Glorious early July weather set a sweltering backdrop for the prestigious round of the Surrey League’s road race programme for their Tour of Sussex promotion.
Saturday morning’s event was organised and run by the Lewes Wanderers Cycling Club, on a course starting at Lewes that featured seven laps of the club’s Evening Crits circuit around Ringmer and Laughton.
The race rolled out from the bridge on Cliffe High Street, flagged off by local MP Norman Baker.
The cavalcade of lead car, two Commissaire cars, four motorbikes out riders, ambulance and broom wagon (a slightly uncharitable term for the van that sweeps up riders who have lost contact with the peloton and also carries spare wheels for when riders puncture) gave the promotion a distinctly professional stamp, and ensured the ride for the 60 top-notch cyclists would be as safe as possible.
The first few miles were neutralised, but after Earwig Corner the Commissaires let slip the dogs of war to battle for honours.
Rob Pelham and Jamie Lowden were flying the flag for the Wanderers. Pelham picked up second place in the race sprint, missing the coveted green jersey by a bike’s length, before disaster struck in the form of an ill-timed puncture, which effectively ruined his chance of further glory.
Lowden, meanwhile, had a solid ride and finished in the main peloton.
After a brief rest the riders headed out to Beachy Head to test themselves on a challenging two-mile hill climb. The svelte figure of Lowden was designed with hills in mind, and he had a fantastic ride finishing in third place.
After an evening’s recuperation, the last stage of the race headed out to Eastbourne to complete a tough 47-mile ride around Eastbourne and Birling Gap, with soaring temperatures compounding the difficulty of the ride.
Lowden bravely attacked from the start of the race, eventually to be caught by a fast moving bunch of 20 or so riders.
Lowden had one final push up the hill and managed to split the chasing group apart, eventually finishing fourth on the day and capturing third place in the sprint event.
When the three-race programme was totalled Lowden managed a very creditable fourth in the General Classification, no mean feat in the light of fierce competition from some high-ranking Second and Third Cat riders.
The overall winner was James Walsby of Catford CC.
It was a quiet week for the Wanderers on the time trailing front, although two Wanderers did head out to a windy and perversely foggy Birling Gap to compete in Eastbourne Rovers 7.2-mile hilly ride.
Pete Morris rewrote the Rovers record book by storming round in a new course record of 16:45. Sam Ramsey had a fine ride, completing the challenging course in 19:44.
With the season well over halfway, competition for the Wanderers club honours is certainly hotting up.
The Middle Markers challenge is the most fiercely contested, with Martin Komen edging out current champion David Beale by a narrow three point margin after seven of the counting rounds, with all to play for in the last three events.
Morris seems to have retained the Classic League trophy with a healthy lead over his chasers.
The Ladies championship sees Debbie Evers in an unassailable lead.
The final competition is the Points event, which sees a thrilling battle between Peter Baker and your correspondent, who is the reigning champion.
Peter holds a small lead with four events remaining, but with the feared hill climb one of the remaining events, climber Baker remains the proverbial bookies’ hot favourite for honours this year.