2012 Sainsbury's UK School Games

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Guy Swarbrick reports from the first day of the 2012 Sainsbury’s UK School Games.

The first day of the opened with an innovative sprint criterium competition – the Crit Eliminator. Four heats of twelve riders compete over four laps of a rolling 1km course on the top of the Hog Hill Circuit with the top 6 riders progressing from each heat to an A-B Semi Final, with the rest going in to the C-D Semis. The top 6 from the two A-B Semis go through to the A Final with the rest going through to the B Final.

The UK School Games is a team competition, so every position from the A Final to the D Final scores points towards an Omnium-style lowest total wins tally.

The tight, technical course combined with riders fighting for every place – as well as a couple of under-glued tubs and some over exuberant braking – saw an unexpectedly high number of crashes – with a couple of riders crashing out of the lead on the final corner.

A number of fancied riders found themselves in the lower order heats as the morning progressed but the Girls A-B Semi Finals saw wins from two of the pre-event favourites with Grace Garner taking the first race for the East Midlands team and team mate Charlotte Broughton tying up the second Semi. Hannah Blount made it three East Midlands riders with the North West team matching that with Eleanor Dickinson, Jessica Wilkinson and Jess Atkinson all progressing. Not to be outdone, Megan Barker, Ffion James and Ellie Coster gave Wales three places in the A Final with Bethany Hayward (Eastern), Lucy Shaw (West Midlands) and Melissa Lowther (Yorkshire) completing the line-up.

It was Hayward who made the early running before Lowther took over at the front – with the three East Midlands girls, led by Garner, sat on her wheel. By half distance, though, it was Broughton who was glued to Lowther’s rear wheel with Garner, Blount, Shaw and Barker 20 metres back.

Broughton and Lowther were neck and neck coming out of the last corner but it was the East Midlands rider that one the drag to the line. Shaw headed Garner and Blount home to take 3rd with Barker rounding out the top 6.

Girls Crit Eliminator
1 Charlotte Broughton East Midlands
2 Melissa Lowther Yorkshire
3 Lucy Shaw West Midlands
4 Grace Garner East Midlands
5 Hannah Blount East Midlands
6 Megan Barker Wales
7 Eleanor Dickinson North West
8 Jessica Wilkinson North West
90 Jess Atkinson North West
10 Bethany Hayward Eastern
11 Ffion James Wales
12 Ellie Coster Wales

The Boys Semi Finals were less dominated by the big teams – with only the South West not having a representative in the A-B Semis. Gabriel Cullaigh win the first Semi for Yorkishire with Matthew Gibson of the North West team separating him from team mate Levi Moody who qualified ahead of Christian Braybrooke of the North West. A strong ride from Delcan Mulholland of Ulster saw him take the penultimate Final spot from the first Semi with James Shaw of the East Midlands taking the other.

In the second Semi, Joe Evans of the West Midlands pipped Ben Chapman of Central and Charlie Tanfield of the North East with Dylan Kerfoot-Robinson of Wales, Jacob Kelly of the West Midlands and Central’s Max Stedman completing the second batch of qualifiers.

As the rain finally started to arrive in bulk it was Kerfoot-Robson who made the best start and made it in to the first corner first with Moody, Tanfield and Gibson following him through.

Evans led at the end of the first lap with Braybrooke joining the lead group but the order was being shuffled corner by corner and a lap later Tanfield lead Moody and Gibson with Chapman joining the back of the lead group. Those three would take the top spots, but it was Gibson who came inside Tanfield to take the win with Moody third, Evans fourth, Chapman fifth with Stedman rounding out the top half of the order.

Boys Crit Eliminator
1 Matthew Gibson North West
2 Charlie Tanfield North East
3 Levi Moody Yorkshire
4 Joe Evans West Midlands
5 Ben Chapman Central
6 Max Steadman Central
7 James Shaw East Midlands
8 Gabriel Cullaigh Yorkshire
9 Christian Braybrooke North West
10 Jacob Kelly West Midlands
11 Dylan Kerfoot-Robson Wales
12 Declan Mulholland Ulster

If the Crit Eliminators were novel to start with, the Tandem versions were also the UK’s first Under 18 Paracycling event. A small but very competitive field of six tandems - which included twins Lydia and Alice Haydon among the stokers – progressed through a similar format of heats and semis – the first of which saw Sophie Thornhill and Megan Boyd crash on the infamous final corner.

