Cycling: World Masters Day 7

mastersOn the morning of the penultimate day of UCI World Masters Track Championship action at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, there were five women’s points race gold medals up for grabs.

The five titles were split over just two races with 35-39 and 40-44 categories covered in the first, then 45-49, 50-54 and 55+ covered in the second.

Nicki Kovacs was the dominant force in the opening final and took the gold in the 35-39 category. She won four of the six intermediate sprints and was in a position where she did not need to contest the final sprint.

France’s Christelle Ribault rode an agressive race and won the silver while Madeline Moore claimed the bronze.

In the 40-44 category, New Zealand’s Erin Criglington finished 5th overall in the first final but was the best placed competitor in that category. Adriana Perino of Argentina took the silver medal with Australian Kellie Hards taking the bronze.

There were just 40 laps in the older category, so only four intermediate sprints to contest. With four laps remaining, there was a bad crash at the end of the back straight with several riders hitting the deck. After a long spell of race neutralisation while the track was repaired and riders were treated for their injuries, the race got back under way.

Great Britain’s Janet Birkmyre was the star of the show. She was in the thick of all four of the intermediate sprints after riding an attacking race and finished in style with a speedy final lap. She won three of the four sprints and finished fourth in the other to give her an unassailable tally of 16 points to win the race and her fifth gold medal of the championships in the 45-49.

USA’s Francine Haas won the silver with Great Britain’s Jayne Paine claiming a bronze medal.

Some of the older riders competed superbly against younger counterparts. In the 50-54, Deborah Coulls from Australia finished second overall which gave her a gold medal ahead of Ireland’s Orla Hendron and Myrtle Hagedorn.

In the 55+, American Elizabeth Heller took the gold medal after a fourth place finish overall. Silver went to Petra Kluender with Christine Higgs winning bronze.

The final day of competition takes place on Saturday (11th October). For more information on the champiosnhips, please visit www.cyclingmasters.com.

Cycling: World Masters Day 5

mastersThere was plenty more excellent action on display on day five of the UCI World Masters Track Championships at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester on Wednesday 8th October 2014.

The women kicked the evening off with the 500m time-trials and there were a host of impressive performances.

In the 35-39, Great Britain’s Madeline Moore was the quickest over the two laps recording an impressive time of 37.013 seconds which gave her the title. Moore was just under eight tenths of a second quicker than silver medalist Carolien van Herrickhuyzen with Australia’s Rebecca Wheadon claiming the bronze medal. Madeline also claims the unofficial title of biggest smile of the day and she gleamed from cheek to cheek on the top step of the podium.

The 40-44 category was very hotly contested. In the penultimate heat, Australia’s Jessica Laws posted a great time of 37.445 seconds to give her the lead with two riders to go. She was relegated into silver medal position after a simply stunning ride by Alison Chisholm who recorded a World Masters best time of 37.048 seconds to take the gold. Her ride was as smooth as silk as she stuck to the inside line of the track and made it look effortless.

Gea Johnson dominated the 45-49 category, but what do you expect from the self-proclaimed ‘one of the greatest female athletes in the world’? The former heptathlete and bobsleigh brakeperson has her sights set on winning a place in the elite USA track cycling team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Her time of 36.116 seconds for the two laps was impressive but she was pushed hard by equally impressive displays by two British riders in Janet Birkmyre and Julie Cooper who took silver and bronze medals respectively.

And there was a World Masters best time recorded in the 50-54 category by Denmark’s Janni Bormann. The Dane is a multiple champion at this year’s championships and she gave a powerful ride to set a time of 37.946 seconds to finish ahead of Aussie Julie Barnett and Japan’s Emi Wachi.

There was a bit of drama in the gold medal match for the men’s team sprint. The match between the Australian and Italian teams was halted after the first attempt at the start with a mechanical failure on the rear wheel of the Aussie man one. A swift wheel change was completed and the race was decided by less than three tenths of a second in favour of the Australian trio of Gavin White, Daniel Rickard and Michael Smith.

And in the 65-69 2000m individual pursuit, Gerard Louis Robert of France rode two World Masters best times in a day to take the gold medal. The Frenchman set an impressive time in qualification but went even quicker in the gold medal match in a time of 2:28.336.

