Sunday, 16 December 2018

A Jolly Good Velodrome



Hopperational Details
Date & Venue
Saturday 15 December 2018 at the Lee Valley Velopark
Result
Women’s Sprint: Stephanie Morton (AUS)
Men’s Keirin: Matthijs Buchli (NED)
Men’s Madison: Denmark
Women’s Omnium: Kirsten Wild (NED)
Competition
UCI Track World Cup (Event 4 of 6) Day 2 evening session.
Hopstats
My first time at a live track cycling event.
Context
This event is part of a sequence which allows ranking points to be scored towards the next Olympic Games.  Spread over three days, tickets are available separately for each session.
In one sentence
A varied full-house evening of sporting excellence in a superb venue.
So what?
It would be too expensive to attend all sessions of one of these events, but I would go again.  It made a nice change from freezing on a touchline.
Event Report and Pix






It’s still mildly surprising that the 2012 London Olympic venues have been left so far from a public transport stop.  The Velopark, like the Copper Box, is a 20-minute brisk walk from the stations at Stratford.  The pre-event mailing had warned us that the track is kept very warm inside (high 20s Celsius) and to dress in layers.  Sound advice – I was dripping from a downpour on arrival but ended up in T-shirt by the final event.  Fortunately I had taken a waterproof bag within a small rucksack so no damage done and the programme stayed dry!  You enter the velodrome by an “airlock” style entrance so that the temperature is maintained.

The ticket price (around £50) means that I must compare this event with top-level football.  I’d say this was better value, with almost three hours of sporting action.  There was a range of food and drink outlets – not cheap but very varied, and expensive rather than Wembley-outrage expensive.  The only annoyance was the constant trickle of spectators going backwards and forwards to the caterers.  I just don’t get this – you’ve just spent a lot of money to watch a live sporting contest, sit down and watch it.  There was a mildly amusing feature of the pre-event entertainment – Oblivious Cam.  Some unsuspecting member of the crowd appears on the big screen, and remains oblivious to this.  Oh how we laughed.

Anyway, here’s the sporting report.  A lot of physics involved in this sport, by the way, and nothing wrong with that.

The Women’s Sprint semi-finals are one-on-one confrontations with a tactical element.  The event lasts 3x250m laps.  The first is usually slow and cagey, with the person in front looking backwards and the person behind trying to use the slope of the track to gain an advantage in a sudden burst of acceleration.  At some point during the second lap or even later, one or other of the riders will make their move.  It can be an advantage to be in second position at this point, using the slipstream to conserve energy, but you need to be close to get the advantage.  The semi-finals are also best-of-three but neither Stephanie Morton (Aus) nor Emma Hinze (Ger) needed a decider as they saw off Olena Straikova (Ukr) and Laurine van Reissen (Ned).




Meanwhile, in between those two sprint runs, we had watched the Elimination race, one of the four components of the Women’s Omnium.  Two events had taken place earlier in the day.  Essentially, the rider in last position every other lap is eliminated, and they are informed of this by flashing LEDs on their handlebars.  It is fair to say that sometimes they appear to be indignantly surprised by this.   It is an impressive sight, and even more impressive that they don’t end up in a giant heap of twisted metal.  Gradually the field is whittled down and there is a showdown between the last two.  Kirsten Wild (Ned) held off Amy Cure (Aus).  British competitor Elinor Barker had been eliminated around half-way, leaving her 6th overall at that point.




The second round of the Men’s Keirin followed.  Six riders on track, three laps following strictly behind a slightly comical motorised cycle known as the durney, gradually speeding up, before the durney pulls over and there is a three-lap race.  Once again, track positioning and slipstreaming are vital elements of the tactics.  There were two second round races, each supplying three riders for the final.  GB’s Joseph Truman was eliminated in 4th, but Jack Carlin, riding for a scratch team, made it through.



The action continued with the Men’s Madison.  This moderately incomprehensible event is for pairs of riders.  At any given moment, one of the pair is active.  He hands over to his partner by catching them up where he was dawdling on the higher levels, and then with a joining of hands and a “slingshot” action propelling them ahead.  It’s astonishing how it is achieved, safely, over and over again with another twenty or so pairs trying to do the same thing.  Every ten laps there is a sprint to the line that scores points for the first four active riders, with the last one worth double.  It is also possible to score 20 points by lapping the field.  In the end, the young GBR pair of Fred Wright and Matt Walls had to be content with the silver medal despite winning the final sprint.  Even though they had picked up points regularly in the sprints, Denmark’s Julius Johansen and Casper von Folsach had taken a lap out of the field earlier on and they managed to hold on to that advantage.

In the Men’s Keirin final, Matthijs Buchli (Ned) took the win, with Jack Carlin pipped for a medal in fourth place.

The Women’s Sprint title went to Stephanie Morton (Aus) who saw off Emma Hinze of Germany.  Laurine van Reissen (Ned) took the bronze.

This left us with the Points Race, the last event of the Women’s Omnium.  Points are scored for lapping the field or for the sprints that take place every ten laps.  When all was added up, Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands took gold from Jennifer Valente (USA) and Alison Beveridge (Can) with GB’s Elinor Barker in 5th after a decent showing in the final event.






All great fun.  At least it had stopped raining for the walk back to the station.  Cycling has developed a good spectator product with some interesting ways of competing for going round a track.  They vary from the intense one-on-one to the co-operative carnage.  It is athletically and technologically very impressive. 
What Next?
All being well and weather permitting, back on the Step 4 football trails next week.  Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter!


