The seventh season of the Burkes Cycles Speed League begins on 4 November 2018 at the Wellington Velodrome, and the stage is set for some intriguing revenge matches. Title sponsors Burkes Cycles are once again backing the Capital's premier track cycling league alongside other longtime sponsors Zeal Commercial Interiors, Craig's Investment Partners, Coffee Supreme and Champion System.
Grace Saywell will join the open women's grade after taking out the under 19s in 2017-18 and will be gunning for the title which has been held by Ele Pepperell since Speed League's inception in 2012.
"I'm looking forward to the season ahead with lots of awesome women racing," says Pepperell. "Looks like I'm going to have to fight for my name on the cup this year!"
Saywell raced in the open grade prior to the under 19 category's creation, and just missed out to Pepperell in 2016-17 by one point. With Saywell moving up, Bridget Olphert starts as favourite in the under 19s.
Ele Pepperell (left) sprinting against Zoe Perry
Five-time defending champion Nick Warren narrowly scraped overall victory last year, overhauling Pat Crowe-Rishworth in the final couple of rounds after Crowe-Rishworth was recovering from the effects of a crash on the road. The younger of the two, Crowe-Rishworth knows he has what it takes to win the overall, and will be aiming for a consistent performance throughout the season which runs until March 2019.
"I'm feeling really positive about first-lap attacks this season," says Crowe-Rishworth. "it's a long-game strategy that I think will pay off in the current racing climate."
Nick Warren (left) and Pat Crowe-Rishworth
Top young talent Boston Bright and Max Wickens are set to shake up the standings, and regulars Matt Sharland, Gideon Burke and Mike Thomas will undoubtedly be in the mix.
Expect a major reshuffling in the junior grades, with a number of riders moving up age groups. Josh Turnbull, current under 17 champion, is likely to be racing in the top A grade to hone his form for National Championships but will find it harder to score league points. Others to look out for include Freddie Dosser, Stanley Riddle, Thomas Joyce and Toby Braun.
Zoe Perry dominated the under 15 girls last season but will move up to the under 17s for at the beginning of 2019 and will race in the much tougher B grade, while Millie Donald will be a force to be reckoned with in the under 13s.
Organised by PNP Cycling Club, Speed League attracts around 100 different riders each season, and has helped Wellington riders become genuine challengers and medalist at major championships.
"Track cycling in Wellington and the Speed League is going from strength to strength," says Co-Organiser Nigel Saywell, "I'm really excited to see what this season will bring."
Round one of the 2018-19 Burkes Cycles Speed League starts 3.45pm on 4 November. Details and programme can be found here.