There are still three days left of fantastic action in Manchester, so if you’re at a loose end, get yourselves down to the National Cycling Centre and enjoy the excellent racing. For more information on the championships, visit their website at www.cyclingmasters.com.

Cycling: World Masters Day 4

mastersIt was a busy and action-packed evening in the National Cycling Centre for day four of the UCI World Masters Track Championships in Manchester.

There was plenty of excellent racing on the boards with lots of gold medals and rainbow jerseys up for grabs.

One of the first winners of the evening was Great Britain’s Geoff Cooke. After winning the scratch race yesterday, Cooke showed his talent and versatility by claiming the title in the 70-74 500m time-trial to win yet another gold medal at these championships.

In the 65-69 500m time-trial, there was a world best time recorded by Frenchman Gerard Louis Robert of 36.956 seconds which secured him the gold medal. Starting in the home straight, with another rider starting in the back straight, Robert flew out of the start gates and caught his opponent just 300m into the ride. That doesn’t happen too often in a two-lap event but his speed was exceptional.

The 35-39 sprint event concluded with a majestic display from Italy’s Dario Zampieri. He breezed through his semi-final in two straight rides and did likewise in the gold medal match showing both great strength and speed and fully deserved his rainbow jersey and gold medal.

There were three good women’s scratch races. The 50-54 race saw a steady pace set over the opening 16 laps of the 20 lap race. Then with four laps remaining, South Africa’s Myrtle Hagedorn decided to go to the front and take on the field. She held on until about 75m from the line when she was overtaken by Denmark’s Jenni Bormann (gold) and Ireland’s Orla Hendron (silver) but Hagedorn hung on to take the bronze medal.

There was a mixed field for the 40-49 riders due to lack of numbers in each individual category. There were still two sets of medals up for grabs for 40-44 and 45-49 though from the joint field.

There was plenty of attacking from the front in this one, and a break midway through the race by Jayne Paine was chased down by Janet Birkmyre with nobody else seemingly willing to do so. The field finally was brought back together and USA’s Dana Walton attacked decisively with two laps to go to cross the line first ahead of Janet in second. However, as the pair with in different age categories, both ladies took gold medals making that 25 World Masters gold medals now for Janet Birkmyre.

In the 35-39 scratch, the group stayed together for the majority of the 20 laps with the pace gradually building and building as the end drew closer. An incredibly quick final lap by the Netherlands’ Carolien van Herrickhuyzen ensured that she would take the gold medal.

There were a couple of great men’s bunch races at the end of the evening. In the 45-49 scratch, there were multiple attacks from the front in a very attacking race. It was a very close finish, with a photo needed to separate the first two riders across the line, but it was USA’s David Brinton who edged out Argentina’s German Cassani by the width of a tyre.

The 35-39 points race again saw numerous attacks. Nobody quite was able to take a lap despite considerable efforts from a number of riders. So it was down to the sprint points and James Notley of Great Britain was Mr Consistent on that front, featuring in the majority of the sprints every 10 laps to gain 25 points which secured him the gold medal.

The action continues tomorrow and runs through until Saturday at the National Cycling Centre. For more information on the event, please visit www.cyclingmasters.com.

Cycling: World Masters Day 3

mastersThere was plenty more great action on the boards in the National Cycling Centre in Manchester on day three of the UCI World Masters Track Cycling Championships.

Cyclists are made of stern stuff and that was on show in the 65-69 men’s scratch. With six laps remaining of the 20 lap race, with the pace quickening, around half a dozen riders hit the deck following a touching of wheels.

The race was neutralised while the befallen riders picked themselves back up and got back in the saddle and the race restarted with France’s Gerard Louis Robert taking the gold medal by breaking clear of the field in the final lap.

Geoff Cooke is a man who always seems to take home a gold medal or two from this annual event. This year was no different. The 1974 Commonwealth Games tandem sprint champion, who hails from nearby Crumpsall, showed that you never lose it as he triumphed in the 70-74 men’s scratch race.

It was a steadily paced 20 laps in the main, but Cooke’s turn of speed in the final 250 metres was too much for the rest of the field as he takes home his latest gold medal and rainbow jersey to add to a huge collection.

