After the cancellation of Meet 6 last week, there was a general feeling of relief among the 73 riders lined up tonight as the cloudy skies failed to deliver any rainfall and the Sussex Cycle Racing League meet began promptly at 7.00pm.
Top man tonight was Team Terminator’s Lee Povey, who scooped two wins and looks to be building up well for the defence of his European Masters sprint title next month. Other stars who shone brightly were South Africa national track champion Jean Spies and his clubmate Jason Salter, and of course Preston Park league supremo and current leader Felix English.
The first battle tonight, though, was the traditional 8-lap scratch race. Rob Dean and Jason Salter put out some feelers early on, but their lead never seriously increased due to the work done by Felix English, Nigel Foskett, Mark Burgess, Jean Spies and others. At mid-race Charlie Heffernan went away with a promising move, but he only survived out front for a lap-and-a-half, with English, Spies, Salter, Brock Duncumb-Rogers, Phil Burnett, Martyn Potter and Oliver Pepper helping maintain the bunch’s high tempo. With the speed being relentlessly cranked up, riders were being jettisoned from the back faster than MPs quitting politics, and there were only around fifteen of the 27 starters in with a shout at the bell. Spies timed his effort to perfection to take the final sprint ahead of English, Duncumb-Rogers and Salter, and next in line were Pepper and Potter.
No sooner had the riders got their breath back from this race, than it was time to ride the sprint heats. Duncumb-Rogers won the minor final in style, then the final itself saw an epic contest with a gradual build-up of speed, Povey storming home the clear winner in overdrive, beating Spies, Burgess, Pepper and English in that order.
The devil-take-the-hindmost was one of the best for years. The tendency of course is to focus on the tail-end of the bunch where the eliminations take place, but this time the serious action was happening at the front. Sean McClelland tried his luck early on and got away, displaying his obvious good form. Suddenly, Jason Salter established a gap on the bunch and was flying, quickly overtaking McClelland and setting off on his own. The bunch hesitated, no doubt more concerned with not being ousted every lap than with the race leader gaining a useful advantage. Out front, Salter was well on his merry way with his classy and economic style, his lead fast approaching half-a-lap at one point. As the bell sounded, Salter still had a comfortable lead, and he came home to well-deserved applause, the bunch being led in by Spies followed by English, Burgess, Pepper and fast-improving Sam Cheesman. After the race, Salter played down his success: “I just found myself out in front and I thought I’d go for it. My lead just kept on increasing and I managed to stay ahead.” Nevertheless, this was one of those great displays of racing which may inspire some of the Preston Park youth riders to dare to “have a go” from time to time.
Rob Dean led home the B2 riders in the 3-lap dash race, with Paul Davidoff, Sam Cheesman, Oliver Tuckley, Sean Brasington and Ben Gerrey next in line. Ben Miller tried twice to break away in the B1 equivalent, but in the mass sprint Andy Parle got the better of on-form Richard Bailey, Nick Smith, Paul Barnard, Anthony Rogers and Bruce English. The A-dash similarly finished in a bunch gallop, with this time Povey scoring his second victory of the night, ahead of Spies, Burgess, Heffernan and English, with Phil Smith in sixth.
Chief Commissaire Rob Fuller set up an unknown distance race to conclude proceedings, with three primes on offer. Scenting the aroma of hard currency, the racing-abroad Jean Spies was active from the start, going away firstly with young Sam Cheesman. Spies took the first payout, though Cheesman, Bruce English, Tuckley and Davidoff were not far behind, then it was the turn of Felix English and Charlie Heffernan to launch themselves from the bunch in pursuit of the flying South African, whose lead had by now grown to 150 metres. Spies was beginning to lose some of his oomph, but he stayed ahead to pocket the second fiver, while behind him Andy Edwards was prominent, as was Pepper. After seven laps, English was ahead on his own, though with Salter lurking ominously. Salter took the final money prize and enjoyed a 4-lap spell out front with English. With light about to fail and commissaire Fuller holding – but crucially not ringing! – the bell, it was obvious to all that the end of the race was nigh.
Suddenly, the commentator/reporter’s dream became reality, as the race was truly spiced up with Salter racing alongside Pepper at the front.
At the bell, Salter and English were marginally ahead, but there was still everything to ride for, as around fifteen riders were on their shoulders. Salter faded, leaving English out on his own, then Sean McClelland made a powerful attack from the middle of the bunch, like an exocet on wheels. As McClelland caught English, though, the youngster had enough in the tank to keep up, and it was indeed English who came home first, followed by McClelland, Bailey, Pepper, Duncumb-Rogers and Edwards.
Overall, the positions in the A-league remain unchanged, with English in front, tailed by Spies and Povey, then Burgess, Potter and Heffernan. Parle is now just one win short of winning the B-league, in front of Bailey and Mark Mergler, with Anthony Rogers, Ben Miller and Paul Barnard tying for fourth spot.
Forty-six youths signed on tonight, with healthy numbers in all age-groups from Under 8s to Under 16s. New rider Under 8 Miranda Wright won the weekly £5 prize for her fine rides, winning one event and taking second and third places in the others. A special word of congratulations is in order for handicapper Dave Gerrey, since just 3.04 seconds separated the winner from the 10th-placed riders in the Under 12 race, and all eighteen Under 16/Under 14s finished within six seconds of each other.
Under 16/Under 14
Under 16 Elliot Tabraham-Dowers won the joint 4-lap scratch race in style, Ashley Dennis rode strongly for second place and Kim English was third. After the usual gradual whittling-down in the devil, Elliot just outsprinted Ashley for the win and Amy Jacobs was third. Thomas Evans rode home first in the handicap ahead of Matthew Hill and Laura Cheesman.
Amy Barnes used her strong sprint to win the 2-lap race, beating Spencer Thomas and Megan Lewis in the race to the finish-line. Ben O’Brien came home first in the handicap ahead of his brother Ted, with Amy third. Mark Jacobs rode very well to win the block handicap, while Ted was second and Celia Jenkins came third.
Under 10/Under 8
No surprises in the Under 8 1-lap scratch, where Evelyn Parle triumphed ahead of Dominic Kazlauskas and Miranda Wright. The U10 single-lapper saw Joe Hill storm through first in front of Thomas Burnett and Cory Anderson. Miranda used her allowance well to take the handicap win, Dominic was runner-up and Oliver Brooker came third. Evelyn won the block handicap followed by Miranda and Dominic.