Location: Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Event: 20 May 2012
Giles Harrison, the northern dentist riding for Blumilk RT, scored a resounding victory in Godley’s Cycles Tour of East Harlsey to be crowned 2012 North East Road Champion. Tommy Bustard (Herbal Life-Leisure Lakes), with immense strength and a steely determination, busted apart the Velo 29 challenge, clinching the silver medal on the line from Richard Meadows (Velo 29).
The Cat & Bagpipes pub in East Harlsey provided a beautiful log fire roomed HQ at the top of the finishing hill. The Duke of Wellington, two miles east in Welbury entertained the formal start and provided the prime tent and refreshment area. In the Trophy race, strong man Colin Humphreys – the lone rider from Sports Cover, attacked after two laps of the 5.5 mile circuit. Perhaps the strongest man in the field, with a weak sprint and not one to shy from the front, there’s surely not a more perfect break away companion. Strange then, that the eight man Velo 29 team should miss the move.
Gaining no more than 30 econds, a lesser man would have thrown in the towel and rejoined the safety of the bunch, but Humphreys pushed on, taking five maximum prime points on the bounce, and effectively the Dinner for Two and bottle of wine at the Duke of Wellington by the halfway point. The numerically strong, but half asleep Velo 29 squad, being compelled to chase, made hard toil of their labour, gifting the other favourites an easy ride for half the race, but in the mean time reducing the strength of ten men-Humphreys down to a more reasonable five men.
The latter half of the race saw breaks go out, and breaks come back. Mathew Kipling (Velo 29) showed glimmers of the form that in the past had brought him four titles, but alas, no more than glimmers. The laps flicked down and with ten miles to go, legs were tiring, heads were cracking and the strong men were stepping up to battle for glory.
A break of eleven formed, the favourites were there but not Kipling, Craig Anderson (Blackhawk Bikes), Simon Baxter (Herbal Life) or Alex Bottomley (Velo 29) - their race for the title effectively over. From the eleven man move, Velo 29 were looking good: Meadows, Rob Carter, Chris Mark, Jack Rees, Dan Smith and Tom Timothy making good odds with six against five individuals – Harrison (Blumilk), Bustard (Herbal Life), Will Brown (Blackhawk Bikes), James Alder (VC Briganti) and Colin Humphrey (Sports Cover).
Surely, as per the spectators on the hill, they would be expecting victory. Over the radio, news came in of a big attack by Smith with four miles remaining. Smith, the Houdini of the peleton, escaped round the high hedges and twisty lanes and put his head down for the final furlong. The 29 camp were smiling, they had played the Smith gambit, and still had half the riders in the break. But Bustard was not in the mood to take another Velo 29 thrashing, and a coalition was rapidly brokered with strongman Humphreys. The two traded hard labour on the front with the pack of eager 29ers loitering merrily in the wheels, biding their time like hungry cats waiting to pounce. The gap was closed down, and Houdini was thrown back in his box. But the 29ers were sleeping once more, as out of the shadows shot the stealthy figure of Harrison, his red and black jersey streaking away up the road.
The last mile is hard, a slight head wind with the road rising gradually then a nasty kick before cresting for a false flat for the final 200 metres – a finish made for a champion. Harrison was away, his effort timed and executed to perfection. Smith was spent and easy pickings for the hungry crows, but the other Velo 29 cats were still sleeping.
It was Meadows who woke first and off he pounced after the fast disappearing Harrison. Humphreys was riled and tore after Meadows with Bustard in close quarter. But it was all too little, too late. Harrison was working hard, drilling his legs at a frightful rate, giving Meadows little opportunity to bridge the gap, his chance of being crowned double Regional Champion rapidly decaying. The fight was now for the minor medals. The chase up the long hill saw the hitherto strong beast Humphreys reduced to a crawling weakling; the original eleven cool cats, hopeful of glory and flowers, now pockets of ones and two, gasping and twisting, faces contorted in pain.
At the spectator soaked line, Harrison, arms aloft with a broad gleaming smile, had time aplenty to savour his victory, whilst behind, the smooth style of Meadows was cresting the rise with the brutish figure of Bustard lurking on his wheel. Meadows rode valiantly, but Bustard had scores to settle and with 100 metres closing, came off his wheel and cruised past the distraught Meadows with an air of satisfied nonchalance to claim the silver medal by a bike length.
James Anderson (Blackhawk Bikes) – aggressive, clever and bold, rode to a solo victory in the Masters category. Novice racer Matty Cooper (Achieve Cycle Coaching) belied his newness to the sport, attacking in the final 3 miles, catching and passing a brave Ben Lane (GS Metro), just moments from the line.
Harry Tanfield (Wallace Cycles) recovered from his bizarre accident in the warm up of the Criterium Champs to dish out a commanding performance. Riding away from the Masters/Junior bunch after 10 miles, only James King (Mountivation) had the temerity and legs to compete and the two shared the workload to stay out in front for the remainder of the race. King took the Cat & Bagpipes Carvery for Two prime prize, but Tanfield had the pleasure of reducing King to a grovelling mess on the final climb to take the victory photographs alone.
Two minutes behind, Alex Hopper (Velo 29), the fast improving first year junior rider, unleashed a fierce sprint on the finish hill to gap the big, but now weary legs of Taylor Cardus (Velo 29) and claim the last spot on the podium.
Karen Poole (Squadra Donne), a sublime blend of strength and speed, scored her second gold medal of the weekend with a dominating performance, adding to her Criterium victory on Friday. Silver medalist was again the young Alice Grieve (Stockton Wheelers) taking a tight sprint into Welbury from Lindy Edwards (Gosforth RC).
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.