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Another successful weekend for Andover Wheelers

Young Wheeler Lili McLean in action in Winchester

 Andover Wheelers had another successful weekend around the streets of Winchester which were closed off as the city hosted a festival of cycling events.

Sunday was race day and the Winchester Criterium races, which were previously a regular feature in the city 20 years ago, were once again staged over a tight and twisty loop around the narrow streets. The Pearl Izumi Tour Series was shown live on ITV4 earlier in the year visiting more than ten towns and cities around the UK for the professional teams and these criterium races are becoming increasingly popular and Winchester were keen to put on a similar event.

The course consisted of a loop starting in the High Street and followed an anticlockwise course through tight 90 degree corners and “S” bends around the city centre with railings and hay bales to protect the cyclists from the street furniture.

Competitors were classed according to age as usual starting with the U8s right up through to the seniors in the Elite, 1st and 2nd category.

The U16 boys’ race was run over 30 minutes and Andover Wheelers Cameron Thompson and Jed Webber resumed their strong season showing by heading the bunch into the opening laps.

Soon a break of five riders had distanced themselves from the strung out field and Jed was doing most of the work with the others keeping a watching brief. By half way Thompson and another rider were dropped by the front three but Webber still looked fresh and by the bell it was clear that it would be a sprint for the line. Webber made his charge early but was just pushed out in the final yards to finish second in the U16 race. Thompson maintained his gap and came home in fourth.

In the Women’s race, Wheelers’ Lili McLean fought well and held a top ten place, just fading towards the end to come home 16th.

In the Men’s 3rd category race the Wheelers had a four man team of Steve Dance, Alex Harding, Jan Labrooy and Paul Robinson in a shortened 30 minute race and the pack got off to a blistering star. Soon a group of three broke broke clear including Dance and the specialist cyclocross rider soon found the twisty circuit to his liking and looked strong until the other two gapped him later on in the race. Then on the last lap, Dance sprinted past his two rivals to take an emphatic victory in front of the cheering crowds.

It was his second outright win of the year and is a result of months of hard training. Harding finished 19th overall, Labrooy 21st and Robinson retired from the race.

In the Elite race, the Wheelers had three second category riders, Stuart Thompson, Duncan Lancashire and Nigel Pratt.

The 60 minutes plus three laps race for 40 riders was strung out very early on and by half way, the field was being lapped by the front group. By the last 20 minutes there were just two left to fight it out with a fast chasing group of about nine and unfortunately the pace was too much for the Wheelers’ trio and the race was won by Andy Hargroves of Felt-Colbornes-Hargroves-RT with Jody Crawforth of Hargroves Cycles RT a close second.