The Sussex Cycle Racing League started at Preston Park last week but unfortunately our usual reporter Gavin Smith was away for the first meeting. Hopefully he can dodge the ash cloud and get back in time for next week but, in the meantime, Dave Gerrey has stepped in to fill Gavin’s shoes.
After the misery of a very cold and very wet winter the risk of starting our 2010 season a week earlier seems to have paid off. Whilst perhaps not yet warm enough to pop down to the beach for a pre-race paddle it was still a fine start to the season.
The first night always stretches signing on to near breaking point and with an early start of 6:45 the pressure was on to get 66 riders ready for for an opening programme of events set by Rob Fuller, commissaire for the evening.
The traditional opening senior scratch race was shortened to 6 laps for this first evening. With a number of the “riders to watch” missing for this first week the remaining riders seemed very keen to grab some early season points. The pace remained high throughout and the bunch held together right up to the very last straight giving the judges a tough introduction to the new season. Junior rider Brock Duncumb-Rogers broke from the bunch in time to grab the first 6 points with last year’s league winner Mark Burgess just holding of a pack of the B league riders to take 2nd.
The Youth Riders all then had their own scratch races. In the U10 / U8 race it was two of the Youth E riders that led the bunch after their one lap with newcomer to the league Samuel Nicholson impressing those watching the race with another newcomer Rahul Fortescue Talwar close on his rear wheel. the Youth D riders were led in by Noah Ridgeway-Brown and Bethany Lewis.
The U12 riders had two laps with Amy Smith just holding off the chasing bunch to get the 6 points. The combined U16 / U14 race had no less than 18 riders for the first of their races this season. This group of now seasoned league riders seemed a little hesitant to show their hand early leading to a tight bunched sprint to the finish line again stretching the judges. U14 Jack Hoyle broke the line first with U16 Michael Dixon just taking 2nd place.
Next up for the seniors were the 1 lap sprint heats. To keep the programme tight it was just one rider through to the final. Mark Burgess was always favourite to win the first heat easing up down the finish straight. Junior Nick Smith rode impressively in the second heat to claim his place in the final. The next two heats were won by B league riders Paul Barnard and newcomer Stuart Bettis. The last remaining final place saw a tight finish between Charlie Sayer and Andrew Parle with Charlie just getting the decision. The Final saw a Team terminator 1-2 with Mark just holding off his team mate Paul and VC Jubilee Junior Nick challenging hard for third place. All of the remaining Seniors had a 3 lap dash to follow the final. Having just missed out on a place in the final Brock made sure of a clear win to bag the points in this race.
Either side of these races it was time for the Youths with Dashes and block handicaps. Commissaire Rob Fuller had to remind the U14 and U16 what a Dash meant and in her race Sara Gent took up the challenge trying to break from the bell. The initial challenge came from Imogen Farlie but both were caught on the last corner with Michael Dixon taking the 6 points.
With light fading very rapidly Rob Fuller announced to the Senior riders that the “unknown” distance for the last race was going to be just 3 laps. They rose to the challenge with the whole race seemingly a bunch sprint involving most of the riders. This gave the judges a nightmare scenario peering into the half light as the first 6 crossed the line almost together. Brock notched up his third win of night to give his season a very healthy start. With Nick 2nd and Mark 3rd both made sure of a good points tally from their first night.