix English, Martyn Potter and Martin O’Brien at the head of the bunch. Spies took the second prime, by which time English had broken away with Sean Yates and this duo were chasing hard, Richard Bailey leading the bunch with a high tempo. One lap later, Spies, English and Yates were together, but they only had a slender lead which evaporated shortly afterwards. English then tried his luck again to go out alone, and it was the turn of Gyles Wingate, Martin O’Brien, Sean Yates, Martyn Potter and Mark Mergler to force the bunch’s pace. Spies still had thoughts of that final fiver on offer, and he timed his return to English to perfection, just in time to stash the cash. At the bell, he had a small gap on his rival, but by the finish it was English who came home first, followed by Spies, Yates, Paul Gosling, Potter and Parle.

Tonight, Spies took the glory with the scratch championship win, but he and English shared the spoils with two victories apiece. Cash-wise, Spies pocketed all three primes to collect a total of £15. Overall in the A-league, English is still well in command with 90 points, Spies has scored 54 and Povey is on 52. Parle leads the B tables with 37, ahead of Mergler on 28 and Bailey on 26 – but Parle has three wins to his credit and
only needs two more to win the B league outright.


With scratch championship titles and medals at stake tonight, and the podium very much in evidence near the start, there was fierce (but friendly!) competition in all age-groups. The youth award for the most deserving rider went to Matthew Hill, who gave impressive performances all evening.


The 8-lap title-race began with U16 Elliot Tabraham-Dowers showing at the front, and he was later joined at the head of affairs by U14s Ashley Dennis, Kim English, Sara Gent and Amy Jacobs. The high pace in mid-race, however, stifled any real hopes of breakaways, and in the end the two separate championships were decided in a mass gallop. Elliot took the U16 title ahead of Milo Burdeau and Jack Oliver-Blaney, while Ashley clinched the U14 championship in front of Kim and Amy.

Elliot also won the joint individual handicap race, beating Ashley and Kim to the line, then Matthew Hill gave an excellent display to stay ahead and win the block handicap, where Ashley was second and Elliot was third.


Amy Barnes and Ben O’Brien were the first to show in the 5-lap championship. Amy was then joined
by Spencer Thomas at the front as the pace increased. By the finish, however, Palmer Park visitor David Barnes flashed through to take a fine win, with Amy second and Megan Lewis third. Drew Miller-Hyndman rode well to win the handicap race in front of Mark Jacobs and Ben O’Brien, then it was out with the stopwatches for a 1-lap – or 580 metres – TT. This turned out to be a super-close affair, with four riders breaking the 1-minute barrier (approx 22mph). Amy posted a time of 58.45 to win, while David recorded 58.53, Megan finished in 58.86 and Spencer stopped the clock on 59.48.


The 3-lap U10 championship saw a worthy winner in Douglas McCauley, who came home ahead of Cory Anderson and Harry Stacey. Evelyn Parle rode strongly to take the 2-lap U8 title-race in front of Dominic Kazlauskas and Michael Wickens. Dominic won the joint individual handicap, Ferne Leonard was second and Sam Barnes came third. Bethany Lewis put up a fine performance to take the joint block handicap ahead of Douglas, with Lois Parle third.


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