MATCH REPORT: South & South Wales triumphant in the Women’s League

The British Womens and Girls League came to Sheffield for the deciding matches in the 2014 Championships. The Cookson Park venue saw some classic racing when the girls raced the British Youth & Junior League here in 2012. Again the girls didn’t disappoint. Serving up some top class racing for the sizeable crowd (the home club actually running out of chairs – meaning some standing room only).

We kicked off with the team events, and all four teams naming eight riders (we had all the top riders in the country competing – with the exception of Laura Watson, which was a serious blow for the Midlands team). The South & South Wales taking the championship with a 66-54 victory over the Midlands. The match started with two drawn heats before the deadlock was broken as Lauren Hookway joined Tonicha Heyde for a 7-3 in heat 3 following a last bend pass on Jenna Whitehead. S & SW increased their lead with a 6-4 from Sandra Tamborska/Charlie Jane Herbert in the very next race. Michelle Whitehead won heat 5 to keep the Midlands challenge going, but with Hookway content to sit behind Alice Neighbour and prevent Baillie Phillips from getting through it was another drawn race.

The S & SW increased their lead to 41-29 with a 7-3 in heat 6 from Tamborska/Chloe Albin and a 6-4 in heat 7 from Herbert/Kristina Mines. The Midlands first race win came in heat 8, a 6-4 from Michelle Whitehead/Chloe Whitehead. However, a third S & SW 7-3 maximum from Herbert/Mines in heat 9 put them well in control. The Championship was confirmed with Hookway sprinting clear of Lizzie Rigley and Lucy Whitehead to win heat 10. The Midlands restored some pride with a 6-4 in heat 11. Michelle Whitehead completing a fine maximum score, after an epic battle with Tamborska. Emily Pitt getting the better of Chloe Horton in their own personal battle. The match completed with another drawn heat (with Mines the victor).

South and South Wales 66
Sandra Tamborska 14+1, Kristina Mines 13, Charlie-Jane Herbert 11+2, Lauren Hookway 9+1, Chloe Albin 8, Tonicha Heyde 5, Alice Neighbour 5, Chloe Horton 1.

Midlands 54
Michelle Whitehead 16, Lucy Whitehead 10+2, Lizzie Rigley 8, Jenna Whitehead 5, Sammi Marsh 4, Baillie Phillips 4, Chloe Whitehead 4+1, Emily Pitt 3.

The consolation final pitted the East against the North & Scotland. Both teams were at full strength for this only time this season, with the East able to include Danielle Riley and North & Scotland welcoming the return to racing of Ellie Sullivan. Sullivan sprinted clear in the opening heat for a clear win, Lauren Jacobs was happy to sit in third place behind Lisa Marie Bown for a drawn heat. The East then took control of the match with successive 6-4 wins from Lilly Gedge/Chloe Pearce and Riley/Katie Adams (Riley executing a fine pass on Vicky Brown down the back straight on lap two).

Sullivan, Brown and Rebecca Davies won the next three races, but all finished as drawn heats with some top class team riding from the East team. The North & Scotland continued to provide the first rider home as Sullivan took the flag in heat 7 (her third straight win) but they were in arrears by 33-37. Two more drawn heats followed before the East strengthened their position with a third 6-4 result. This time Riley inflicted the only defeat on Sullivan with Adams again filling the third place position. The final two heats both finish tied to give the East a 63-57 victory. The East’s victory was very much down to some splendid team riding. They provided only five of the 12 race winners, but more crucially carded only two last places.

East 63
Lilly Gedge 13, Danielle Riley 12, Lauren Jacobs 11+2, Chloe Pearce 7+1, Katie Adams 6+1, Lisa Marie Bown 6+1, Kenda Croucher 4, Gemma Hill 4+2.

North & Scotland 57
Vicky Brown 15, Ellie Sullivan 15, Rebecca Davies 11+2, Christine Amos-Adams 8, Charlotte Adams 3, Niamh Morton 3, Katie Adams 1, Alice Unwin 1.

After a short break the action recommenced with the Individual competition. Lauren Hookway held an eight point lead over Lucy Whitehead in the Elite section, while Jenna Whitehead held a nine point advantage in the Intermediate section. The crowd were in for a treat. With the girls free from the restrictions of team instructions they provided some fantastic racing with exhilarating passes, achieved with excellent bike handling skills. Heat 2 of the Elite competition set the bench mark as Michelle Whitehead, Sandra Tamborska, Charlie Jane Herbert and Lucy Whitehead featured in a cracker, all four swopping places a number of times before eventually finishing in that order. Danielle Riley held off a charging Ellie Sullivan to win heat three.

