Once again, the London and South East League found itself at a new venue. This was the 6th new venue of the 12-race series hosted at Hall Place Sports Pavilion in Bexley by Velo Club Londres.
The large Course was 100% on grass with a mix of adverse cambers, short banks, ditches and sharp bends all centred alongside the River Cray. The course was totally visible from any location as quite open and a cold wind blew across the course to remind spectators to wrap up warm.
Unusually for a January grassy course it was very dry and firm which left bikes clean and contributed to some fast and close racing as seen by the 4.30 lap times by the fastest riders.
Words by Andy Carpenter and Stuart McGhee
Under 10s/12s prep
The new course at Bexley was primarily a flat affair, incorporating banking to provide a small degree of elevation. For the u10s/12s, the start straight fed into a 90-degree right hander to traverse some banking which include a small chicane followed by a switchback down onto the flat. Here the course made a couple of high-speed turns before a very short ascent into another switchback leading the riders along the top of banking with a couple of brief diversion onto the camber, before turning back onto the start/finish straight. An interesting feature here was a small gully, which would lead to some jumping and an almost significant chain-off in the u10s…
A strong wind blew across the field, presenting a nasty headwind on one of the long straights that had visible effect on the rider’s progress.
Under 10s race
Gridding completed as usual, the start was quickly underway with the usual protagonists taking position with one exception – Joe Carpenter (Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles) having an unusually poor start leaving him down in the field. The riders immediately began to stretch out, with the only notable battle being the aforementioned Joe pushing hard to regain position. With half a lap gone, he had moved up to fourth spot on the wheel of Oliver Goodman (Rotor Racing Team). Oliver was quickly despatched, and Joe set of after Ivo Thwaites (Kent Velo Kids) with a determined look on his face. Meanwhile, out front Noah Smith (Team Darenth) was stretching his lead over second. Back to the battle, and Joe had worked his way back to Ivo who was managing to stretch out a little on the straights with Joe hauling him back on the corners. Two and a quarter laps in and on the bell lap, Joe made his move, with a sudden attack which immediately gapped Ivo. He stretched this out to about 25 metres and rounded the final corner to cleanly take the gully. Further up the field Noah had already taken the flag. Behind, Ivo hit the gully as Joe took the line, and in doing so managed to lose his chain. Looking somewhat lost, a helpful crowd suggest he run the short distance as behind him Oliver was rapidly closing to potentially steal the final podium place. Luckily, with help on hand the chain was restored just in time, and Ivo rolled across the line in third place with Oliver very close behind.
Whilst the battle for the boy’s podium played out, the girls enjoyed their own competition with Eva Gibson (Club Cyclopark) chasing down Nico Stewart (Herne Hill Youth Cycling) to take the lead on the second lap, and the battle being ended as Noah lapped Nico before she could start the third and final lap.
Boys: Noah Smith (Team Darenth); Joe Carpenter (Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles); Ivo Thwaites (Kent Velo Kids);
Girls: Eva Gibson (Club Cyclopark); Nico Stewart (Herne Hill Youth Cycling); Annie Sones (Crawley Wheelers)
Under 12s race
The under 12s race got underway, and podiums all determined before the first corner, with Oscar Amey (Team Darenth) leading Peter Carpenter (Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles) leading Mak Larkin (Rotor Racing Team) for the boy’s side, and Tulsi Bakrania (Team Darenth) leading Edith Davies (Club Cyclopark) leading Zoe Roche (Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles).
On the boy’s side, a touch of uncertainty crept in as Peter completed his penultimate lap clutching his sides whilst trying to maintain pace, but this hindrance was overcome/ignored on the final lap as he drew back to his nemesis – Oscar – losing out by a familiar handful of seconds.
For the girls a battle developed further down the field between team mates Molly Jones and Ciara Bakovic (both Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles). The latter steadily chasing down the former and closing in but requiring another lap if it were going to make the difference – a fine effort though.
So the real battle through the race fell to a mixed gender battle, with Theo Sandell (Southborough & District Wheelers) fighting the men’s corner, whilst the fairer sex were represented by Tulsi Bakrania (Team Darenth). The pair matched times for four laps, switching positions on several occasions before Tulsi made a big move on the final lap to lead Theo home by a handful of seconds.
Boys: Oscar Amey (Team Darenth); Peter Carpenter (Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles); Mak Larkin (Rotor Racing Team
Girls: Tulsi Bakrania (Team Darenth); Edith Davies (Club Cyclopark); Zoe Roche (Sutton Cycling Club / C&N Cycles)
Under 14 and 16 Boys
Sam McGhee (Sutton CC) got the hole shot into the first corner that lead into the tricky adverse camber with a 180-degree bend. Going into the series of steep banks quite quickly a leading group of 4 were forming with a group of 4 chasing at 5 seconds. On lap 2 Joe Blackmore (Team Darenth) put in the fastest lap of the race to break free and once again rode away to a long solo victory. The 7 riders behind Riders continued to swap places over the next few laps with Sam McGhee having to come back through the field after his back wheel came out on lap 2, losing him 30 seconds. Alfie Amy (Team Darenth) showed his recent good form by keeping consistent and throwing in a blistering fast last lap to come home first Under 14 boy and in 2nd place overall at 31 seconds behind his teammate. In 3rd place and 2nd under 16 boy was Luke Prenelle (LVYCC) who had a race long battle with Alfie. Yani Djelil (Team Darenth) once again proved the strength in depth with the under 14 boys to come home in a 2nd place. Stanley Platts and Luke Hazell had a great battle that Stanley come out of on top of this time to claim 3rd place in the under 16 race. Clement Reuter completed the under 14 podium coming home in 9th place overall.
