Large, appreciative crowds enjoyed a wonderful evening on The Grove last Friday as the town welcomed the return of the Ilkley Cycle Races.
For the first time, British Cycling awarded the event National Series status, and the top teams from all across the UK were in attendance. There was something of a Continental air to proceedings on a warm, sunny evening with full tables at the restaurants and bars by the memorial gardens and many family groups socialising along the tree-lined Grove.
A great atmosphere was produced by the crowd cheering and banging the barrier boards, and using the bells and clappers handed out by major sponsor Lister Horsfall, which greeted the racers with a cheerful wall of noise.
As riders fought their way up the Riddings Road climb, a trumpet was being sounded from one of the many garden parties around the race circuit. A large number of residents were out enjoying the free sporting spectacle with barbecues set up in gardens along Albany Walk and many watching from their own doorstep. Lishmans’ and Ilkley Brewery had a busy evening by the bandstand too, catering to those spectating along the finish straight.
Race teams and their managers praised the great support and warm welcome at Ilkley, and commented that the challenging circuit rewarded attacking racing.
The elite racers were reaching speeds of up to 40mph approaching the home straight and needed skill and nerve to hold on to any gains from the climb when taking the high-speed Wilton Road corner on the limit. A rider needed paramedic attention after a fall here, but did not require a trip to hospital.
And the winners: Reece Wood of Canyon DHB won the elite men's race sponsored by Lister Horsfall. Ilkley Cinema sponsored the women’s race, with victory going to Megan Barker of the CAMS-Basso team. Craig Rogers from the Cambridge University cycling club took the verdict in the supporting Ilkley CC Classic from Kendal’s Richard Butler. Triathlete Mark Buckingham from Leeds won the Wheelbase race for the over 35s category with Dan Jay-Webster and Graham Pearce of the promoting Ilkley CC in creditable 6th and 7th places respectively. An up-and-coming group of young riders produced a hard-fought contest in the under 16s races, sponsored by MAS Design Consultants, who like Lister Horsfall, have supported the event since its inception in 2014. Jacob Bush (Bourne Wheelers) took the win from Ben Wiggins, whose illustrious father won the Tour de France and five gold medals spanning four successive Olympic Games from 2004 to 2016. Ruby Oakes beat Ripon's Ella Jamieson of Clifton CC in the under 16 girls’ race.
The races have received very positive feedback from riders, spectators and local business, all extremely happy to see the town full of life again after long periods of restrictions to combat the pandemic. The event could not have gone ahead without almost a hundred volunteers from Ilkley Cycling Club, each freely doing countless tasks to ensure the evening was a success. The club's website at www.ilkley.cc has details of rides for all levels from recreation to racing, and new riders are always welcome.
The organisers are also grateful to Bradford Council’s public safety team for their input and support that enabled the event to go ahead safely. The races marked a widely welcomed return of a public event, like the half-marathon, tennis tournament and literature festival, that promotes the town and helps make Ilkley such a thriving and vibrant community.
The evening was marred slightly by a threat to a member of the Friends of Wharfedale Greenway who were hosting an information stand at the event. The group are supporting plans to establish a linear park for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users along the Wharfe Valley between Bolton Abbey and Pool in Wharfedale, via Ilkley, Burley in Wharfedale and Otley. At approximately 6:30 pm, a man became abusive as he complained about the road closure, threatening to deliberately drive into cyclists next time he saw them on the road, and specifically threatened a volunteer on the stand. This has been reported to the police and anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact the police on 101 citing crime reference number 13210374131.
Further photos of the 2021 Ilkley Cycle Races can be found at eltoromedia.com/photography/ilkley-town-centre-2021