Sunday, 2 December 2018

Cadbury Win is a Boost but no Picnic as Desborough Flake Out of the Vase



Hopperational Details
Date & Venue
Saturday 1 December 2018 at the Triplex Sports Association Ground, Birmingham
Result
Cadbury Athletic 3 Desborough Town 2
Competition
FA Vase Round 3
Hopstats
Ground 667 on the lifetime list, and I’m here as family commitments require me to be somewhere near Birmingham and West Bromwich.  Delighted to find a Vase game to fit the bill.
Context
Fourth home draw in a row for Cadbury Athletic, and yes, this team has its origins in the local chocolate industry.  They have beaten Wem Town, Henley Town and Heather St John’s to get to this point.  They play league football at Step 6 in the Midland Football League Division One.  Desborough Town, of Step 5 United Counties Premier League, joined the competition with an away win at Worcester City in the second round.  In this world of clichés, league form counts for nothing.
In one sentence
Cadbury Athletic experienced a nervy start, then created a comfortable winning position before giving the visitors a cruel ten minutes of hope at the end.
So what?
Cadbury Athletic are in the draw for Round 4, and Desborough Town aren’t.  They will concentrate, as they say, on the league.  The BBC and Sky pay fortunes for that kind of insight.
Match Report
In the opening minutes, Desborough Town were quicker, sharper and more threatening and it looked like only a matter of time before they asserted their superiority.  They were stopped in their tracks by a fluke goal for the home side.  Cadbury’s number 9, Odane Barnes, who could definitely be described as a “big unit”, held the ball up and played it out to the right flank.  The cross came in, too close to the keeper, but perhaps with a ping of the woodwork also involved, ended up bizarrely in the net.  From the other end of the ground we assumed it had to go down as an own goal.  The Desborough keeper was going to have an eventful afternoon.

Desborough resumed their attacking play.  Their Number 11 hit the angle of post and bar, and they forced several corners.  A Cadbury’s centre-back produced a great tackle in the area to stop a Desborough fullback’s surging run from half-way.  Gradually however, Cadbury got more into the game and the teams traded decent chances as the halftime whistle approached.  Desborough had wasted a lot of very decent approach play.

Barnes had earned a booking and did not reappear for the second half.  The substitute Stuart Butcher turned in a low right wing cross to double the home lead after 53 minutes and now the cupset looked possible.  The same player had a clever back-header cleared off the line as Desborough wobbled.

With about 15 minutes to go, Cadbury added a third, indirectly from the penalty spot.  The original kick was saved but the rebound was bundled over the line by Brett Fellows.  Even more surprising were the events starting three minutes later.  The visiting keeper wrapped his arms around an attacker in a bearhug and the ref had no choice but to give another penalty.  This one was also saved, along with the rebound, with the help of the crossbar.  Desborough were not dead yet, and on 82 minutes were given hope by a straight red card for another Cadbury substitute after a mistimed tackle.  At least one other Cadbury player was by now struggling with cramp.

Desborough’s first goal followed almost immediately, a powerful shot from about 20 yards, but the second was not until the second minute of stoppage time.  Then there was an agonising wait of about twenty seconds after the restart, before the final whistle confirmed a notable home victory.  Great stuff for the passing neutrals, this time including my dad who had joined me for the afternoon.  Thanks to the Cadbury Athletic website for help in confirming scorers.

Pix
The Triplex name refers to a brand from the glassmaking business that had this as their sports ground.  Cadbury Athletic in purple-and-white.


















Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
New this season – a pre-match prediction based only on keeper top colours as a preliminary test of the data.  Proper statistical significance test to follow in due course.  So far, 168 games included.

Today, Green beats Blue but there are no changes in the league table positions.

Pre-match Prediction based on Keeper Top Colour:
Prediction:
Away Win
Was the prediction correct?
No
% of correct predictions so far
65% (15 from 23)

Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. For new readers the odd .5 was caused by a shocking half-and-half shirt and the .1 was due to a substitute goalkeeper in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box.


P
W
D
L
GC
CS
Pts
PPG
Red
10.0
5.0
1.0
4.0
11.0
3.0
20.0
2.000
Blue
42.1
19.0
7.0
16.1
60.0
14.0
74.0
1.758
Grey
48.5
23.0
10.0
15.5
79.5
14.0
69.5
1.433
Green
87.0
44.0
11.0
32.0
147.0
22.0
106.0
1.218
Fire Cracker
3.0
1.0
0.0
2.0
6.0
1.0
2.0
0.667
Maroon
5.0
2.0
1.0
2.0
9.0
1.0
3.0
0.600
Purple
19.0
8.0
3.0
8.0
41.0
5.0
11.0
0.579
Orange
42.5
13.0
8.0
21.5
80.5
6.0
-3.5
-0.082
Radioactive Bile
21.0
9.0
0.0
12.0
45.0
3.0
-3.0
-0.143
Yellow
33.0
9.0
7.0
17.0
70.0
5.0
-11.0
-0.333
Pink
17.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
35.0
1.0
-10.0
-0.588
Black
6.0
2.0
3.0
1.0
15.0
0.0
-6.0
-1.000
White
1.9
0.0
0.0
1.9
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-2.105


What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter!  36 Step 4 grounds are my priority but I may be constrained to be in the Midlands again next week.  Plus, weather interventions start to be a planning issue at this time of the year.  Stand by for last-minute decisions, some of them random or randomish.