The podium was out, the medals were ready for presentation and Brighton was enjoying a lull between rain-showers – everything was in place for the annual scratch championship meet, with title-races for all categories and a full supporting programme of events. The weather was decidedly doubtful, however, and numbers were down on previous weeks, but with a respectable total of 79 riders no-one was complaining. And there was a special treat for each race winner, donated by senior rider Charlie Booth and his vegetarian café: a luxury super-size packet of pasta which, when cooked, would stretch right round the 580-metre track.
Tonight’s senior racing was, as usual, action-packed. We learnt that league leader Felix English was still the man to beat, but we also learnt that he is human and can be beaten – occasionally! A double-barrelled break went away on lap 1 of the 20-lap title-race, in the form of Elliot Tabraham-Dowers and Jack Oliver-Blaney. Drew Holmes and Alan Cooper were chasing, and four laps later these four had joined up. With 14 to go, Cooper dropped back to the bunch, but the remaining trio still had a useful 300-metre lead. At half-distance, things were hotting up behind the leaders, with Ashley Dennis, Brock Duncumb-Rogers, Nick Smith, Matt Davies, Milo Burdeau, Will Kemp and Felix English chasing hard, and the bunch seemingly resigned to contesting eleventh place.
With five laps left, the front three still had 150 metres on the magnificent seven, but the chasers appeared to have the race under control from behind. Just before the bell, they all came together, and on the run-in it was English who took a fine win ahead of Dennis, Duncumb-Rogers, Kemp, Smith and Tabraham-Dowers. English is on great form at the moment, and just three days earlier had recorded 20.57 in the national junior 10-mile TT championship – just 6 seconds away from bagging the bronze medal.
After the podium ceremonies with medals presented by league president Frank Blake, it was back to business with three separate 3-lap dashes. Steve Kane broke away at the outset in the B2 race, but he was reeled in and in the oh-so-close gallop John Aston got the verdict in front of Milo Burdeau and Matt Wise. Stylish new rider Will Kemp won the B1 event just ahead of Jack Hoyle and Charlie Burrell. Andy Parle and Elliot Tabraham-Dowers made a dash for it early on in the A-cat race, and at the bell they still had a gap. As Parle then began to fade, Felix English rocketed from the bunch, determined to catch his prey. For once, it was not to be, and Tabraham-Dowers stayed in front for a well-deserved victory, with English second and Brock Duncumb-Rogers third.
One of the best races for spectators (and the worst for riders) is the “win and out”, otherwise known as the reverse devil. After lap 1, the first over the line wins the race and pulls out. Next lap, first over the line is second and pulls out, etc. This is all very well if you’re superfit, but it can be hell if you’re not – as several riders found to their cost tonight. Felix English rode a faultless first lap to take the win, and next time it was Ashley Dennis in control for second spot. They were followed each lap, in turn, by Nick Smith, Matt Davies, Drew Holmes and Will Kemp.
Early attackers in the unknown distance race were Rupert Rivett, then Drew Holmes, Will Kemp and Sara Gent. Kemp took the first prime after four laps, then two laps later he was out front with Matt Davies in what looked like a promising move. Kemp then pocketed the second fiver, but by now the bunch had itchy pedals and Nick Smith and Steve Kane were seen at the front of the peloton. Felix English launched one of his trademark attacks when the whistle blew for the next prime, which he duly took. Ashley Dennis, Will Kemp and Felix English then hovered off the front with Paul Barnard and Nigel Burrows at the head of the pack. Brock Duncumb-Rogers then attacked, building an 80-metre advantage as the bunch hesitated, with John Aston and Philip Burnett now at the front of the peloton. To Duncumb-Rogers’ relief the bell rang and he hung on for a comfortable and
commendable win, with English, Dennis, Burnett, Kemp and Smith next over the line.
With the focus very much on the championship events, officials were still looking for a worthy winner of the weekly youth prize. This week, the award went to young Ben Battle, who showed well and was always in the action in the Under 8 races. There were two separate minor spills, with Evelyn Parle and Freddie Davies both soon back on their bikes and smiling as usual.
Under 16 – Under 14
The 8-lap championship was to decide both the Under 16 and the Under 14 medallists. There were no successful breakaways and in the end it was all down to a dozen-up bunch sprint. First two over the line were Under 14s Jack Hoyle and Matthew Hill in that order and they were followed in by Amy Jacobs who took the Under 16 title. Next, Kimberley English booked the final berth on the Under 14 podium, and she was trailed by Under 16s Imogen Farlie and Sara Gent who took silver and bronze respectively.
In a closely-fought handicap race, Laura Cheesman took the chequered flag, Imogen was second and Amy came third. Oliver Moors won the block handicap event, with Olly Priddle second and Laura third.
The championship race over five laps stayed together throughout, but it was Amy Smith who won the bunch sprint to take the title in front of Isaac Wright and Ben O’Brien. Isaac hung on to bag the handicap win, with Douglas McCauley just behind him and Amy third.
Having seen the seniors endure their “win and out” race earlier in the evening, the Under 12s knew what they had in store. Amy won the race, next was Isaac, then Ben.
Under 10 – Under 8
League leader Rahul Fortescue-Talwar took the Under 8 scratch crown in front of Ben Battle and Rory Burke. The Under 10 title-race went to Noah Ridgway-Brown, who had to work hard to beat his main rivals. Bethany Lewis took silver and Richard Hoyle bagged bronze, though these placings were only confirmed after consultation of the race video.
The joint handicap race was won by Dominic Kazlauskas, a tyre’s-width ahead of Noah, with Stan Abbott-Stacey third. On her racing debut, Georgina Burnett was delighted to win the joint block handicap race, with Ben second and Thomas Andrews third.