Cyclists hit the road once again

Team Herbalife-Wheelbase.
Team Herbalife-Wheelbase.

THE road cycling season started last weekend with riders of all ages enjoying the near spring-like conditions.

Three of Cog Set’s hopefuls started their road season early this year with a trip to the Croft motor circuit near Darlington on Saturday.

Matt Flynn, his sister Caitlin and Fabian Brennan all took part in the same mixed U14/U16 seven lap race.

On only the second time into the wind on the back straight Matt Flynn decided that the pace was a little too pedestrian for him and attacked, quickly establishing a race winning lead which grew to 300m on the line for him to comfortably take the first outright win of his short career.

The chasing pack slowly dwindled until only Fabian and an U16 rider remained in contention but Fabian was unable to stay with his older rival, ultimately taking third overall and first U14.

In the girl’s race, run concurrently with the boys, Caitlin in her first year as an U14 rode along with a local U16 female rider before leaving the older rider in her wake, completing the race mostly on her own in the middle of the finishers, but comfortably ahead of any other female rider in her age category or older.

So for a first trip of the season the Cog Set riders each won their respective categories and will be looking forward to more local challenges as the CDNW Youth League starts on March 12 at Victoria Park, Southport.

Nearer to home the first open time trial in the North West was on Saturday at Bolton-by-Bowland, near Clitheroe. The Rossendale Road Club promotion is the traditional season opener and is the first counting event in the Lakes and Lancs SpoCo (Sporting Courses) League.

Seeded rider Derek Parkinson (Cleveleys RC) recorded to fastest time of 24:59 for the hilly 10.3 mile circuit, 21secs faster than second placed Adrian Lawrence (Team bGlobal).

It was a successful first outing for the riders from the Preston based Team Wallis CHH with James Gullen placing third with 25:38 and new signing Calum Nicholson, from Burton-in-Kendal, recording 25:53 for fifth place.

These two along with Lancaster’s Nev Pearson, older than both their ages together, who recorded 30:14 for joint 30th place, easily took the team prize with an aggregate time of 1:21:45. Other local riders were Lancaster CC’s John Ingham who recorded 28:12 for 18th place and Morecambe’s Ken Roberts (Preston CC) who returned 32:33 for 41st place.

The SpoCo league continues this weekend with the Border City Wheelers 32mile TT on the Cumdivock Circuit on Saturday and North Lancs RC’s 28mile Circuit of Pendle on Sunday.

Also on Saturday is the first club event of the season – the NLTTA combined club 10 on the Garstang-Hampson Green course.

Last Sunday saw a clash of events with the official launch of Team Herbalife/Wheelbase taking place at the Ashton Memorial, the Clayton Velo Spring Classic Handicap RR at Bashall Eaves and the Lune RCC’s Coal Road Challenge Reliability Ride starting at Bull Beck picnic site.

Team Herbalife Wheelbase held a team photoshoot in the surroundings of the Ashton Memorial in the morning followed by the team launch.

Eurosport’s Mike Smith presided over affairs, introducing and interviewing each member of the team and the key background staff that keep the team on the road, in front of an invited audience and many of the team’s sponsors.

This year Director Sportives Geoff Newcombe and Neil Taylor have expanded the squad, drafting in some new riders to help in the Premier Calendar races and to give further depth to the team whilst still retaining many of the riders from last year.

New to the 18-strong team are Alastair Kay, moving from York Cycleworks, and Simon Baxter and Ian Taylor, both based in the North East and seasoned riders in Premier Calendar events.

Also joining the team this year is Jack Cutsforth and Andrew Coupe who was the 2009 CDNW Elite Series winner and the first female rider in the squad, Lyn Hamel from Oxenholme, the 2010 National Hill Climb Champion and 2008 National Women’s BBAR.

Next week the team will be travelling northwards to compete in the Gifford Road Race, part of the Scottish Super Six race series; as well as journeying south to the 39th Severn Bridge – Felt Road Race.

There are usually a few local riders in the Clayton Velo Spring Classic but with the clash with the Lune event only Ashley Finn was on the start list with his team-mates.

As usual the elite riders reeled in all the other groups with the result a dead heat between Sigma Sport’s Tom Murray and Rapha Condor Sharp’s Dean Downing. Cyclepremier placed two riders in the top five with Ashley Finn finishing a disappointed 21st.

Finally the Lune RCC’s Road Challenge Reliability Ride which saw a record entry of 93 riders set off from Bull Beck in three groups starting at 8.30am for club riders, cyclotourists and newer cyclists, 9.05am for faster club riders, cyclosportive riders and racers and finally the 9.20am for 3rd Cat racers and above.

Although not a race there is a certain competitive element with the riders in the earlier groups trying to keep from being caught by the riders behind and the riders in the last group trying their best to reel everyone else in.

Two of the Biketreks Racing team, John Dodgin and Nic Bertrand, chose to start in the middle group and by the time the road rose upwards past Ingleton they were at the front while riders dropped off the back.

The 15 hilly miles from Ingleton to Hawes split the big groups into many smaller handfuls of riders many of whom were ready for a quick break when they reached the halfway control, by the railway viaduct at Garsdale Head and were thankful of an energy gel, provided by the sponsor and a chance to refill depleted drinks bottles before the hard climb of the Old Coal Road across to Dentdale.

After the climb of the Coal Road which reaches nearly 500 metres and is the high point of the challenge the rest is relatively easy bar for the short but steep climb out of Dentdale and into Barbondale and the more familiar roads to Casterton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Whittington and Arkholme before crossing the River Lune at Gressingham.

The last section was on the busy main road through Hornby to the finish at Bull Beck where between three and a half and five hours earlier the challenge had started.

The duo from had kept their pressure at the front and were triumphant in being the first back along with Sven Wardle of Richmond Cycling Club but their win was temporary as it transpired that the last group were five minutes late leaving Bull and they had in fact covered the 67miles in a faster time.

As the riders relaxed they exchanged stories of the more testing moments of the ride and many agreed to ride the 2012 version of this now established event.

Thanks go to Brian Greenwood, his helpers, the Lune RCC as well as Coal Road Challenge sponsors Vanillabikes and of course all 93 riders for making the event such a success. Mark the last Sunday in February 2012 for your next chance to shine.