Just six seconds separated the Top 3 pairs as Wrekinsport CC's 2-Up 10 saw another first time pairing take the victory in Round 8 of The Coaching Revolutions 2-Up Series as the destination of two Championships were settled. A big field of 20 teams were attracted by perfect conditions and some keen competition as Chris Halford and Rich Smith took the win by four seconds on their home course. Halford and Smith stopped the watch on 22 minutes 6 seconds to provide a vital intervention in the Overall standings.
Smith was delighted with an unexpected win and was full of praise for his team mate, stating: "Chris Halford is a class act. A great steady wheel to follow so I could get close in and make the most of the draft. I pottered up Cotwall Bank while Chris had a nap. Thanks to him for dragging me round, and excellent organisation once again". Halford reciprocated with his thoughts on the new partnership adding: "My first time racing with Rich, it worked really well. A great team effort".
With Nova Raiders' Scott Harris and Matt Gibbons already having the maximum 100 points in the bank in this best 5 from 9 Series Nick Long and Ed Middleton needed to win all remaining rounds to level things on points with their team mates to decide the destination of the Championship on fastest time count back. With Harris and Gibbons deciding to sit the race out and watch from the sidelines they took Gold without turning a further pedal after Long and Middleton agonisingly finished third on the night in 22:12. Despite their best efforts not only did Halford and Smith upset their challenge, a close season-long battle with another pair of team mates Andy Maxwell and Andy Rose also came to fruition as 'Team Andy' finally got the better of their compatriots by a narrow two seconds.
Maxwell was thrilled to have finally got the better of this friendly rivalry, stating: "It was really close for the top three places, and we just managed to pip Nick and Ed by a couple of seconds after our dead heat last time. I’m sure they’ll come back stronger! Well done to Chris and Rich on the win thanks to Wrekinsport for hosting". Rose added: "I'm delighted to have finished in second place and to have finally pipped Ed and Nick after pushing them close in the last race. We couldn't have pushed ourselves any harder and we are looking forward now the next race. Thanks again to all the officials".
Long had no qualms about being beaten given the quality of the racing that had been on show throughout the season, and was happy that despite the challenge from Team Andy they did enough to seal the Silver medals: "We knew getting second place in the Series would be close coming into this race. Just two seconds between second and third, tiny margins. Everyone's pushing themselves to the limit, great racing. A big thanks to Wrekinsport and the other racers for a great atmosphere. It's been a great competition, especially with Andy's R & M pushing us so close". Middleton was also acutely aware of the margins involved adding: "Six seconds between first and third - it’s great to see such competitive racing in Shropshire. Well done to the Wrekinsport team and Team Andy for great rides. Special thanks to Wrekinsport for hosting another great race".
Meanwhile the Series winners were delighted with their form, having won every round they finished for a perfect score. The 2017 Silver medallists fined tuned their form to go one better in 2018, with Gibbons revealing a little about how the pair work together: "It was fantastic to get a win in every race we did and to have the Series wrapped up so early. I rode well with Scott in every race as he does the uphill sections and I have the flat and downhill bits. A big thanks to every organiser and marshal this year". Harris was also elated, adding: "It's great to get Gold, we aimed to smash every race which we did. Silver last year, Gold place this year so I'm really pleased. I've enjoyed racing with Matt who was strong every race. Thanks to Coaching Revolutions, race marshals and other teams for hosting events".
Gibbons and Harris weren't the only Champions-in-waiting watching from the sidelines as Mid Shropshire Wheelers' Andy Collins and Lucy Hart had 98 points courtesy of four Mixed Team wins and a second place built up - though with Hart otherwise engaged for more recent rounds it was an anxious wait with Bernard and Deb Hutson-Lumb building a head of steam. In the end those early points in the bag paid dividends, with Bernard out injured and having to settle for Silver. When told Collins stated: "That's a relief, we have missed a few. Lucy is in Newport riding the National Track Championship and I have been touring in the Alps. We will be at the last round and I won't tell Lucy, it will keep her keen"!
Hutson-Lumb meanwhile was left rueing the injury which blighted their challenge, and was surprised that the team's early success held good. He commented: "I am amazed, but very pleased. Deb and I enjoyed the events we did, we were just starting to get our act together. Sorry that injury (to me) took us out of mix. Many thanks all who made the rides possible. We look forward to getting back to competition".
Whilst the destinations of Gold and Silver have been decided the Bronze medals are still in play, with Jenny York and John Robertson putting themselves in pole position thanks to a 25:44 effort. York was pleased with the pairing, stating: "A great turnout with good conditions! I find these events hard but I'm pleased with our time. Good teamwork with John". Robertson meanwhile was succinct in his comments adding: "Thanks to Jenny for leading me round and to all the officials for making the event possible".
It's down to the wire in the Women's Championship with no medals yet decided and three closely matched teams engaged in a ding-dong battle. All these teams could potentially finish on 96 points and have to be split by time in the closest contest of all, with Hafren CC the pairing of Emma Serjeant and Louise Downward taking their second win in as many evenings from Sarah Grant and Alison Dockney, again by a narrow margin. These teams were split by just five seconds with Serjeant and Dockney stopping the watch on 25:06 with both putting up major challenges to the supremacy of Women's Series leaders and reigning champions Jenny Newton and Jane Chapman. Serjeant was appreciative of the high level of competition on show, commenting: "I was pleased with this very close win again. The course was quite lumpy, but we managed to keep it together. Well done to Alison and Sarah giving us some strong competition". Downward added: "I'm really pleased with the last two nights, all the racing has been close. Looking forward to our last one of the Series on the Hafren CC course".