In the Final Luke White and Oliver Maxwell of the East Midlands team made the initial running but were overhauled by Joe Widdowson and Ryan Whatmough of the North West. Jack Garner and Matthew Waters of the East Midlands took third ahead of their team mates Alice Haydon and Emily Thoday.

Paracycling Tandem Crit Eliminator
1 Joe Widdowson & Ryan Whatmough
2 Luke White & Oliver Maxwell
3 Jack Garner & Matthew Waters
4 Alice Haydon & Emily Thoday

The Paracyclists kicked off the afternoon’s Road Race events, with White and Maxwell leaving the road on the wet downhill and doing brilliantly to stay upright as they completed the descent off-road. They recovered but the race was over – with the top two places looking destined to go to Garner and Waters and Widdowson and Whatmough. Nobody had told Thornhill and Boyd that, though, and shortly after Widdowson and Whatmough took the lead for the North West, their team mates made up for the earlier disappointment by following the through to take second place.

Tandem Road Race
1 Joe Widdowson & Ryan Whatmough
2 Sophie Thornhill & Megan Boyd
3 Jack Garner & Matthew Waters
4 Luke White & Oliver Maxwell
5 Lydia Haydon & Ana Gill
6 Alice Haydon & Emily Thoday

The day’s changeable weather was at its wettest in the early stages of the Girls road race and the wet conditions seemed to have drawn all the flint from the Essex hills with a number of high profile punctures claiming East Midlands duo Grace Garner and Charlotte Broughton, among others.

By the halfway point, the race seemed to be under the control of the Yorkshire team who were policing every move in the peloton. The biggest threat came from Bethany Hayward from the Eastern region team and when she jumped, the Yorkshire girls sent Amira Mellor to chase her down, leaving Melissa Lowther and Abby Mae Parkinson to ensure that the peloton didn’t respond.

Kim English of the South East tried to inject some pace, but the move was shut down and the race turned in to a pursuit between Hayward and Mellor. Hayward, though, had built a 20 second lead and she wasn’t going to give it up.

Mellor took second alone with Lowther winning the sprint for third from Lucy Shaw of the West Midlands and Abigail Dentus of Central.

Girls Road Race

1 Bethany Hayward Eastern
2 Amira Mellor Yorkshire
3 Melissa Lowther Yorkshire
4 Lucy Shaw West Midlands
5 Abigail Dentus Central

6 Abby Mae Parkinson Yorkshire
7 Lucy Harper Eastern
8 Kimberley English South East
9 Eleanor Dickinson North West
10 Francesca Morgans-Slader Eastern

An epic Boys race saw the lead group gradually whittled down with three North West riders – John Didsbury, Christian Braybrooke and Fabio Close – determined to take control. An early breakaway by Jacob Kelly of the West Midlands was allowed to get 15 seconds away but no further. A couple of attempts by the boys in yellow to use their superior numbers to engineer an escape come to nothing but in the end it was a group consisting of Joe Evans of the West Midlands, Gabriel Cullaigh of Yorkshire and Ben Chapman of Central that made the decisive break.

Tristan Robbins of South made a valiant effort to get across before Braybrooke and Didsbury conspired to slow the peloton down while Close set off with Jack King of the East Midlands to try to bridge the gap.

They didn’t catch the leaders but they did ride away from the bunch and stay there until the finish. The lead trio was a duo at the line – Evans becoming the latest victim of the final corner. He picked himself up to avoid being caught by Close and King - who took fourth and fifth – but had to watch as Chapman took the win from Cullaigh.

Boys Road Race

1 Ben Chapman Central
2 Gabriel Cullaigh Yorkshire
3 Joe Evans West Midlands

4 Fabio Close North West
5 Jack King East Midlands
6 John Didsbury North West
7 Christian Braybrooke North West
8 Tristan Robbins South
9 James Shaw East Midlands
10 Charlie Tanfield North East

Consistency across the day’s events saw Yorkshire take a fairly healthy 24 point lead into the second day of competition with the North West in second place. The East Midlands are 17 points further back with the West Midlands 22 points behind them. The teams face another series of Crit Eliminators tomorrow, followed by Time Trials before they head to the Olympic Velodrome on Wednesday.

Standings at the end of Day 1
1 Yorkshire 105
2 North West 129
3 East Midlands 146
4 West Midlands 168
5 Wales 202
6 Eastern 225
7 Central 233
8 Scotland 335
9 South East 348
10 South West 380
11 South 382
12 Ulster 414
13 North East 422