By Billy Sewart
Last weekend saw Me, Craig, Kris, Paul and John B racing at the Dave Hitchen Memorial stage race.
Dave was a well known local lad who sadly passed away last year after a tragic accident whilst out on his bike, the event was organised by Brian Rigby with all proceeds going to the Hitchen family & the Northwest Air Ambulance.
The format of racing was 3 stages over 2 days. The event was open to E/1/2/3/4 category riders with each team having to include at least two 3rd/4th cat riders.
Stage 1 – 5 up 4 mile team time trial held on the famous Pimbo circuit.
Stage 2 – 40 mile road race also held on the Pimbo circuit.
Stage 3 – 70 mile road race held on the Cob’s brow circuit.
With points being awarded for top 10 In each stage, overall general classification and 1st rider from each category.
Everyone who races in the Northwest at some point has ridden the Pimbo circuit, it’s certainly isn’t known for its brilliant views lets put it that way! It’s basically a massive one way, four lane wide circuit around an industrial estate in Skelmersdale, However it is perfect for holding a TTT on!
As we warmed up for the TTT the wind was howling! It was obvious it was going to be tough and we would have to ride it as tight as possible in order to get every man to the finish line together, we agreed that 5 second “turns” would be enough. I led us out followed by Kris, Craig, Paul then John.
We set off fairly hard but managed our efforts well, we kept it tight and managed to finish strong with 4 of us crossing the line in 9.25 finishing 5th overall. A great team effort considering some of our competitors!
With 3 hours to burn in between stage 1 & 2 we rode out to Rufford and found a nice cafe for a spot of lunch, some coffee and ample amounts of cake!
As we headed back to the circuit for the start of stage 2 it was clear the wind had dropped but with the likes of Dillon Byrne and Michael Ashurst riding for Champion systems and Matthew Holmes (Madison Genesis) and David McGowan riding for Kuota to name just a few, it was going to be a tough race for us!
Within the first lap a break of around 8 riders had formed, it included some of the local hitters named above. I was struggling a little bit with indigestion, probably due to all the cake I scoffed at the cafe! And was unable to go with the attacks that my team mates kept launching. Once I had settled down I managed to do a few good turns with Dillon to try and close the gap, it was clear I just didn’t have the legs!
Craig attacked off the front of the bunch with about 6 laps to go and stayed away with Matt Holmes, Michael Jolly (Onimpex Bioracer), Michael Ashurst rolling over the line in 10th, with Kris, Me, Paul and John finishing in the bunch.
Not a bad day for the team, taking 5th in the team time trial, Craig taking 10th in the afternoon stage and placing 10th on GC.
Stage 3 on Sunday morning was held on the Cobb’s Brow circuit that hadn’t been used for over 20 years. A lumpy circuit with a longish drag up to the finish line and some fast descents.
With Michael Ashurst in yellow and a strong Champion Systems team backing him there was a good chance the race would stay together we thought. After around half distance the race was still together but the speed and rolling nature of the course taking a toll on the bunch, it seemed clear a split would happen soon.
With over 5 laps to go and now almost constant attacks to split the bunch from the likes of Holmes, McGowan and a few others the inevitable split happened a few miles after the finish. McGowan, Jonathan Fowles (Manchester Bicycle Club), Dillon Byrne (Champ-Sys), Cameron Jeffers (Bill Nickson Cycles) and Ryan Pike (High on Bikes) making the split, they quickly built up over a minute over the pack. The next time up Cobb’s Brow through the finish Michael Ashurst attacked, clearly now concerned at losing yellow to McGowan. Craig joined him and they went clear although were quickly pulled back on the downhill to Newburgh.
Just a few miles later another attack by Ashurst so him go clear with Holmes, Jolly, Matt Nowell (Kuota) and Ste Abbott (THR Racing), this 5 quickly established a gap with the obvious intention from Ashurst and Holmes to pull back the leading group. Craig had missed this move but had jumped clear with Christian Smith (Manchester BC) and John Findley (HOB), although working together it didn’t look like they’d get the Holmes/Ashurst group back so Craig jumped again and bridged to the group solo.
Now with 3 laps to go the situation was – leading group of Byrne/Fowles/McGowan/Jeffers with around 1 minute over Craig/Ashurst/Holmes/Abbott/Jeffers/Jolley and the bunch at another minute but now going backwards.
That’s how it stayed until the line apart from Craig’s group getting to within 15 seconds of the leaders! Craig finished 9th on the stage and 6th overall, also taking the jersey for highest placed 2nd cat rider.
A superb promotion by Brian Rigby and very well supported by Champion Systems, definitely one to look forward to next year!
Huge thanks to Ellen Isherwood for use of the pictures – well overdue a present from all NW riders for your season long dedication Ellen!