Newport or Niagara? It was sure hard to tell the difference on this cool Welsh afternoon as the heavens stayed open and gushing for the duration of the meeting. A slightly better than expected turnout saw eight Over 40s and fourteen 50s and 60s take to the shale as the home club’s hardy souls tried their best to keep the drains working. The few feet of lying water around the inner perimeter, mainly on the bends, even served up plenty of entertainment as it was used as a tactical weapon on several occasions, most notably by Astley & Tyldesley’s own Storm Trooper Mick Knowles, much to the delight of the onlookers in the pits.
Photos by JP Colback
Not the easiest of conditions for the riders but nevertheless the racing was as keen as ever, although as the rain continued to fall almost without respite the track became really soft and heavy in places. All the riders deserve the highest praise for the effort they put in today but particularly for those Newport lads who continued to shift water off the track between their own races.
Making a welcome return after missing the East London round with a slipped disc, Leicester’s Kev Burns went through the card in the Over 40s while clubmate Craig Marchant dropped a single point to Kev. Birmingham’s Mark Winwood lost to both while Northumbrian Jason Keith was beaten by all three, and looked somewhat Jay-ded (pun intended) throughout. Mick Knowles and Jim Collier dished up most of the entertainment with their impressive chasing, poor Jim suffering from a loose rear wheel in his first ride while both our super new rider parent-entrants from Wednesfield, Wayne Tipton and Craig Burt also had their moments, not letting the weather get in the way at all.
When it came to the finals, Nozzer and Jimbo had another go at snorkelling on the pits bend as they rode hard all the way to the flag in the 40s “B” Final, another hugely entertaining aqua fest.
The “A” Final seemed to offer Craig a slight advantage. Although Kev had earned grid one it was a fair bit more slippery than the other three and as the tapes rose Craig off two showed slightly ahead into turn one with Mark keeping a watchful eye on Jason from three. He (Craig) also got super drive out of two but Kev piled on the coals to stay level down the undulating, sticky back straight. Still side-by-side next time around, it looked as though Craig’s momentum could carry him around the outside of the fourth bend, but as they left it Kev eased outwards giving Craig a nudge, and with the track being very wet by now and their speed pretty amazing for the conditions the Champ’s wheels dug in and brought him to a sideways halt. The battle continued as Mark got steadily closer to a tiring Kev’s right shoulder and going into the pits bend for the last time Jason, who’d spent most of the race 4 or 5 lengths behind the other three, suddenly spotted an opportunity when the leaders ran out wide with Kev nudging Mark to the outer limits. Splashing his way through the Deep End he joined them on a fabulous three-man run to the line, all of them within half a wheel at the finish but the Geordie scooping his first ever “A” Final win in dramatic style by the length of a nipple. Definitely the closest finish to a race I’ve ever seen and mahusive credit to all four riders for enabling it.
When you see the video you'll notice both Mark and Kev visibly slowing as they near the line, Mark also having little room to stay on the pedals. They were both completely knackered by now, as was Jason. The damage was done to Jason and Mark when they met in a titanic heat 3, while Kev's defeat of Craig in heat 11 just about finished him off, so hard did the current Champion push him. I'd say Craig looked by far the fittest on this day.
Welsh legend Dave Murphy made an extremely welcome return to the Euro-Vets competition he launched way back when (full story coming some time, hopefully) and was joined today by another in the form of Colin Simmons, while Kev Greaves also returned to the fray after missing the 2016 series. Through the heats it was Wednesfield’s demon gater and series leader Mark Griffith who set the pace going unbeaten yet again with another flawless display, hard-charging Norwich hero Paddy Wenn dropping his only point to Mark when they met in a feisty heat 7 where both Norman Venson and Colin also dropped their only points.
In the Over 50s “B” Final Paul Timms succumbed twice to pedal slippage while a strong performance after recently returning to the sport saw Dave Murphy hold off Glyn Morgan’s challenge. A tired looking Steve Hodgkinson trailed in an unusually lowly fourth position after early his challenges faded.
In the “A” Final red hot favourite Mark Griffith was gone at tapes up, heading Norman while Colin and Paddy had a right old ding-dong behind, the East Anglian not too thrilled by his Welsh adversary’s tactics and easing up early on lap three after being bounced off the outer kerb following an earlier obstruction.
With only five Over 60 riders present (and Welcome to the OAP Club Colin!) there was no “B” Final, Northumbria’s chemotherapy-recovering Ashie Patterson being awarded the customary 20 points. With Colin scoring heavily in the heats he staked his claim to grid 1 for the “A” Final and must have been odds-on to win it. However series favourite Paul off 2 had other ideas and with a super start managed to fend off the local hero and force him down into the water on the first bend. That slowed him down enough for Terry to nip away on Paul’s outside shoulder and kept the pair ahead of the Newport man to the flag. Good to see a few more locals turning out today.
Many thanks to meeting sponsors Kev Greaves (who incidentally rode very well himself) and Colin Simmons who both put up the fine trophies, to Tony Bennett for standing out there refereeing, and the other Newport club members who all mucked in (literally) to keep the meeting going. Of course the sun came out for the presentations and Colin got some recompense for the 60s final defeat by taking home 16.7% of the trophies he sponsored!