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.
Meeting cut short by rain.
This is the place where all the rising stars of the Wheelers started and indeed most of the UK professionals can trace the start of their careers back to this age so the importance of these events should never be underestimated. Clearly this is also the place where skills are learned and as these develop so does the young riders confidence.
Determination and enthusiasm abound in the Freewheeler racing and this kicked in right at the start of the first race; the As 2 Lap Scratch. Thomas White took a decisive lead with Oliver Hancher and George Dunn in hot pursuit. As Thomas is allowed to ride up to Youth he elected not to have his results counted but he still wanted to race. On the line George just managed push ahead taking first place with Oliver in second place. The Bs Scratch was over 1lap and here it was Oliver Ward who took a first. Competition between twin sisters Olivia and Ella Green was intense throughout all the Freewheel events but Olivia took second in the Scratch with Ella in third place.
The A Points race was another win for George Dunn and Oliver Hancher took second place. Ethan Stainke took a well deserved third place. Ethan had completed the 32 mile 'Ride for Joe' just a few days previously and was probably one of the youngest riders to take part. Joseph Koren came first in B Points with Oliver Ward claiming second. This time it was Ella Green's turn taking third place with sister Olivia settling for fourth place.
The last A event was a 2 Lap Dash and provided a hint of what is to come with Oliver Hancher, Thomas White and George Dunn all working together pushing the pace. Over the line it was George first, Oliver second and Ethan Stainke third. The B 1 Lap Dash provided the final piece of excitement with Oliver Ward taking the lead but Joseph Koren caught Oliver to take first place with Oliver having to settle for second . Olivia Green (third place) was just ahead of sister Ella again (fourth place) but I have feeling that this sibling rivalry will run throughout the whole season. So a presentation was made at the end for all the racing with the whole crowd agreeing what a good night's entertainment it had been.
Racing cancelled due to rain
This was the first night of the new season, so all possibilities were open, with each rider keen to make their mark. After the Scratch events the racing started to take on momentum and in the Senior B Unknown Distance race Wheeler Mark Roberts took the lead with a break that saw him well in front of the rest of the field at a critical moment. This was Mark's first win of the season with fellow Wheelers Tony Deleon and Brian Handley second and third respectively.
Experience paid off for Wheeler Jason Colledge back racing in Senior A's this year with a win in the Unknown Distance race with defending champion Matty Lewis second and Reece Lowe of Brotherton Cycles in third.
There was lots of noteworthy activity going on from the younger riders, most competing in the Senior B races. In the final event of the evening, the traditional Handicap race tonight over 22 laps, younger riders took the first three places of the Intermediate Sprint with Sophie White first, Melissa Baker (now riding for Karbona RT) second and Will Perry third. In the Senior A category George Mills Keeling gave a strong performance finishing second at the end of the race to Matty Lewis who took the overall win. Third place went to Jamie Crump (Successcycling.co.uk). So tonight had been a successful start to what will prove to be another entertaining and interesting League.
Racing cancelled because of rain