LAST Sunday was a day of action-packed sport in Guisborough with the 100 mile Klondike Grand Prix Cycle Race around East Cleveland and the Esk Valley Fell Club 12.4 mile Gisborough Moors Race. Both events had to withstand cold blustery weather with occasional rain and even hail showers.

However, racing cyclists and fell runners are a tough bunch and the weather brought out the best. At 9am on Sunday, the first Klondike women’s cycle race started in Guisborough and travelled through Dunsdale and New Marske to Skelton, where they rode two laps of a course which took in Boosbeck, Lingdale, Brotton, Carlin How, Loftus, Liverton and Easington with three stiff climbs, in particular, Saltburn Bank. The finish was in Westgate in Guisborough, which had been closed off for the day and despite the cold weather brought dozens of supporters to see the finish.

A strong field took to the start line to get the women’s race underway, including hill climb champion, Joscelin Lowden, (Fusion Brother), national circuit race champion Anna Henderson, (Brother UK Tifosi), and Hayley Simmonds (BTC City Lyubljana) among the entrants.

The bunch remained together for much of the gruelling, 111.6km race, until Christina Wiejak (Team Jadan Weldtite-Vive le Velo) mounted an attack at the 80km mark, taking Leah Dixon (Brother UK Tifosi p/b OnForm) with her. The duo were soon caught by the peloton, however, and the injection of pace led to subsequent counter-attacks, with Henderson and Lowden making what turned out to be the race’s decisive move.

The two worked together to establish a healthy lead on the peloton, ensuring a head-to-head sprint for victory on Guisborough’s Westgate, which Anna Henderson won from Joscelin Lowden. Henderson’s team-mates Leah Dixon, Rebecca Durrell and Jessica Finney claimed third, fourth and fifth places respectively.

Afterwards, Henderson said, “I think that’s one of the best courses we’ve ever done – it was brutal the whole way around, but really fun. I know that Joscelin is good on the hills, so I knew if I held on and held on, I would make it to the end and have a good chance. As a team I knew we were strong, but I didn’t quite know we were that strong! It’s a great start and great for the series to come.”

In the men’s event, a group of ten riders broke away early on in the 169km race, establishing a healthy advantage over the peloton. The group remained at ten riders and the gap fairly consistent until well after 100km, when the leaders became drawn out, leaving a group of four, Tom Moses and Matthew Holmes (Madison Genesis), Max Stedman (CanyonDHB) and George Wood (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling).

After Wood suffered a crash, the race came right back together in the closing stages, as both national champion Connor Swift (Madison Genesis) and Rory Townsend (Team Canyon DHB p/b Bloor Homes) set the pace at the front. Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK) joined them at the front and the trio produced a thrilling finish, with Townsend outsprinting Thwaites and Swift on a packed final straight.

Townsend said, “There was never a massive gap, so we knew it was going to kick off at the end, and then went it all went I knew that Scott and Connor were the guys to look out for. Connor attacked away from the break that we were in, and I was right on his wheel, so it was a perfect situation.”

Following the races, the winning riders were presented with their trophies and prizes on the podium in Westgate. The women’s winning prizes were presented by the Guisborough Town Council Mayor, Councillor Mrs Janice Skelton, and the Chair of the race’s sponsor BIG Local Lottery, Mrs Mary Lanigan. The men’s trophies were presented by the Middlesbrough FC goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulus, himself a keen cyclist, aided by Councillor Skelton

During the afternoon, whilst the main race was out on the circuit, junior races for all age groups were held, organised by the Stockton Wheelers Cycle Club.

Despite the cold wind, villagers in East Cleveland turned out to see the races go through their usually quiet roads. Many villages had decked out the streets in yellow and green bunting, the race colours, and had organised some form of welcome for the riders. In Skelton, the Puma Cheer and Dance group performed their acrobatic routines as the race came down the main street. Puma have qualified for the European Cheerleaders championships in Holland for the third year running.

In Guisborough a series of litter-picks by volunteers ensured that the town, decked out in the yellow/green bunting, looked smart and tidy whilst at St Nicholas Church, which remained open for the day, hosted Easter cake design and decorated Easter egg competitions. In the garden of Sunnyfield House Community Centre, the North Yorkshire Birds of Prey were exhibiting their wonderful birds for the children to hold and have their photos taken with them. Many of the shops and cafes remained open and refreshments were on hand in both St Nicholas and the Methodist Churches.

The East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix is organised by the East Cleveland BIG Local, Velo 29 and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council but this was the last year of funding for the race by BIG Local Lottery Fund and now the organisers will be looking for sponsorship to be able to cover the approximate cost of £55,000 to run the event, even though much of the work is carried out by volunteers acting as marshalls and race ambassadors. However, Police and safety costs remain to be covered and this will be one of the tasks for another race in 2020. Cleveland Police outriders and race officials managed traffic throughout the event ensuring the safety of the riders during the ‘rolling road closures’ while minimising the impact on motorists. Race Director Richard Williamson commented, “This has been the best Klondike race yet. The riders have been up for the challenge and have given the crowds a real treat today. I’d like to thank all the organising team, the riders, the spectators and the people in the villages along the route who have been out with bunting and signs and not stopped cheering all day.”