No racing due to rain
This was the first Wednesday of the school holidays so it was inevitable that competitor numbers and attendance would be down but as usual there was no lack of enthusiasm for the racing and this started with Win and Out races before moving on to Points events. Walsall Roads rider Mark Shaw took most points in the Senior B Win and Out followed by Grace Lister and Alex Thomson. Best result in the Points race went to Oliver Baker followed by Sophie White and Alex Thomson. In the Senior A events Matty Lewis further consolidated his lead in the Rankings taking both races with Jamie Crump (Successcycling.co.uk) and Ethan Roberts taking second and third respectively in both events.
The Italian Pursuit provided much interest for the crowd with the two teams, one for Matty Lewis and the other for Will Manfield-Yorke, being carefully selected by John Ireson to be as closely matched as possible and also to include all the riders (Senior A and B) present. The race saw some great efforts being put in by everyone including Will Perry, Elodie Gage, Amelia Southall, Paul Wright (Brotherton Cycles), Jake White, Charlie Fisher (Newport Shropshire CC), Jason Colledge and Andy Cooper (Wyre Forest CRC). As the race progressed it did look as though Matty's team would overhaul and catch their opponents but through teamwork and determination on Will's part that was avoided with Will putting some distance back in the race on the final lap; not enough to win the race but entertaining none the less.
Next was the 12 Lap Scratch races and in the Senior B event there seemed to be an uncharacteristic lack of competitiveness with none of the riders willing to make their move. The youngest rider in the race, Tom White, took advantage of this and timed his break carefully just as the final lap was starting. By the time the rest of the riders realised what was happening it was too late and none could catch Tom who went on to take his first win in Senior B much to the approval of the crowd. He also earned a handshake from second placed rider Mark Shore (himself a previous Senior B winner). Alex Thomson took third place. Senior A was a much more lively event with some great efforts from both Jake White and Charlie Fisher but the race finished with a sprint to the line too close to call with Matty Lewis winning just ahead of Will Manfield-Yorke in second place and Jason Colledge in third place. And so to the final excitement for the evening: the 22 lap Handicap. The B riders successfully held off rest of the field and at the Intermediate sprint it was a win for Sophie White with Grace Lister second and Oliver Baker third. With eight laps to go Matty Lewis made his break and, as usual, he was unstoppable, Jamie Crump was over the line second followed by a strong sprint from Ethan Roberts in third place.
Female Focus (all riding in Senior B)
There are probably more female riders racing in the League this season than ever before and not only that but they are getting the results that they deserve. Tonight's racing started with a series of 200 Metre Flying Starts to determine the seedings for the Keirin events that were to follow and Elodie Gage and Grace Lister certainly were 'flying' as they took their turns against the clock.
Racing proper started with 15 Lap Scratch races and in the Senior B event Sophie White was never far from the front of the pack. Sophie was, until recently, leading the Senior B Rankings which is no mean feat for an Under 16 rider but Lichfield Vet Steve Wilkinson now leads the B's and Sophie occupies fourth place overall but is the second placed female rider with 39 points. However back to the race where Simon Orme of Brereton Wheelers made his break with five laps to go and went over the line first with almost a quarter of a lap to spare. The remaining places were much more closely fought over with Oliver Baker taking second place just ahead of his sister Melissa. Melissa now rides for Karbona RT and has enjoyed considerable success in both Cyclocross and Mountain Bike racing. Melissa has 34 points in the Rankings which makes her the third female rider and seventh overall.
Sophie White was the only female rider to make it past the Keirin heats but she too dropped out in the semi-finals. However female riders made a much stronger impression in the Elimination event where tactical skills are required in addition to the other more obvious qualities. Here Sophie was eliminated with just five remaining but it was Grace Lister who impressed the crowd here taking first place against Oliver Baker in second and Alex Thomson in third. Grace (under 14) has 45 points which makes her the leading female rider and third overall in the Rankings.
Elodie Gage previously competed in the Freewheeler events but after a break of three years she is back racing in the League. Her best result so far is second place in tonight's 2 Lap Dash behind Steve Wilkinson and ahead of Alex Thomson in third place. Elodie currently has 12 points which makes her the fifth placed female rider. Other commitments prevented Gabriella Homer (Team 22) from competing in the League from the beginning but she is now back racing and currently has 22 points.
Female riders also featured prominently in the final event of the evening the 22 Lap Handicap race. In the Intermediate Sprint Sophie White took second place just behind first placed Alex Thomson. Grace Lister took fourth followed by Amelia Southall in fifth place. Amelia has 11 points making her the sixth place female rider. At the end of the 22 laps it was male domination with another win for Matty Lewis with Jamie Crump (Successcycling.co.uk) second and Wheeler Ethan Roberts third.
Racing stopped after the freewheelers races were completed because of rain.
Last year's winner Matty Lewis returns to defend his title stronger and fresher but faces some stiff competition and not just from other Junior riders but also Under 16s and strong Vet riders. In the first A event of the evening, the12 Lap Scratch, Matty made his break with seven laps to go but the main field caught him, however when Matty made another break with five laps remaining he could not be caught despite a big effort by Seb Bacon. Will Manfield-York pursued and just managed to pass Seb half a lap before the line. Matty also picked up a first on the Elimination race followed by a trio of Under 16 riders: Jamie Crump (Successcycling.co.uk) second, George Mills Keeling third and Ethan Roberts fourth. Vet rider Jason Colledge, back in Senior A this season, was fifth and Wheelers Chairman John Ireson picked up his first point this season with a sixth place. George Mills Keeling took first place in the Win and Out with William Manfield-York second and Matty Lewis third. Charlie Fisher of Newport Shropshire CC took fourth place. Under 16 Wheeler Dan Morris, riding his first season in the A's, took sixth place.
This is the beginning of the season so a view of the Rankings at this point must be made with a large degree of caution as there is still everything to play for and positions are bound to change in this highly competitive environment. However Matty Lewis is currently leading with 106 points and Jamie Crump is second with sixty six points. George Mills Keeling is in third place with thirty six points. The League welcomes Andy Cooper and Sam Cooper both of Wyre Forrest CRC and both riding for the first time. Reece Lowe (Brotherton Cycles) returns after his success of last year. Paul Wright also makes a welcome return now riding in the Senior A's (although neither were racing this evening). A special welcome back must also be given to Jack Hibberd who won the League in both 2010 and 2011.
So back to the racing and after the 3 Lap Dash the events culminated in the traditional Handicap race. This event allows the younger riders a share of the action and Alex Thomson took a well deserved win in the Intermediate Sprint at eleven laps. Oliver Baker took second with Sam Anslow third, Grace Lister fourth and Will Perry fifth. At the end of the race it was another win for Matty with Jamie crump second and William Manfield-Yorke third. Ethan Roberts came fourth with Karl Ward fifth and Jake White sixth.