Ilkley Cycle Races 2022 - Credit: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com
Crowds returned to Ilkley on Friday evening for another explosive night at the town centre cycle races, with Sam Watson winning the men's grand prix in a crash-marred final sprint in the rain.
Anna Firth looks back at an evening of thrilling racing:
The evening began with the MAS Design under 16s race, where Joseph Cosgrove (Anexo Group RT) secured first place in the boys’ race and Emily Middlebrooke (Otley CC) won the girls’ event.
In the Classic race, riders battled it out for the prospect of winning a week in a 14-bed French Alpine chalet, offered by sponsor MountainChalet.co.uk. Many racers applied for the event, resulting in a top-quality field being selected and a very high pace throughout. Graham Briggs was the national circuit race champion in 2011, and a medallist on two other occasions, and the 38-year-old from Doncaster used his trademark finishing kick to demonstrate that he certainly hadn't lost any of his speed. He claimed the prize from Daniel Barnes & Ben Chilton, both racing for team Spectra Wiggle, in a final decisive sprint past the spectators lining The Grove.
The appreciative crowd cheered for Luke Rothery (Airedale Olympic CC) as he won the Wheelbase over 35s race, with Ilkley CC's Graham Pearce in 4th, missing out on a podium place by just 0.011 of a second in a tight photo finish.
A sudden burst of rain soaked the circuit, but that didn’t deter the large crowds from socialising and supporting the riders all around the course. They were rewarded by a hotly contested Ilkley Cinema Women’s Race, with riders lapping the course in a less than two-and-a-half minutes, ensuring that spectators saw plenty of action. Eluned King triumphed after sweeping down the descent onto The Grove, just managing to hold off the rest of the bunch until she crossed the line.
The men’s Lister Horsfall Grand Prix was the final event of the evening and the atmosphere was of anticipation and tension as the rain continued to fall. The top-class field included the newly crowned national champion Matt Bostock (WiV SunGod) who had taken the title just 7 days earlier in Scotland. An attacking race kept the supportive crowd entertained, and in the final stages Bostock launched an all-out effort on the final climb to bridge across to a leading group of three. A thrilling sprint finish was on the cards, but as the leaders entered the home straight at full speed, they were on the coattails of a large group almost a full lap in arrears who had fanned out across the road to contest their sprint for minor placings.
In a final chaotic push towards the line, Sam Watson (Groupama–FDJ) squeezed through the melee for the win, with Matthew Bostock and Robert Scott following in second and third for team WiV SunGod. Not so fortunate was Jim Brown who tried to find space to challenge for the victory, but was forced into the barriers and fell dramatically as he crossed the line.
It was a turbulent end to an otherwise excellent evening, with the crash-marred sprint concluding the 2022 Ilkley Cycle Races with a bang.