Under 14 and 16 Girls
Phoebe Roche was sporting her new team colours as a new signing to WXC World Racing as started her new team with a win overall in the girls race as an under 14 girls and 15th overall. Her team mate Emily Lines gave her a good run for her money for 2nd place and first under 16 girl. Amber Brameld (Sutton CC) held Emily for the first lap but started to lose a few seconds a lap to come home 2nd under 16 girl with teammate Penny De Brett coming home in 3rd place. Hope Inglis (Kent Velo Kids) had to work hard to cement her 2nd place in the under 14 girls from Lucy Wollaston (HHYCC) who completed the podium.
One of the best races of the day with Irfan Zaman (Panagua CC) and Kishan Bakrania (Team Darenth) dishing out the pain to each other. They were neck and neck the whole race with little attacks here and there opening up a few seconds on each other but each of them seemed to be able to close down each other. It looked like 1st place would be settled by a sprint to the chequered flag and that is what happened that Irfan won. Matthew Williams (Abellio SFA) rode a solitary race to claim 3rd place.
The Biggest field of the day lined up in the cold wind and what a quality field we had with numerous riders with top 10’s at National Trophy Level. Cleary going to be a fast one! It did not disappoint, from the gun the riders were lined out on the first lap with an infernal pace being pushed on by Steve Gibson (4T Velo) and Andy Taylor (C&N Cycles). These 2 opened a gap on the rest of the field and on lap 5 Steve pushed the pace on by setting the fastest lap of the race at 4.18 to break the elastic with Andy. Andy continued to keep Steve in sight to come home 34 seconds behind Steve. Ben Lewis (Forest side riders) was racing on a single speed and rode to a solid 3rd place but he always had Ryan Harris (C&N Cycles) keeping him on his toes as we was ready to pounce should falter. In 5th place, Paul Sheers (Vicious Velo) led home the next 5 riders to make up the top 10 all within 30 seconds or each other.
Coming over the finish line to complete lap one we had 4 riders within a few seconds of each other. Race on! On lap 3 Caroline Reuter (London Phoenix) put the hammer down and opened a gap with Adeline Moreau (Good Vibes /Mecredi) going solo to keep her in check. It looked like Caroline was sailing to another win but on lap 5 she had a puncture. She got to the pits but unfortunately a mix up with her pit crew resulted in the right wheel not being in the pits and it took nearly 2 minutes to find the right wheel and change. So, Adeline found herself in the lead but only ever a few seconds ahead of Charlotte Heywood-Mahe (Les Filles RT) and Olivia Campbell (Scarpa Racing). Charlotte could see the chance of a win and rode away from Olivia and on the last lap and produced the fastest lap of the race (4.56) to finish a tantalising 3 seconds behind Adeline. You could hear Adeline breathe a sigh of relief as she crossed the finish line! Oliva came home in 3rd Place a further 20 seconds behind. Caroline had got back up to pace after her puncture to finish 4th and first Vet40 at only 56 seconds. I’m sure there was a review with the Pit crew planned that evening! Emma Porter (Penge CC) road into 5th place and 2nd place Vet40 ahead of 3rd place VET 40 Annette Nixon (Folkestone Velo Club). Tracy Begg- Wilkinson (Folkestone Velo Club) raced to a 1st place Vet50 and 6TH Place overall with Elaine Owen (Herne Hill Youth CC) and Liz Orr (Kent Velo Girls CC) completing the Vet50 podium.
On the first lap the top 10 were led through by George Higgs (Crawley Wheelers) all pretty much in a road crit line out. Over the next few laps the front group started to split up with George and Jon Lyons (G.S.Invicta – ELO – Herberts Cycles) pushing the pace on and creating a small gap on Crawley Wheelers duo Stuart Evans and Nick Welsh who had recovered from a slow first lap down in 16th Position. Up front George and Jon were trading blows with each trying to drop the other. With a few laps to go Jon put in a powerful attack that looked like he would take it to the finish line, but an ill-timed chain derailment allowed George back. With half a lap to go Jon once again powered to a small lead but once again George worked hard to close this down and coming up to the final corner whereby passing a lapped rider he slipped on little adverse camber climb and that was it, Jon reached the finish line first. Good 2nd place for George and the battle of his teammates went in the favour of Stuart from Nick. Jez Parsons (Brighton Excelsior) seemed a little below par today and started slowly by worked his way up to a solid 5th place with the top 10 all coming in within the next minute.
Josh Jones (ZeroBC) set a furious pace from the start and led into the first 180 degree turn. Jon Dennis was right on his wheel, too close in fact as he almost fell save for a dab of the foot. This gave Josh a small gap that he kept for the first lap but was finally reeled in by the Kibosh Trio of Jon Dennis, Freddie Checketts and Neil Philips. Freddie just seemed to have more zip than the others and put the pressure on from lap 3 that only Jon could follow. But clearly Freddie was on a good day and soon distanced Jon to solo to a good win. The top 5 places were decided from here on with each rider riding solo with Kibosh clean sweep of Freddie, Jon and Neil. Josh comfortably held onto 4th place with David Rees (Dulwich) A combination of short fast laps and Freddie being on fire meant all rider up to 8th place were lapped!