Five-time Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave is, of course, best known for his rowing but, as part of an eight man team, he also competed in the gruelling 2010 Race Across America. Part of his training for the race – billed as the toughest cycle race in the world - involved sessions at Reading’s Palmer Park velodrome, so it was as a fellow trackie that he presented the season’s spoils to the competitors from Reading Track League.
James Thompson of AW Cycles (on behalf of Matt Gittings) and Nick English collect their awards from Sir Steve Redgrave
Having outgrown the rooms at the stadium itself, the ceremony moved down the A4 to Knowl Hill Village Hall where the competitors, friends and family gathered to collect their rewards and listen to Redgrave’s inspirational tales of his progress through his chosen sport – the youngsters, in particular, fascinated by the parallels between progress in rowing and cycling.
Two teams dominated the competition this season - Palmer Park Velo, as usual, took all the silverware in the youth events while riders from AW Cycles won every single competition in the senior A category - including the top three places in the overall points standings - and several of the senior B competitions. The ladies competition saw three different teams to the fore with Team Corridor, Willesden CC and Clee Cycles KCNC coming out on top.
While he wasn't quite as dominant this year as last, under 23 rider Matt Gittings of AW Cycles again took the bulk of the titles in the senior A competition - despite missing the last month of competition. Gittings, who took up a cycling scholarship at Marian University in Indiana in August is still at college in the US and was unable to collect his trophies in person, with James Thompson of Caversham-based AW Cycles accepting them on his behalf.
Gittings took the overall senior A title – ahead of team mates, Juniors Stephen Bradbury and Cam Swarbrick - as well as the keirin, derny – shared with another team mate, Nick English - and the AW Cycles 20k Endurance Championships. Rounding out the senior A’s, Bradbury took the VIA International 10 Lap scratch title and Swarbrick the sprint title – as well as the junior sprint and junior pursuit titles.
The ladies’ titles were more evenly distributed with Sarra Boyd of Clee Cycles KCNC taking the Sprint, Endurance and 10 Lap titles, Jayne Paine of Willesden CC the Keirin and Derny titles while Corrine Hall’s consistency across all disciplines was rewarded with the overall Championship trophy.
In the senior B’s only Stuart Stow of Hounslow & District Wheelers managed multiple championship wins, taking the 10 Lap and endurance titles with under 16 rider Jason Pitt of Palmer Park Velo taking the Derny Paced Championship, Sam Grant of Beyond MBC the Sprint title and Rikki Pankhurst of AW Cycles the Keirin Championship. Pankhurst’s team mate Trevor Bradbury finished top of the pile, though, and took the overall Senior B Championship – after several years of domination by under 16 riders.
The youth competition saw Josh Ansell win the under 16 boys title by some margin but it was overall runner up Max Stedman whose gutsy performances alongside the Senior riders secured him the Sonim 20k endurance title, with Ansell settling for second this time. Abbie Dentus won the under 14 girls with Matthew Lansley taking the boys’ title while Cameron Thomson took the under 12s, Max Reed the under 10s and Alex Hawkins the under 8s.
The ceremony marked the end of a very successful season’s racing which also saw the retirement of commentator Mike Mullett – after a 60 year association with racing at Palmer Park. All the officials and competitors thank him for all his efforts and hope he will return as a spectator next season, which kicks off on the 16 of April 2012.