After the cancellation of Meet 8 last week, it was back to full-on action with the league sprint championships in all categories. This was a busy evening, starting with 200-metre TT senior qualifiers, then all the heats and finals, and lastly some supporting events which included perhaps the sprint of the season (see below). Rain held off until around 8.50pm, by which time nearly all scheduled races had taken place and the final event was simply shortened by Chief Commissaire Vern McClelland due to the damp track.
Here at Preston Park we are fortunate to have our own resident sprint legend, going by the name of Lee Povey. He has won our sprint championship countless times since the 1980s and he is definitely the rider to beat at the glorious gallop discipline. This year, though, there is opposition aplenty for Povey, firstly with his own speedy team-mate, the popular Mark Burgess, but also with the classy South African keirin champ Jean Spies. The other rider likely to cause an upset is league leader Felix English, but the young speedster was absent tonight as he is concentrating his talents on training for the National Junior Road Race Championship in Wales next weekend.
Spies beat McClelland to claim the bronze medal, then it was down to the serious business of the final. The smart money was on Povey, but in this game you never know what might happen, and sure enough Burgess had a stab at getting away with 300m to go. Povey, though, was having none of it, and round Dressing Room Corner – the scene of so many tight tussles over the past 122 years – Povey appeared to be in control. Burgess put up a gallant fight, but it was not to be, as Povey powered home to take a great win. Remarkably, this was exactly 20 years since he first won the Preston Park Sprint Championship.
Next on the agenda were the 3-lap dashes for the various categories. New rider Nigel Burrows rode strongly to take the B2 win in front of Matt Davies, with young James McCarron making a successful return to racing after his recent crash and taking third place. The next two over the line were Tim Hill and Ben Gerrey.
Nothing less than overall victory in the “B” league is at stake with every race now, as Andy Parle has already taken four wins of the five needed for promotion under the new rules. Parle made a spirited charge to the line in the B1 dash, but his hopes were “dashed” by fast-improving Richard Bailey who held on for first place just ahead of the league leader. Ben Miller notched up a fine third position, and he was followed home by Sam Cheesman, Nick Smith and Paul Barnard.
Despite being completely off the bike for several weeks, Adam Gent showed his speed with a fine win in the A-category dash after an enterprising breakaway at the bell, while behind him came Spies, then Charlie Heffernan, who just three days earlier had won the National Youth Series U16 Circuit Race in the West Midlands. Next were Burgess, Brock Duncumb-Rogers and Jason Salter.
The final event of the night, an unknown distance race, began as rain was starting to fall. It was decided that the usual primes would be rolled over to next week, and perhaps it was this that prompted a general truce among the peloton as things stayed more or less compact for the duration of the race. Charlie Booth was among those who were noted for their efforts to get away, but it all came down to the almost inevitable bunch sprint. That hectic final dash to the line was won by Spies, ahead of Heffernan, Duncumb-Rogers, Parle, Bailey and Paul Davidoff.
Overall, both senior leagues are looking more fascinating than ever. Jean Spies is just a few points short of Felix English in the “A” table, while Andy Parle is having difficulty clinching that vital but elusive fifth win which will give him the “B” title. Behind him, Richard Bailey now has two victories and virtually nothing separates these two riders on points.
Forty-six youths signed on tonight, all delighted at the chance of standing on the podium after the sprint championships. The weekly £5 youth prize was awarded to Dominic Kazlauskas for his fabulous hat-trick of wins in the U8 races.< /span>
Under 16/Under 14
There were no great surprises in the U16 championship, Elliot Tabraham-Dowers taking the title ahead of Brock Duncumb-Rogers and Jack Oliver-Blaney. Jack Hoyle raced very well to win the U14 championship in front of Amy Jacobs and Emily Barnes, with Sara Gent winning the minor final for fourth place. Thomas Evans won the handicap race in front of Jack Hoyle and Laura Cheesman. The joint scratch race was won by Elliot, with Emily displaying a rapid sprint for second, and they were followed by Amy, Jack Oliver-Blaney, Sara, and Jack Hoyle.
With such large numbers signed on, three heats were required for this age-group. Amy Barnes powered home first in the final to grab gold, David Barnes scooped silver and Megan Lewis bagged bronze. Spencer Thomas won the minor final to take fourth in the championship. Thomas Evans clinched the handicap victory in front of Jack Hoyle and Laura Cheesman. David Barnes sprinted home first in the dash, beating Spencer Thomas and Amy Barnes to the line.
Under 10/Under 8
One massive bunch set off for the U10 sprint championship, with favourite Douglas McCauley winning, Joe Hill second and Isaac Wright third. Dominic Kazlauskas won the U8 title-race in style, Miranda Wright was runner-up and league leader Evelyn Parle came third. Dominic won the handicap in front of Miranda and Isaac. The U10 scratch race was dominated by PPYCC riders who filled the top six places, Douglas winning the event, Joe coming second and Thomas Burnett third. Dominic notched up his third win of the night in the U8 scratch event, beating Miranda to the line, with Oliver Brooker third. There then came the most fantastic sprint of the meeting (and possibly the season), with a great elbow-to-elbow battle between veteran 5-year-old Oscar Denman-Gould just outsprinting 4-year-old Freddie Davies at the finish.