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Pitcher breaks into the winner’s enclosure

It was business as usual in the sixth race of the Flying Colours Mountain Biker Series ... a new face in the winner’s circle, a breakthrough performance and the return of a name from the past at Admiralty Park yesterday.

The now regular 100-plus riders and throngs of spectators enjoyed a welcome break from the recent inclement weather.

It was a trademark start for the top A category with Dylan Hill and Matthew Oliveira blasting off from the gun in the 50-minute race over what many found to be the toughest course of the season with the riders either battling lung bursting climbs or fast-winding descents with nowhere to recover.

Taking a more controlled approach, Robin Horsefield, Kaden Hopkins and Gary Raynor followed the two leaders who quickly opened up a sizeable lead on the first lap before things settled down.

Hill threw down the gauntlet but his aggressive tactics at times was almost his downfall as he tried to distance Oliveira on the fast technical downhill section at one point almost being thrown off his bike and potentially ending his day in the saddle.

Oliveira bid his time as he began to take control and by lap six assumed his now normal role, dictating the pace and eventually pulling away from Hill. Hopkins and team-mate Raynor who had also separated themselves from Horsefield were working together and closing in on Hill.

They eventually reeled him in, Hopkins passing him for a short time before Hill got a second wind and after continuously attacking the two riders on the uphills he managed to get away from them in the final laps. Oliviera, now in his zone, rode to the finish uncontested, Hill crossed the line over a minute later with Raynor and then Hopkins a further 25 seconds back to round out the top four.

In the biggest category of the day the now familiar battle between Adam Kirk, winner of the past two races, and Andrew Hern, winner of the first two events, was about to find a new face in the mix.

Arthur Pitcher, a former top cricketer and well-known road racer who has steadily been improving with each race this season, was clearly in no mood to take a back seat and was never far from the two favoured riders who set a fast pace from the start.

The in-form Kirk appeared to be the man to beat but it soon became apparent he had a fight on his hands as it was Pitcher who took the lead looking confident in control as Kirk tried to keep pace. But it was what was going on behind that had many of the spectators on their toes.

With Hern now adrift of the leaders in what would be expected to be a comfortable third place, Hern, to his surprise, had company. Youngster Alyssa Rowse who has been dominant in the women’s field was now putting him under pressure firstly riding closely behind and then passing him, much to the delight of everyone witnessing what was to prove to be arguable the ride of the day.

While the two riders wrestled for position, the leaders continued to fight for the top spot, and it was Pitcher who finally pulled away from a tiring Kirk to take his first win. Hern had to call on all his experience to beat out Rowse for third, admitting afterwards that once the youngster gets more confidence on the fast downhill sections she will a real threat to the top spot in the men’s field. Rowse, completed nine laps with second place woman Ashley Robinson seven and Tristan Narraway third.

In the men’s veterans event, after being beaten in the last event at Ferry Reach by Dexter Swan, Hans Hirschi was in no mood to leave anything to chance and set a pace from the start that not even Swan, who himself is showing good form, could match.

With the bit between his teeth the four-race winner this season consistently built on a lead that would see him take the win with a totally dominant performance, resuming his position as the man to beat in the category. Swan finished second with Paulo Medeiros having a good day rounding out the top three.

Youngster Ziani Burgesson rode to victory in the men’s novice category again in a controlled performance belying his years against a predominantly older field, which saw some well-known faces from the cycling past competing for the first time in years, the most prominent being Ricky Sousa, a former Sinclair Packwood Memorial Road Race winner, and youngest in the history of the event.

Sousa may have been out of cycling for a long time but he showed that he still knew how to compete and control a bike as he thrilled the spectators positioned at the bottom of the steepest hill with a display high-speed skill that drew cheers from the crowd. Almost as fast was Chris Hands who took second overall with Sousa an impressive third.

Impressive performance: Rowse is dominating the women's field