There was a World Masters best time recorded in the men’s 55-59 individual pursuit. USA’s Larry Nolan produced a stunning ride over the eight laps of the pursuit and almost caught Canada’s Stephane Le Beau. Nolan set a time of 2:19.821 to break the record and win a gold medal and rainbow jersey in the process.

And confusion reigned supreme in the women’s team pursuit. Firstly about whether the UCI were to allow it to be a championship event and then in the gold medal match, both teams were wearing identical kit!

The UCI did eventually confirm the race to be a championship event shortly before the evening session commenced which allowed team Murphy’s Law, consisting of Janet Birkmyre, Melanie Sneddon and Nicki Kovacs, from Great Britain claim a gold medal and rainbow jersey for their ride of 2:29.361.

Competition continues on Tuesday and runs through until Saturday. For more details, please visit the championships website at www.cyclingmasters.com.

Today at the Masters

mastersIt was day two of the UCI World Masters Track Championships at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester and there were some outstanding performances.

The moment of the day went to Australia’s Gary Mandy in the 55-59 500m time-trial. He produced an outstanding ride around two laps of the velodrome track and recorded a World Masters best time of 34.335 seconds.

His reaction was fitting of such a performance as he punched the air with glee upon completing the race and shouted ‘YESSSSS’ around the warm down lap as he waved to the applauding spectators.

That was enough to beat off Argentina’s Carlos Zicavo who himself produced an excellent ride in an earlier heat. The South American recorded 35.074 seconds from his two laps and he could have been forgiven for thinking that would have been good enough for a gold medal until Mandy’s flying effort minutes later.

There was some excellent racing in the women’s individual pursuit races. First up in the 35-39 there was a close finish in the gold medal race between two British riders. Madeline Moore edged out compatriot Niki Kovacs by eight tenths of a second.

It was a closer end to the 40-49 race. A mixed category, the race saw the gold medalists of the 40-44 and 45-49 come together to battle over eight laps of the velodrome track. The younger Erin Criglington from New Zealand edged out Great Britain’s Janet Birkmyre by just three tenths of a second after 2000m.

The championships continues throughout this week at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester. If you are a fan of cycling, get yourselves down there. I assure you will not be disappointed. Full details of the championships can be found at http://www.cyclingmasters.com.

World Masters Tracks Championships preview with Janet Birkmyre

EMTC Thumb 3 JB jersey

This week sees the start of the World Masters Track Championships in Manchester. Cycling on the boards of the velodrome at the National Cycling Centre should be exciting and one of the protagonists will be Janet Birkmyre.

One of my favourite riders, she has prepared for the championships by racing against some of the best riders in the world, including Scottish sensation Katie Archibald.

The World Masters brings the best riders from around the world and that is something that Janet thrives off.

Despite having a huge collection of gold medals, Janet still enjoys the competition and wants to improve all the time.

She was kind enough to give me some of her time ahead of the championships for her thoughts ahead of the event which starts on Saturday.

Q.       It’s the World Masters Track Championships again, how much are you looking forward to the competition?

Massively, I love this championships!  With the Euro Masters not happening this year, the World Masters is the only opportunity I get to race internationally.  The racing is always fierce and there are so many lovely people to catch up with between times.

Q.       How has your form been this year?

Cyclists always talk themselves down in advance of a big race or meeting and I wouldn’t want to disappoint you, but I am being completely honest when I tell you that I feel like I have been riding through treacle all season – my form has really not been great.  The only good news is that I think I know why and I hope I have addressed it.  After the World Masters last year I only had two weeks rest before starting intensive training again, because I wanted to prepare for the rescheduled Derny Championships on December 29th (they were rained off in August).  So it was the “driest” Christmas I have ever had and I was a dreadful hostess over the festive period, but I needed to keep a race focus and concentrate on speed work, rather than the more usual base conditioning training that I would do at that time of year.  It was a decision that I am entirely happy with, I picked up a silver medal behind World Champion and World Record Holder in the team pursuit, Katie Archibald, but it came at a price for the season that followed and I feel like I have been just surviving in races this year.  Happily, the National Omnium Series that I ride in preparation for the big, end of season goals, finished early, so I have had the opportunity to address this and I think I am back where I need to be now in the lead up to the World Masters.

Q.       How much do you still want to win gold medals after having won so many already in this championships? (I think I can guess the answer but…!)

