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CYCLE SPEEDWAY: Surprise recruit boosts Devlins bid.

COVENTRY Devlins Newsagents fought out a classic encounter with Oxford's Horspath Hammers at Hearsall Common - pushing the Premier League giants all the way before going down to a narrow 90-87 defeat.

The city side sprang a surprise by including reigning British, European and world champion Dave Helmsley, who gave a masterful performance to return a 20-point maximum, in a much strenghtened line-up which also included new signing Dave Frith from Leicester.

And it led to the best match seen at Hearsall Common since the sport was revived last summer after an absence of 14 years, ending in a pulsating last-heat decider.

After the first two heats were drawn, Horspath edged ahead before a brilliant Hemsley-Frith maximum in heat five levelled the scores.

Faster from the starting gate Horspath pulled ahead to lead 42-48 by the halfway stage at heat nine, but Hemsley teamed up with former world champian Ray Oliver in heat 10 to set up a Coventry fight back and fine riding from the Joe McLaughlinJez Hughes partnership in heat 11 pulled Coventry level at 54-54.

But, despite further heat wins for Hemsley and Oliver, Horspath just held the upper hand in the closing stages to hold on for a narrow victory.

WITH no fixture tomorrow, Coventry stage a full-scale practice match at Hearsall Common from 2.30pm. All riders are asked to attend, including juniors.

First time riders are also welcome, with bikes and equipment supplied free of charge.

Coventry juniors take the spotlight when they visit their East Midlands rivals Leicester on Tuesday (7.30pm) for under-18 matches.

THREE of Coventry's top riders are competing in a prestigious individual meeting at Oxford's International Horspath circuit today.

Mick Docker, Jez Hughes and Matthew Lawrence are hoping to make an impression against some of the best riders in the country and underline the resurgence of the sport in Coventry.

Rising junior star Lawrence takes on the current British champion and a host of the country's top juniors in the Under-19 section of the Steve Galloway Memorial Trophy.

It is the first time that the promising 15-year-old from Whoberley has competed at individual level since securing third place in the Coventry championship in July 2001 just three months after his first race.

Lawrence has secured sponsorship for the coming season from Promail of Banbury, who have provided him with a new racing machine and kit which he hopes to display for the first time at Oxford.

Founder members of the Coventry club, Docker and Hughes ride in the senior event at Horspath which follows the junior meeting.

The EP Lit Trophy is one of the top individual events in the country and having two contenders in the field of top British and overseas riders is testimony to the current strength of the Coventry side.

Both Docker and Hughes had been out of the saddle for 15 years before the relaunch of the city club at the beginning of last year regenerated their interest.

Docker has recently been selected for the Irish international squad and is hoping to secure a place in the team for the European championships.

Hughes, who has also secured sponsorship from local family firm of plumbing and heating contractors, P J Shankster's, last raced competitively in 1986 and is looking to make his mark this season following a stop-start campaign in 2001 curtailed by work commitments.

Docker will also be travelling to Colchester on Monday to compete in the grand opening meeting of the Colchester track.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 30, 2002
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