Regional qualifiers finished, but which sprint aces will join winners in final showdown?

Rollapaluza is gearing up for the National Finals of its winter series in London on Good Friday after completion of the last regional heats in Manchester and Southampton. The venue for the finals is South London’s Half Moon Pub, handily placed for the Herne Hill Velodrome, which will have hosted its traditional Good Friday meet earlier in the day.

That event will feature the fastest two male and female riders from each of those heats, as well as others held in Bristol, Swansea and London, plus other riders from around the UK who have set “exceptional 500m Rollapaluza times,” the current UK Courier Rollapaluza champions and, tantalizingly, “one or two surprise wild-card entries from riders with sprint pedigrees.”

There’s no word on who the latter might be, but the Herne Hill meet has been known to draw the stars - Italian sprint ace Roberto Chiappa is confirmed for this years event, and Team GB’s track stars may fancy a wind-down from the previous weekend’s World Track Championships in Copenhagen – while Mark Cavendish was said to be hugely impressed with the set-up when he dropped into the Half Moon for the London qualifiers, and will be between races on Good Friday. Hmmm.

The Manchester heat, held in basement of the city’s TV21 bar, saw Melissa Bury set the fastest female time over 500 metres seen so far in the series, beating the previous best by nearly two seconds, while in the men’s event, Matt Rotherham won the 1,000 metres final by six seconds from James Carlsson.

Down in Southampton, where the event was compered by TV commentator Ant McCrossan, the event drew an eclectic mix of riders ranging from fixie fans and track, road and TT riders to leisure cyclists there to cheer the participants on.

It was a rider from another discipline, though, BMX pro rider Rob Reed, who took the honours in the men’s event at the Sporting View pub, while in the women’s event, roller-racing debutante Sarah Mowlam beat off Helen Huggins to win.

Full results from these and other heats can be found on the Rollapaluza website, while Guardian Bike Blogger Peter Walker took part in the London qualifier and talks about his experience in the newspaper’s bike podcast here.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.