Race four then going to Kristina Mines, with a surprise win after Lauren Hookway fell on the first turn. The race wins were being shared out as Herbert took the flag in heat 5, followed by Lucy Whitehead taking heat 6 (riding a perfect line to keep out Sullivan). Hookway was first home in heat 7 before Michelle Whitehead became the first double winner with victory in heat 8. The competition was now warming up nicely. Riley, riding for the first time this season, won heat 9 from an ever pressing Lucy Whitehead (who was there on every corner but just couldn’t find a way past. Hookway was recovering from the first race last place by taking heat 10 in a match race against Herbert (Katie Adams having to sadly withdraw from the meeting after feeling unwell). Michelle Whitehead was then beaten by Brown in heat 11, the Leicester rider having to pass Rebecca Davies for second place.

There was a big crash in heat 12 with Sullivan bringing down Lilly Gedge before getting to the first turn. The Sheffield rider having turned right out of the start. Referee, Bob Prince, issued a stern warning to the Sheffield racer, clearly showing her what she had done and explaining it mustn’t happen again. In the re-run Tamborska moved at the tapes for the only exclusion of the day. Sullivan gained her first win when the race eventually finished. Tamborska finished on a high note by winning heat 13. Then a win from Michelle Whitehead, over Riley and Gedge, saw her head the leader board with 15 points. The next two races provided an excellent advert for girls racing. Sullivan, clearly enjoying her racing, made a determined start from grid 4. A blistering start taking her round a surprised Brown and in position to charge down Herbert. For three laps Sullivan gets ever closer until she makes her move entering the first corner on the last lap. A forceful move takes her past Herbert, the momentum taking both riders of the race line. While this personal battle had waged Brown had patiently sat in the perfect position. Striking just at the right moment to nip in for the race win.

Even better was to follow. Hookway needed to win the last race to make the A final and seal the overall Grand Prix title. All looked lost as she was stranded after the start. However, she made up the ground and first passed Lucy Whitehead before then passing Davies with an identical inside move on the following lap. That win ensured she would win the Grand Prix title, even 16 points for a last place finish would be enough. That’s how it worked out. Riley taking the win on the day from Michelle Whitehead and Brown. That second place taking Michelle above Lucy in the overall standings.

Michelle Whitehead 15, Vicky Brown 14, Danielle Riley 14, Lauren Hookway 13, Ellie Sullivan 13, Charlie Jane Herbert 11, Lilly Gedge 10, Lucy Whitehead 10, Chloe Albin 9, Rebecca Davies 9, Kristina Mines 9, Lisa Marie Bown 8, Sandra Tamborska 8, Katie Adams 3 (withdrew after 2 rides feeling unwell).

The Intermediate competition served up just as much excitement . First race went to Lizzie Rigley, with Christine Amos-Adams taking second place after having to fight her way past Alice Neighbour and Charlotte Adams. Jenna Whitehead was the winner of heat two, capitalising after Emily Pitt crashed when challenging on the inside of turn three on the first lap. Niamh Morton had a terrific win in heat 3, putting home track knowledge to good use to come through from last to first. Coventry rider Sammi Marsh was revelling on a track not too dissimilar to her own, taking an assured win in heat 4. Pitt recovered from that first race fall to take the win in heat 5. Marsh claimed her second win in heat 6, holding off a determined Rigley. Amos-Adams crashed in heat 7, attempting an inside pass, Chloe Whitehead taking the flag.

Morton again comes from last to first to win heat 8, the Sheffield youngster revelling on her home circuit. Chloe Pearce, second in heat 8, makes the inside grid pay with a win in heat 9. Another rider having a liking for the track is Rigley and she wins heat 10, inflicting a first defeat on Morton. Marsh claims her third straight win in heat 11. Then Coventry team mate, Baillie Phillips, is first home in heat 12. Heat 13 has two races in one. Gemma Hill first home ahead of Marsh (losing for the first time), while Neighbour is getting the better of Morton for the minor places. Rigley puts herself into a first place run-off after winning heat 14. Two riders then get confidence boosting wins in heats 15 and 16. Pitt and Adams the relieved victors. So on the day Chloe Pearce takes a fine third place, with Jenna Whitehead taking the series third placing. Ironically both Marsh and Rigley have tied on the day and then tied for the series after the Coventry rider wins the Grand Prix final. Marsh goes from grid two in the race off and is strongly pursued for three laps by Rigley, the Leicester rider admitting defeat on the last lap.

Sammi Marsh 15, Lizzie Rigley 15, Chloe Pearce 13, Gemma Hill 12, Niamh Morton 12, Baillie Phillips 11, Emily Pitt 11, Chloe Whitehead 11, Jenna Whitehead 10, Charlotte Adams 9, Christine Amos-Adams 9, Natalie Timms 9, Alice Neighbour 8, Chloe Horton 6, Kenda Croucher 5, Alice Unwin 4.

The end of a great days racing and I’m sure that the Sheffield Club would be up for promoting this event next year.