Dominant Sharp takes control along with the Maindy Flyers
Isabel Sharp (Estrella Bikes) put on an exhibition of forceful riding to sustain an early solo breakaway to take the win in the first round of the South Region Youth Series at Odd Down on Saturday. Sharp made her move within the first quarter of the race and despite a large group of potential pursuers, the result was all but confirmed long before the race finish.
After an early move from Hannah Rainger (Propello) was covered by Laura Curle (Liv CC – Halo Films) it was Sharp who grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck and with her rivals unwilling to tow the group into the headwind on the finish straight, quickly built a commanding lead. With the other U14 riders tucked in the group, it fell to the attacks of the U16 riders to pose the biggest threat to Sharp’s lead, with Madeline Cooper’s (Jam Cycling RT coached by BPC) move to go clear also covered by Curle. It was then Cooper’s turn to go on the defensive as she covered an attack from Awen Roberts (Towy Riders).
For each of these surges, there was a stall in the group once the attack was brought back, and so instead of cutting into Sharp’s lead, it wasn’t until Katie-Anne Carlton (Solent Pirates) started to pull the group along that anyone looked to be committing to a chase that might make the leader pay for her time in the wind. So as the laps ran out, it was a race amongst the pack for the win in the U16 race and the runner up spot for the U14s.
It was Cooper who charged away with three laps to go and as the bunch hesitated to be the one to push on into the headwind to catch her wheel, it looked like a decisive gap. Indeed, behind Sharp’s victory, Cooper held her advantage all the way to the line, holing off the pack by a matter of seconds with Roberts finishing two bike lengths clear of Niamh Murphy (Cotswold Veldrijden) and Bethany Bennett (Towy Riders). Curle was next across the line for second U16 with Sophie Tiller (i-Team Cyclists Club) her closest challenger in third.
The U14 boy’s race was also defined by a brave early move that left the pack racing for second as Maindy Flyers’ Seth Jones took a convincing win. Jones attacked one lap after his teammate Hywel Leyshon had had his move brought back by Peter Drabble (WORX Factory Racing) and despite Rhys Thomas (Maindy Flyers) looking to have grabbed his teammates wheel and a chase from Matthew Gilmour (VC Venta) that teased gaps all through the bunch, when the riders came round into the headwind it was Jones who was well clear with the rest of the riders seeking shelter in the wheels.
Kyle Jones (WORX Factory Racing) and Benjamin Bisson (VC Londres) looked to mount an organised chase before it was too late, but with Maindy Flyers riders infiltrating the line at the front of the bunch, it was quickly apparent that the attempts to reel in the escapee would prove futile. And so the riders began to plot their way to a second place finish, and the race which had been threatening to shrink down to a handful of riders in contention slowed to a crawl in preparation for the sprint.
Behind Seth Jones, who was able to enjoy a handful of victory laps before taking the flag, Fin Mead (Propello) timed his launch into the headwind the best, holding off Kyle Jones by a bike length for second.
The U16 boys race was the only one that looked to be heading for a large group finishing together, until the Flyers struck decisively to put a pair of riders away off the front and stitch up a one-two finish. They had taken control from the off, with three riders hitting the front of the bunch on the first lap in an attempt to eliminate many of their rivals early on. It wasn’t until the main group had shrunk from 39 to only 23 riders that they took their foot off the gas to regroup and allowed the race to settle into a pattern with over 40 minutes of racing still to go.
Bryn Ruck (BCDS) was the first to try and rattle the Maindy Flyers’ cage, quickly followed by Matthew Hickman (i-Team Cyclists’ Club) who forced a group of three away with Charlie Tompkins (Propello) and Morgan Leyshon (Maindy Flyers) in attendance. Under Hickman’s impetus, first Leyshon and then Tompkins fell away off the wheel with Ruck leading the chase behind. This reshuffle as Hickman continued to drive ahead solo presented the opportunity for Nathaniel Brookes (Gillingham & District Wheelers) and Jacob Schnabel (Fareham Wheelers) to jump across to set up a dangerous looking break.
However, with both Maindy and Propello having missed the move, it was chased down in short order with Leyshon being joined by Tyler Lindo (Propello) in the pursuit. Lindo managed to get across to the leading trio, but as he did so the Maindy Flyers pairing of Benjamin Harris and Gethin Price tore straight by the front group and in doing so turned a defensive position for the Welsh riders into the perfect scenario.
With the Hickman group now back in the fold, Propello set about their attempt to stitch everything back together for the finish with Shaun Duffield now taking his turn at the front of the peloton. But the leading duo were now away and would not be brought back, and so it came down to a two-up sprint for the win. Harris was forced to lead out, but he had the strength to hold off Price to win by over a bike length. Hickman took the bunch sprint behind for third ahead of Brookes and Euan Hawkins (Maindy Flyers).