CYCLING: Annual Witham Wheelers road races attract good fields

Steve Young in action in the GA Bennett road race. Photo: Alan East
Steve Young in action in the GA Bennett road race. Photo: Alan East
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On Bank Holiday Monday, Witham Wheelers promoted their annual two British Cycling road races which, with support from Pedal Pushers racing bike shop of Grantham, attracted good fields of riders from all over the Midlands and further afield

The morning GT Ellingworth race, over 3¾ laps of the Wyville, Saltby, Skillington, Ponton Heath circuit, haad 65 riders starting including five Witham Wheelers – junior Adam Egner, Martyn Ludlam, Anthony Swaby, Llewey Byrne and Ian Galpin.

The 50-mile race around the 12-mile circuit began in a horrible drizzle before the sun came out with two laps to go. In the first laps, several breakaway attempts were made, with Llewey managing to get a good gap of 40 seconds for a whole lap before being caught by the bunch due to the windy conditions.

With a lap and a half remaining, Adam broke away with Will Davey (Beeston CC) and together they pushed out a lead of 30 seconds but, with half a lap to go, the wind got the better of Adam and he dropped back to the bunch, while Davey stayed away to win the race by 17 seconds on the line.

In the bunch sprint, Martyn found himself in a great position and just took a close sprint for third place overall, with Adam 23rd at the back of leading group. Anthony was 27th at 38 Seconds and Llewey just behind in 29th. Ian unfortunately crashed on the hill with two laps to go and was forced to pull out of the race.

The afternoon’s GA Bennett race for Elite/1/2/3 categories was held over 82 miles (6¾ laps) and again had a good field of 64 riders. This produced a hard competitive race with the windy conditions making it tough for anyone who wanted to race over the rolling circuit.

A break of eight riders broke away on the first lap including George Thompson of the local Giant Store Rutland/Wattbike team. Over the first three laps, this group built up a lead of three minutes over the main bunch.

With three laps remaining, a group of 11 riders including Peter Cocker and Steve Young (Giant Store Rutland/Wattbike) were now chasing at 1.30, with Karl Baillie (Raleigh) in another chasing group of six riders a further 50 seconds behind, and the bunch falling further back at 3.15 behind the leaders.

With two laps to go, the gaps between the leading three groups were now 50 and 45 seconds respectively before the two chase groups merged and then split again to leave, on the final lap, 13 riders approaching the finish where Dave Shackleton (Wilsons Wheels-Manchester) won a close sprint from Doug Coleman (CC Luton), with Jake Tanner (Envelopemaster Giant Sheffield) in third.

Steve produced a great last lap to hold on for fifth overall. Peter dropped back on the last lap and came in with a chasing group in 22nd at 2.55, with Karl just behind in 23rd.

Reece Egner (Witham Wheelers) rode really well in his first event Elite race to finish 31st at 4.30. George pulled out with a lap to go after his early efforts in the break.

l Heavy rain and stong winds late in the afternoon deterred all but the hardiest for the seventh round of the Witham Wheelers 10-mile handicap time trial league on Tuesday evening

But by the time the event started the rain had nearly stopped, although the strong north-easterly wind slowed all the riders.

It was a night for veteran riders Michael Smalley and Tony Hardenberg who tied for first with 27.12, with Dave Miller third in 27.38. Carol Milne was fastest lady in 29.30, from Vicky Saffaris (34.03).

Guy Haws (29.40) was quickest on handicap, only 12 seconds down on his previous best, a good effort in the conditions, while Michael Smalley continued his run of first places in the veterans’ league.

The eighth round of the league is on Tuesday evening. Sign on at 6pm at Grantham Cricket Club, Gorse Lane, with the first first rider starting at 6.45pm. All welcome.