by Stephen Feeney
On the 12th August, some 12 months after I’d organised our Team’s inaugural road race (with the assistance of many willing volunteers and friends) our second promotion of the 2018 season, our road race on the hilly Bashall Eaves ‘long’ circuit, took place.
This year Joe Bowers took over as race organiser meaning I would have the chance to capitalise on my usual end of season decent form. Unfortunately, although I was still on reasonable form, I was a little unsure of my condition going into the race due to a lack of races in the weeks preceding our event. However, I did appear to be in better condition than many of my teammates, several of them having already called an end to their successful seasons!
On the eve of the race, as I began packing my kit and start preparing (with my Guinness supper). the tragic news of the untimely passing of popular local cyclist Richard Taylor of Harry Middleton CC started to break. Just the day before he had posted about his latest exploits whilst on a cycling holiday (120 miles riding across the mountains of France with a rucksack on!) and my reaction was one of shock and disbelief.
Suddenly the prospect of racing seemed far from my thoughts, and undoubtedly many of the entrants to our race felt the same.
Richard was well known throughout the local race scene. His fondness for a post ride tipple never detracted from his obvious determination and commitment to the sport. He also gave back where he could and marshalled our Bolton by Bowland Road Race in June.
I can’t remember exactly when I first met Richard but I remember his warmth and immediately liking him and his attitude! I can recall racing with him a lot in 2017, a year in which he (eventually) achieved his first category racing licence.
Richard and me last season
He seemed to have more than his fair share of bad luck in races, punctures being a particular ‘Achilles heel’! Indeed, I can remember speaking to him during last year’s Chronomaster Road Race. I was marshalling and he’d had to abandon the event having punctured. To compound his woes, he’d actually punctured on a wheel he’d borrowed to replace his own punctured wheel. His spirit was not dampened, however, and he set off back to the headquarters stating his intention to stop at a shop en route and pick up some beers!
I can remember racing with him on the Manchester 2 day last year. He was close to his achieving his first category licence and looking for a good overall finish. His legendary, fearless ‘knee down’ cornering skills, coupled with some powerful riding between the twisty bits, had left him in a podium position going into the final hilly stage at Oakenclough. This perhaps not Richard’s favourite terrain.
As Richard began to feel the pressure on the main climb on the last couple of laps I did my best to ‘look after’ him. Offering encouragement and filling in the gaps where he was struggling to hold a wheel up the steep bit. Going into the last couple miles he was comfortable in what remained of the front group and poised to take a high position when he yet again suffered an untimely puncture that he would be unable to recover from.
That year Richard carried on racing until November, travelling around the country to find races, and did manage to get that first category licence. I’d kept in touch with him to keep abreast of his progress during that time and his commitment never seemed to wain.
At one time, there was talk of him joining our ranks. He already got on well with all of us and it’d have been great to have him in our team but I’m sure that applied to any club that he may have been connected with. However, unsurprisingly, he did have some very good friendships amongst his own team mates.
I am sure that most people that knew Richard will have several humorous accounts of times spent with him!
There were plenty of sad faces and tears at the Headquarters on the morning of the race as everyone tried to go about the business of bike racing.
A minutes silence to remember Richard was held before the race and his teammates, along with our own Tom Hanlon, former team mate and close friend of Richard, led the bunch during the neutralised procession.
As the race started, it was clear that it would be business as usual. This was appropriate and in keeping with Richard’s own mantra of hard pedalling. He had become synonymous with his own hashtag #pdh (pedal dead hard).
My tactic, based on recent races around Bashall Eaves, was to ride conservatively and try and keep with the leaders in what would no doubt an attritional race.
Also racing for Team Chronomaster, with Tom and I, were John McKellar, Warren Gell and Pete Lindfield.
Having spoken with my teammates before the race I believed that we were all looking to adopt a conservative approach. However, I was soon to be surprised!
Perhaps riding on pure emotion (coupled with not inconsiderable ability) Tom attacked from the gun taking with him Luke Jackson from Harry Middleton CC. The duo gave their all and managed to hold off a fast chasing group for many miles before being captured. Unfortunately for Tom, this early exploit, and subsequent emptying of the tank, proved terminal to his race ambitions. To be honest, I was impressed that he had even had the motivation to start never mind race so aggressively!
Pete was feeling the effects of the time trial he’d raced the previous day and lost contact with the rapidly diminishing front group.
Every time the race hit the a climb the pressure went on, attacks were launched, gaps appeared and riders were dropped.
John, Warren and I kept to the game plan and with a couple of laps to go (the race covered 5 laps of an 11 mile circuit) we were in what remained of the bunch.
B38 Underpin team had been very active all race sending riders up the road and marking chase groups and eventually Jude Taylor, 2nd in this race last year, was clear.
With around 15 miles to go a chase group formed. I remember watching as it began to move clear, it wasn’t a flat out move but seemed to go unchecked for long enough for them to get a small gap. I toyed with trying to get across to the group but as most moves hadn’t managed to get clear I thought it would be reeled in. Unfortunately, I was wrong and a combination of strong riders and commitment ensured the groups escape and eventual capture of lone leader Jude.
As the finish approached, a lead group of 7 riders looked set to contest the victory with the bunch left to sprint for the minor places.
In an amazingly close sprint finish Chris Booth took the victory ahead of Team Crimson’s Tarn Fynn.
I managed to take 3rd in the bunch sprint (only 23 riders remained in the bunch) for 10th place. Warren and John had lost contact with the bunch in the closing stages of the race.
I would like to give a special mention to Joe Bowers for all his hard work organising this event. He appeared incredibly calm both leading up to and during the race. A lot calmer than I had felt the previous year!
Thanks to all the officials and helpers without whom these events would simply not happen!
Thanks again to Ellen Isherwood for the amazing photos.
Our 3rd event had proved a success and, with it being a particularly tough one, I’m sure Richard would have approved. Congratulations to Chris Booth (Salt Ayre Cog Set) on the win.