Saturday 29th saw 8 VCL youth riders head for Newport for the first of three ‘Icebreaker’ track meetings. With around 130 riders place, this was a great opportunity for the riders to experience big bunch racing on the track used for the National Youth Track Champs.
The journey was well worth the effort. Fred Wright finished third overall in U12 boys and would almost certainly have finished second (to national champion, Tomos Owens) had he not, with three riders still in the final devil, mistaken his dad’s shouts of encouragement for an instruction that he’d been called out (the rider actually eliminated was off the back). A little fustrating was James Mitri’s performance. James rode every race on the blue and 3-4 bike lengths off the back of the lead group. He clearly has the strength and fitness, since he managed to hold this position even when the speed went up. Luckily, James will be a regular at Newport in the future, so we expect him soon to overcome his nervousness and shine.
Charlotte finished second overall in the U12 girls. Her and the eventual winner, Jessica Roberts, were in a class of their own amongst the U12 girls and the final sprint in the devil to decide the overall (Charlotte having won the points and Jessica the scratch) was genuinely very exciting, both riders riding high on the banking in to the back straight and sprinting side-by-side from about 150m out, with Jessica taking it by half a wheel.
George Jary rode extremely well, we thought, and only the fact that Max Bergin put in an extremely gutsy performance overshadows this. Max and George were not at all out of place amongst with the top U14 track riders in the country. As with the other VCL riders, they were amongst the hardest working on the day, chasing down attacks and doing their bit to keep the pace high during the very testing and long races.
Something must be said about Max though. Max managed to pick up some handy points during the opening 50-lap points race, but the effort that saw him picking up second rider at about the half way mark was too much for him and he was forced to abandon in considerable distress (for the cognoscenti, think Gustav Larsson). To others this may have been sufficient reason to spectate for the remainder of the meeting, but Max was back on for the scratch race, not holding back and being rewarded with 8th place (behind George in 6th). The most spectacular ride was saved till the final race, the devil. Both George and Max adopted a tactic much-favoured by their coach Jason, riding on the back and picking off the weak riders at every sprint lap. With a field about 30-strong and one rider out every two laps, this was a pretty impressive way for Max to get down to the last four. The reward for Max was 5th overall. Very well done and very well deserved.
Possibly the toughest category on the day was U14 girls. It was certainly the biggest field. Abi and Eleanor were by no means embarrassed, but with this level of competition they will need to take their preparation extremely seriously if they are going to get up there. Having seen Abi trounce nearly every U14 boy week-in, week-out in the London League cyclo-cross, there is no question that the girls in this age group represent an extremely promising bunch.
U16 boys is, of course, a hard category, and Josh showed great spirit and determination to not be spat out in races whose length and tempo would have finished off many adults. I’m sure the experience and confidence gained will mean that by the end of the series he’ll be able to compete for top ten places.
What amazed us about this meeting was the standard of riding. Long, fast and technical races and not a single crash all day. Represented in all but one category, VCL can be very proud of their youth riders who collectively must be good candidates for the most successful and certainly most aggressive team.