That is not an easy question to answer, but I guess I just love winning and the World Masters is one of the biggest stages that I can compete on.  But the winning and all the positive emotion that comes with it is just a by-product of the work that I put in all year and in truth, I (mostly!) really enjoy the training.  Yes, it is often incredibly hard and I am suffering with more and more back pain on the bike, but I have a fascination with the whole process of going faster and if that gets me to a position where I can win, then that is all the fuel I need to want to do it all again.

I have said this before, but it is not just me, my husband David works incredibly hard to help me succeed.  For example, his search for free speed has ended up with him becoming the UK distributor for CeramicSpeed after he upgraded the bearings in all my wheels and bottom brackets and saw just how good they were.  Right now he is working with a carbon company that supplies F1 teams to develop new cranks and disc wheels which will be stronger and more aerodynamic than anything currently available.  The search for the best is something that we both live and breathe daily, for me that is fitted around the job that pays the bills, but for David it is what he does.

Q.       Who will likely be the main competition for you this year?

There are so many new names is it difficult to be sure, but I am aware that a number of riders have just moved up from the 35-39 to the 40-44 category and I notice that my scratch race is likely to be 40-49 years.  When I am racing women who are eight years younger than me I need to stay extra sharp, but I have spent the season being “bullied” by some seriously talented 19 year olds, so I should be ready for them!  That said anything can happen in a bunch race.

For the pursuit, I have worked really hard to make that a strong event for me and I hope that shows, whilst in the sprint events I will take whatever I can get away with, given that I do not do any sprint specific work.

This year, the team sprint is a championship event for the first time and I will be racing that with the very lovely and super-fast Ali Chisholm.  We are expecting strong completion from the Aussies and the Americans.  I really enjoy the team events and hope that the new line up for the team pursuit, including Mel Sneddon and Niki Kovacs works out.  Sadly the ladies I rode with last year are not racing this year because of injury and/or family commitments, so it has been back to the drawing board.  Anyone that underestimates the technical difficulty of riding a good team pursuit needs only to come to one of our training sessions – when I say if it could go wrong, it has.  We have redefined Murphy’s Law, but I am confident that we will work really well together on the day and I have really enjoyed working with them to achieve whatever we can.

Q.       How good is it to be see so many riders from overseas travelling to the championships and is there good spirit amongst all the competitors?

I am particularly pleased to see such a big entry this year, it really is amazing.  I know the organisers have worked very hard to encourage more women to ride these championships, so it is good to see their efforts rewarded.  Every year I get to know a few more of the competitors and, off the track, the women are really supportive and encouraging.  I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I feel privileged to be a part of it.

Kevin Phillips retires

As published in the Tranmere Rovers matchday programme (03/05/14)

One of the Football League’s most decorated players will bow out of professional football this afternoon as Leicester City centre forward Kevin Phillips has announced his retirement.

In recent years, the striker has been the ‘go to’ man for clubs looking for goals to win promotion and this season has been no exception.

He has played a part in Leicester City winning promotion back to the Premier League since joining the Foxes in January, and although he has only played a bit part, he has scored a couple of vital goals which has helped the club back into the top flight.

It is a fitting way for him to end his career. He won promotion from England’s second tier into the top flight on no fewer than five occasions having previously helped Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Crystal Palace get into the promised land of the Premier League.

He has scored more than 280 goals over a career which has spanned over 650 appearances with arguably his best spell coming when he was at Sunderland.

Phillips helped the Black Cats into the Premier League with 25 goals from 32 appearances in the First Division (now called the Championship) as they won promotion and his form continued with an outstanding season the following year in the top flight.

He amassed 30 goals from 38 Premier League appearances that following season which helped him win the Premier League Player of the Season award, the Premier League and European Golden Boot awards as well as an England international call-up.

He played nine times in the Three Lions shirt but failed to score a goal at international level, and was a part of the Euro 2000 squad although he was an unused substitute for England’s three matches during that tournament.

He hangs up his boots at the King Power Stadium today for the final time, but he is to remain at Leicester City next season as a part of the coaching staff as the club start a new chapter in the top division of English football for the first time in over a decade.

If his coaching career goes as well as his playing career has done, then don’t expect that this is the last you will hear of Kevin Phillips. He has been a fantastic goalscorer in English football and I’m sure he’ll go on to become a successful coach as well.