Preston Park Track League July 28
Report by Gavin Smith, photos by Sally Page, video by Ishmael Burdeau
It was well and truly one of those “Felix nights” at Preston Park, as Irish international star Felix English dominated proceedings throughout the meet. Despite the absence of several riders on holiday, no fewer than sixty competitors signed on for tonight’s meeting. Former young Preston Park star Pete Mitchell was spectating tonight surrounded by many of his fans, notably from his former club VC Jubilee.
Felix English has been selected to represent Ireland in the upcoming World Junior Championships in Italy but tonight he had even greater motivation with his lead in the Preston Park senior league to defend. Alas, for his rivals, he didn’t just defend, he attacked and extended his advantage.
Drew Holmes and Mark Burgess were the first to show in the 8-lap Scratch, then Rupert Rivett, Matt Davies and Stuart Bettis made welcome appearances upfront. At half-distance, Davies, Holmes and Bettis went away with English in a highly promising move. The bunch did react, mostly under the impetus of Nick Smith, Paul Barnard, Sam Cheesman and Nick Jepson, but it was too late to bring back the break. From the leading quartet, Bettis faded on the final lap, but the others were led home by English with Holmes second and Davies third. Brock Duncumb-Rogers won the bunch sprint for fourth and he was followed home by Jack Oliver-Blaney and Bettis.
After Duncumb-Rogers had outsprinted Ashley Dennis to win the Sprint minor final, it was down to business for the final itself. League sprint champion Burgess put up a tremendously spirited effort, but he was beaten to the line by superfast English, with Cheesman third and Barnard fourth. Jepson was on great form tonight and he showed it with a classy win in the B-cat devil, outsprinting Nigel Burrows, Martin O’Brien, Jack Hoyle, Steve Kane and Milo Burdeau at the finish. English ensured at least a hat-trick of wins tonight by winning the A-cat equivalent and the usual suspects were seen in his wake at the end, namely Smith, Oliver-Blaney, Bettis, Holmes and Davies in order.
Burdeau made a fine attack in the B-cat dash race breaking away at speed on lap 1 of 3. He kept a fast pace throughout but on the last lap, the bunch were accelerating bigtime and Burdeau’s fate was sealed. Jepson controlled the run-in to take another win, with Hoyle, Burrows, O’Brien, Mark Turner and Rivett in his slipstream. The A-cat dash featured a brave break by Cheesman, Oliver-Blaney, Barnard and Holmes early on which looked promising until a certain young star decided that enough was enough. Indeed, English helped to reel them in, then he yet again stormed home first, the other points-scorers being Burgess, Duncumb-Rogers, Charlie Heffernan, Barnard and Oliver-Blaney.
Burdeau, Kane and Ben Miller were the early breakaways in the unknown distance race. Miller took the first two £5 primes, but this trio’s lead disappeared as Davies, O’Brien, Burrows, Smith, Philip Burnett and Ian Craig all forced the pace of the bunch. In the closing stages, a 7-up bunch aptly showed a lot of fizz, featuring Davies, O’Brien, Burnett, Burrows, Duncumb-Rogers, Holmes and English! Towards the end, English made his trademark breakaway at top speed, taking the final prime and his fifth win on the night from five events. The next-placed riders were Duncumb-Rogers, Holmes, Davies, O’Brien and Miller.
With just two meets to go, English has a 43-point league lead over his main rival Duncumb-Rogers. However, the former will be away at the World Junior Champs next week and he is not even certain to be back at Brighton for the final night. The intriguing question is, if the Irish international misses both meets, and with a maximum of 60 points available, will Duncumb-Rogers have the fire-power to overtake English’s points tally?
Winner of the weekly youth award was Under 16 Jack Priddle, for his intelligent and strong riding all evening.
Under 16/Under 14
A large bunch contested the traditional joint 4-lapper. Under 14 Olly Priddle led through after one circuit, then next time round it was Under 14 Olly Moors in the lead as a steady tempo was maintained by the peloton. This was the calm before the storm, though. Under 16 Jake Deakin made a bold attack just after the bell, gaining a small but useful lead and hanging on to take a fine win. Jack Priddle and Amy Jacobs were the next Under 16s, while the Under 14 section was won by Matthew Hill ahead of Jake Marley and Gabriel Parle.
Jake Deakin used his advantage well to just win the handicap race, managing to stay ahead of Imogen Farlie and Jack Priddle. League chairman Rob Fuller was impressed by the Under 16/Under 14 riders in the devil-take-the-hindmost, and especially by race winner Under 16 Jack Priddle. As the less strong riders were eliminated each lap, Jack held his place near the front and attacked with 200m to go. He held on for a commendable victory, the next Under 16s being Jake Deakin and Imogen. “Jack rode that race very intelligently”, remarked League Chairman and former trackie Rob Fuller. “He was in the right place throughout, and made his move at just the right point.” Gabriel put up a clever and powerful display of riding to win the Under 14 age-group, followed home by Jake Marley and Mark Jacobs.
As an innovation, commissaire Daniel Gerrey offered the riders a snowball points race instead of their usual event and they were keen to try it. This is effectively a points race, with the points on offer increasing with every lap, and it was dominated throughout by Under 16 Jack Priddle, Under 16 Jake Deakin and Under 14 Matthew. After chief judge Dave Gerrey had calculated the scores, it turned out that Jack had triumphed ahead of Jake and Matthew. Next Under 16s were Imogen third and Sarah Cooper fourth, while the next Under 14s were Jake Marley second, Gabriel third and Spencer Thomas fourth.
Race favourite and league leader Amy Smith controlled the 2-lap race to take a great win, beating Isaac Wright and Ben O’Brien to the line. Zak Corum-Haines showed great speed in the handicap contest and looked the likely winner, but he was just beaten to the finish by Isaac. Thomas Burnett took third spot. Amy won the final Under 12 event tonight, the devil, and Isaac was runner-up and Thomas again came third.
Under 10/Under 8
Rahul Fortescue-Talwar just beat Ben Battle in the Under 8 one-lapper, while the Under 10 victor was Noah Ridgway-Brown in front of Bethany Lewis and Stan Abbott-Stacey. George Turner put in a good performance to win the handicap event, with Miranda Wright and Thomas Andrews just behind him. The Under 10 and Under 8 riders (and their parents) were delighted to have a new event on the menu tonight, as they lined up for their first-ever devil, with eliminations every half-lap, arranged by commissaire Gerrey. Under 10 Noah rode very well indeed to take first place, with Bethany and George not far behind, while the Under 8 contest was won by Rahul ahead of Ben.