A Shropshire cycling team is celebrating after one of its riders won the Phil Ward Memorial Road Race, which took place near Shrewsbury on May 6.
Chris Pook, of Estate Agents Cooper Green Pooks, who also runs Rhino Velo Race Team with Ben Lawrence of Beaumont Lawrence Chartered Insurance Brokers, said he was thrilled to cross the finish line first for the opening round of the West Midlands Road Race League.
He said: “It felt good after what seems like a long winter to validate all the training efforts in freezing weather conditions.
“It was a strong field and it is a tough course that has had some notable past winners, so it is great to add my name to the list.”
The Phil Ward Memorial Race is hosted by Paramount CRT and is held in memory of former top pro cyclist Phil Ward, who passed away in 2016.
He was a noted rider in the1960s, who formed Paramount CRT in the 1980s to give his son, Tim, who presented the trophy after the race, and fellow promising local youngster Mike Jones, who now runs Rhino Velo Pyrenees, a platform from which to race.
Racing for Rhino Velo with Mr Pook were Graham South, from Telford and Matthew Davies, from Minsterley.
The race consisted of seven laps around Leighton, including a climb through Eaton Constantine to the start and finish line each lap.
Mr Lawrence said the first half of the race saw plenty of moves to try, and ultimately fail, to establish a good gap.
He said: “Mid way through the race, Chris Pook along with Jacob Sparrow (Ludlow Brewery), Matthew Higgins (RST Cycle Division) and Chris Childs (Clee Cycles) started to force the pace over the top of the climb.
“As the course turned 90 degree left onto the main straight road, the hammer went down and 10 riders, driven by the four above, established a tenuous gap.
“Danny Smith (RST Cycle Division and last year’s overall league winner) sensed the danger and managed to bridge across, just as the move started to really establish itself.
“With that there were 11 strong riders, from a mix of teams (including Dan Brough from Pro Vision and Scott Probert from Morvelo Basso), up the road and over the next few laps, the gap grew out to a minute.”
Mr Lawrence said the finish was exciting to watch.
He said: “Heading to the climb to the finish for the final time, the 11 breakaway riders were still together, but about half were sitting on.
“With two RST Cycle Division riders in the break, including fast finisher Matthew Higgins, Danny Smith decided to go long and attacked towards the base of the 1.5km climb.
“Chris Pook covered it and as it came back Jamie Fletcher from Ellan Vannin CC went over the top, but, given the steady rise to the line, had opened up a little early. “Chris Pook closed the gap and with 200m to go opened up his sprint.
“Higgins almost got on parity and finished in second with Chris Childs continuing his fine recent form with third place. Jacob Sparrow, who had worked steadily in the break all day, took fourth with John Lucock from West Midlands Police CC in fifth.”
Mr Lawrence said he was very pleased with Mr Pook’s result.
He said: “It shows Rhino Velo is really a team to watch. We are gaining experience all the time and really working well as a group.”
During the same weekend, Liam Holohan from Shrewsbury, Kirk Vickers, from Oswestry, Matthew Garthwaite from Newport and Ollie Hayward, from Ludlow, took part in the Tour of Ulster in Northern Ireland from the 5thto the 7thof May.
Mr Pook said: “The Tour of Ulster is a prestigious event. The first day was a bit of a disaster as a break of 26 riders got a gap on the field very early on and the hammer went down without a Rhino Velo rider in the front group.
“This meant that the team’s overall ambitions were scuppered on day one but day two and three saw a turnaround in fortunes as Liam Holohan showed his class by finishing second on the very hilly day two and followed up with eighth on day three.
“Ollie Hayward confirmed his emerging talent with a fine fourth place on day two and made the front split late on day three to finish 16thbut on the same time as the winner.”
Ollie Hayward placed 19th and Liam Holohan 20th on the final standings.
Mr Pook said Kirk Vickers, from Oswestry, had a fairly tough weekend in Ulster.
He said: “The racing was flat out every day and with plenty of climbing. Kirk suffered a lot on day one but found his legs on day two and three to finish in the peloton on the last two days, having lost a lot of time on day one.”
Rhino Velo is sponsored in 2018 by Cooper Green Pooks, Doppio Protection, Beaumont Lawrence, Holohan Coaching and Rhino Velo Pyrenees.