The British Cycling Cycle Speedway Supertrax Series got under way in Manchester with the sport’s elite men, elite junior and elite women in action.
In the elite men and elite junior categories, four regional teams, Midlands, North and Scotland, South West and Wales and South East and East go head to head in team matches over a six-round series dubbed ‘The Battle of Britain’.
In round one, the North and Scotland hosted South West and Wales at Astley and Tyldesley, Manchester, and took a surprise win against the much fancied South West and Wales.
The away side looked strong on paper prior to the match, but late withdrawals left manager, Nicky Evans, frustrated and down on strength. He still tracked two British champions in Ben Mould and Zac Payne, alongside former world champion and veteran, Steve Harris.
However, the unity of the North came through, with Polish flier Damian Zareba scoring a maximum leading a solid team effort. Steve Harris notched 21 points for the visitors, but it was not enough to inspire them to victory, with North and Scotland running away 106-86 winners.
In the junior event, the North and Scotland over powered their rivals with a solid 81-57 win. Max Evans lead the scoresheet, ensuring the North and Scotland are top of the elite men, elite junior and overall tables.
Down in Leicester, the Midlands welcomed South East and East to Slater Street and the racing certainly did not disappoint.
Two well matched sides battled it out in the elite men category, with the Midlands suffering late withdrawals of their own, they still had Myke Grimes and Paul Heard to call upon, while Dave Hemsley, the most decorated rider in the sport, got the nod from managers Mark Winwood and Wayne Aris.
Josh Brooke and Lewis Osborne led the way for the South East and East, but their strength was in their squad with a solid 1-8, as well as having some handy looking juniors looking on, ready to step up when needed.
After a nervy first half, the second provided plenty of fireworks. The Midlands found themselves 10 points down at one stage, but rallied and fought back to bring the scores to within one point, with two nominated races remaining.
The South East and East wrapped it up with a 7-3 maximum heat advantage in the first of those heats, leaving the Midlands frustrated but determined to make amends in round two.
Lewis Osborne, Josh Brooke and Matt Hill inflicted the most damage for the South East and East, but the Midlands’ Myke Grimes top scored on the day, losing out just once to Osborne in heat one.
Grimes’ team partner Brandon Whetton, who rode 11 rides after competing in the juniors earlier in the day, delivered a selfless team performance, while Paul Heard was equally instrumental in the comeback.
The elite junior match was as fiery as the elite men. The South East and East pulled a nine-point lead on their hosts, only to be pegged back to level scores for the nominated heats.
In heat 19, a strong gate from grid four from Midlands’ Haydn Rowley claimed them a shared heat, which meant Brandon Whetton and Carl Parfitt just had to finish first and third to take the league points in the last heat, to complete the comeback and delivered, much to the appreciation of the home crowd.
Exeter hosted the first round of the Supertrax Women’s League, which features the elite team event as well as elite women and elite intermediate individuals.
In the team event, home side South West and Wales edged away from the Midlands to take victory. The joint team consisting of North and Scotland/South East and East were just three points off the runners up Midlands team, which will satisfy new Supertrax Women’s League manager, Peter Clarke, seeing such close and competitive racing.
Poole’s Macie Schmidt was unbeaten for the victors, while Michelle Whitehead dropped just one point to Schmidt for the Midlands. Laura Watson led the N&S/SE&E challenge with an impressive 19.
In the elite women’s individual A-final, Macie Schmidt took advantage of inside grids and lead home European and British champion, Lauren Hookway. Lucy Whitehead secured third place, ahead of Leicester teammate, Elizabeth Rigely.
In the intermediate class, Poole’s Maddie Saunders made it a double A-final win for the Dorset club, taking her maiden victory. Leicester’s Sophie Middleton earned herself an excellent second place, with Emily Burgess and Alice Neighbour completing the A-final finishers.
Round two takes place on 20 May, where the Midlands hope to bounce back away against the North and Scotland in Sheffield, while South West and Wales have tough match against South East and East at Horspath, Oxford, both matches start with elite junior at 1pm. The Supertrax Women’s League moves to Ipswich, with an earlier start time of 12noon.