The British Cycling National Youth Circuit Series hit Wales for round three on Saturday, as Cardiff enjoyed the first racing of a great weekend of cycling.
It was the second running of the Maindy Flyers Cardiff City Centre Races in collaboration with Velothon Wales, and once again took advantage of the spectacular, technical Velothon Wales finishing circuit around Cathay’s Park in the administrative heart of the Welsh Capital.
Passing around Alexandra Gardens and past City Hall, the National Museum, Cardiff Crown Court, the University of Wales and Cardiff University, the course combines long, fast straights, 90 degree turns and hairpin bends.
The Under 14 Girls opened the day’s proceedings and their series had already seen Becky Surridge of VC Londres – triple stage winner in the Isle of Man in round two – open an impressive 34-point lead over Maisy Vasic of Sportcity Velo, although only five points separated Vasic from the next three riders with Eve Barrow of Salt Ayre Cog Set lying third but not entered for this round, giving Ava Oxley-Szilagyi of PH-MAS VCUK a chance to close the gap.
The rain was light but constant throughout the race and, although there were no major incidents, a series of spills saw the field thin out and the usual suspects to the fore. Vasic and Surridge were always in the thick of the action, but it was Surridge’s team-mate Isabel Escalara who did much of the work, controlling the pace and keeping Surridge’s out of trouble.
At the bell there were five still together and the final time over the line saw a massive injection of pace. As they came on to the finish straight it was Surridge who took the sprint to extend her series lead with Emma Finucane of Towy Riders Ava Oxley-Szilagyi taking second and third.
The Under 14 Boys were up next, with series leader George Southby of East Bradford CC on 73 points, just three clear of Lichfield City’s Emile Alexander, with Billy Lazenby of Chevin Cycles on 63.
The massive field and damp conditions were always going to result in a few spills but nobody could have predicted that both the leading riders in the series would be affected – the first of them on lap one!
Southby made his way back to the pits for a lap out but was only allowed to rejoin in the middle of what was now a very strung out race. Virtually the same fate befell Alexander a third of the way into the race, and although both chased hard to get back into contention, neither would now affect the results.
Southby's team-mate Lucien Cuming was in the lead group along with Joe Pidcock of Chevin Cycles, Junior Jackson of Mossley CRT, Jack Rootkin-Gray of Solihull CC, Guto Dafydd of Towy Riders and William Corkill of Team RL360 Isle of Man.
In the final sprint Cuming and Corkhill were dropped and Pidcock looked to have it wrapped up - but he'd reckoned without the charging Jackson who came around him on the line to take the win. Pidcock hung on to second with Rootkin-Gray taking third and Dafydd fourth.
After the lunch break and a chance for the Under 8, Under 10 and Under 12 riders to enjoy the big stage in some non-championship events, the Under 16s were up, with the boys up first for an hour and 20 minutes of frantic action from the gun.
Matthew Shaw of Solihull CC went into this race with a four point advantage over VCUK PH-MAS rider Jim Brown – and local rider Oscar Mingay of Cardiff JIF just five points further back.
As the weather conditions worsened, the accidents got bigger and more frequent. The race was aborted on the first lap and then again on a few laps later – each time being re-gridded and re-started.
The stopping and starting had no obvious effect on the pace though, and when the race was stopped again with just a handful of minutes left before the final five lap countdown it was decided to remove the following groups, and the riders who were pulled out were assigned their positions from the transponder readings on the previous lap leaving the 26 in the leading group to contest the final five laps.
There were a couple of attempts to get away – Callum Macleod attacked after the finish line with a couple to go – but in the end it came down to a bunch sprint. After all the trials and tribulations, it was Shaw and Brown who showed why they lead the series, taking the first two spots on the podium with Ethan Vernon of Corley Cycles taking third.
The final race of the day was the under-16 girls, and series leader Pfeiffer Georgi of Liv Cycling Club had a seven point lead over local rider Elynor Backstedt of Backstedt Cycling from the opening two rounds – with Anna Docherty of Clifton CC a further nine points behind.
The weather hadn't improved and the delays caused by the earlier incidents meant that the girls race was cut from an hour plus five laps to 40 minutes plus five laps. Nobody looked upset.
The corner where most of the crashes were taking place and a stretch of the circuit from there to a hairpin bend between City Hall and the National Museum was removed, cutting around 20 seconds off the lap.
The race quickly settled down and a sizeable leading group including all the race favourites emerged. The group thinned a little, but with about 10 laps to go series leader Georgi and third-placed Docherty slipped away, leaving Backstedt in the chasing group.
As the laps ticked down the lead – which had nudged 20 seconds at one point – started to come down. By now, though, the chase group was down from six riders to four and although they got to within seven seconds, the two leaders started to pull away again.
They never managed to get back on terms and the win came down to a sprint between Georgi and Docherty and it was the Liv Cycling rider who took it on the line. Megan James of Abergavenny CC took the sprint for third.