The heat of the summer greeted the pro teams as they arrived at Newmarket Festival for the 4th round of the Viking StreetVelodrome Series. What a season of diverse weather we’ve had so far this series. Thunderstorms and high winds in Dublin were followed by drizzle and cold temperatures in Wigan. Then for both Worthing and Newmarket its been baking heat and unrelenting sunshine.
THE ROLLING STONE RETURNS – JESS STONE MAKES HER FIRST APPEARANCE IN 2017 RIDING FOR TEAM DUBLIN
And its not just the weather that’s been heating up. The competition to between the pro riders has been fierce since race one in Dublin but as the tour reached Newmarket for round 4 minds were beginning to focus on the fact this was the penultimate event before the SuperFinals.
All three of the team competitions remain wide open, the Most Wins Trophy was led by TeamWigan but with Team London, Team Cornwall and the SouthCoast Rollers closing in. The Catch Trophy, rewarding aggressive riding, was led by SouthCoast Rollers thanks to Rowena’s menacing chase downs in the eliminator races so far this series. But the overall Series medal table was still being led by TeamWigan with a 1 gold lead over Team Cornwall.
THE NEWMARKET CROWDS ENJOYED THE SUN AND THE RACING
For now though the Pros had to contend with the challenge of Pro Team Qualifying. So far this series the outcome of qualification has not defined the outcome of the medal races by any means. However they do set the seeding of the teams for the eliminator races meaning the quicker teams can gain an early advantage over the slower teams resulting in more race wins and catch opportunities.
The headline for Newmarket was the return of 2015 & 2016 Pro champion Jess Stone, drafted in to race for Team Dublin who have been languishing at the bottom of the medal table. Her first taste of Pro Qualification turned out to be more of a challenge than she expected with the last minute withdrawal of her male pro team mate Csaba Csenge. This meant that regardless of her time Jess would be seeded last unless one of the other pro team times had a time disallowed.
BACK IN THE GROOVE – JESS STONE SETS THE FASTEST FEMALE TIME IN QUALIFYING
Sadly for Jess that wasn’t to be the case and she ended up last. Though the result didn’t diminish her hopes of winning gold on her return, it did dent any chances of scoring much needed catch trophy points for her adopted team.
Fifth in qualifying was the debut duo of popular vlogger and mountain biker Ricky Crompton and Crit racer Christine Robson riding for Team London. Both knew the pressure in qualifying was to set the best combined time possible in order to avoid being seeded against the faster riders. Getting caught by a quicker rider in your first round heat would eliminate you from the rest of the competition.
In fourth was Team Wigan headed up by leading pro male Patrick Robinson, fresh from his gold medal in Worthing. His teammate was returnee to the series Jess Greaves.
GLOBAL TRAVELLER & VLOGGER RICKY CROMPTON MADE AN IMPRESSIVE DEBUT IN NEWMARKET CLINCHING A RACE WIN FOR TEAM LONDON
Facing them in the eliminator heats would be third seeds Suffolk Saints, the home team here in Newmarket. John and Kara both knew the importance of placing a good performance on the day. Both managed to set their fastest times of the season giving them a well deserved best qualification result so far in 2017.
Second place was Team Cornwall with double gold medallist Jessica Watts being joined by 2016 amateur finalist from Cornwall Andy Bray putting in an excellent performance to warrant his step up to the pro ranks.
Topping the table were the on form SouthCoast Rollers Craig Maclean and Rowena Price. Craig’s qualification time was just the fastest overall time on the day helping the team secure top spot.
And so with the grid set it was race time. Thanks to the absence of Team Dublin’s male pro Craig was afforded a bye to the semi finals, the reward for being top seed on this occasion. However Craig’s fortune was Rowena’s misfortune as the first heat saw her line up against champion Jess Stone.
Has the competition moved on since Jess’ last race at the 2016 SuperFinals? Has Rowena closed the gap or has Jess maintained her dominance despite being away from StreetVelodrome for so long? All would be revealed in less than 32 seconds.
In the end it was a confident, rather than dominant, win for returnee Jess. The other female pros watched on with amazement as Jess showed she has lost nothing of her extreme bike handling skill and speed. Rowena meanwhile had to hope she would get through as the fastest loser.
Jessica Watts made good on her qualifying advantage and scored a catch trophy point against Team London’s Christine. Thus closing the gap to Catch Trophy leaders SouthCoast Rollers to just one point.
KARA CELEBRATES HER FIRST RACE WIN IN STREETVELODROME ON HOME SOIL
Finishing off the pro female eliminators Kara for the Suffolk Saints lined up against the third Jess of the day, Jess Greaves for Team Wigan. Her home team advantage paid off as Kara delivered her first win of the Series and secured herself a place in the Semi finals. Jess Greaves losing time wasn’t enough to go through meaning Rowena would live to fight another day.
In the men’s eliminators debut rider Ricky Crompton beat Team Cornwall’s Andy Bray and Patrick beat John Stockwell. John though managed to set the quickest loser time so managed to squeeze through to the semi finals.
The semi finals resulted in John having to battle against Ricky for bronze. With the support of the local crowd and an attacking ride like we’ve never seen from John before he managed to claim his second and the Team’s third bronze medal this season.
GOING FOR GOLD – CRAIG MACLEAN SHOWS OFF ALL THAT OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE IN HIS CLASH AGAINST RIVAL PATRICK
In the gold / silver medal race it was a repeat of last weekend’s Patrick v Craig battle. These two very different riders have such contrasting riding styles, physics and cycling backgrounds its hard to believe than when they race the gap between them is measured in hundredths of seconds. And so it was in Newmarket, but this time Craig coming out on top winning the SouthCoast Rollers first ever gold medal, putting them straight back into contention ahead of the SuperFinals.
CELEBRATION TIME – ROWENA CONGRATULATES HER TEAM MATE CRAIG ON WINNING THE TEAM’S FIRST GOLD MEDAL
In the female medal races Kara’s new found form just wasn’t enough against the power of Rowena who managed to join her SouthCoast Rollers team mate’s medal celebrations with a bronze of her own.
This led to the final race of the day, Jessica versus Jess. Jessica has claimed two convincing gold medals this season and scored catch trophy points at every round. Riding for Jess Stone’s old team, Team Cornwall, gave everyone the impression she was the ‘new Jess’. But here she came up against the original, the most successful pro rider in StreetVelodrome history, the leading name in the Hall of Fame, the current double champion, the quickest individual female rider in qualifying, Jess Stone.
Would there be an amazing upset? Could the apprentice teach the master? It was not to be. Jess Stone, with that seemingly effortless style pushed the young Jessica Watts all the way and to win her first gold of the season on her return.
LIKE SHE’D NEVER BEEN AWAY – JESS STONE CELEBRATES HER FIRST GOLD OF 2017 FOR TEAM DUBLIN
The result lifted Team Dublin from the bottom of the table and gives them an outside chance of the overall title at the SuperFinals. For Jessica it was disappointment. What had been a dream season so far with just one early slip up in round 1 in Dublin, her form had just got better and better with each race. But now she had to go back to the drawing board and dig deeper if she wants to beat the very best.