Tom Simpson Memorial Road Race
EXACTLY 10 years after winning the event for the first time, Mark Walsham (Gill Airways-Peugeot) turned in a performance that the late world champion would have admired to win the Plasmor-sponsored Tom Simpson Memorial road race on Sunday.
A large and knowledgeable crowd that turned out to remember their hero at Simpson's home village of Harworth, near Doncaster, saw a near Premier Calendar standard field of 70 riders competing over the event's traditional circuit which included the tough climb of Wright's Hill on each of the 16 laps.
It was Walsham, winner of the race in 1986 and 1987, who demonstrated both stamina and explosive sprinting power to put his name on the Raleigh Trophy for a third time when he came in ahead of Paul Curran (Optimum Performance RT), Julian Ramsbottom (North Wirral-Velo) and Ian Gilkes (Parker International RT).
Making the early pace over the 5.8-mile circuit were Kevin Eckersall (Cottingham Coureurs) and John Perks (CC Giro), but at the end of the second lap it was Rob Holden (Gill Airways-Peugeot) who took the opening prime from Lee Davis (Taurus Cycles) and Gilkes.
With temperatures soaring and the speed averaging more than 30mph - bringing lap times down to a shade over 12 minutes - Jon Clay (Team Orange-Pertex) headed a group of a dozen riders attempting to get clear.
But Walsham was back at the head of affairs next time round to take the first of his five gallops which were to earn him the Demaglass sprints competition.
An hour of racing and 30 miles covered saw a 12-strong group almost a minute clear.
Matthew Charity (Mansfield RC), Ian Gilkes, Ray Eden (Optimum Performance RT), Neil Hoban (Gill Airways-Peugeot), Brian Hughes (Dinnington RC), Jon Chapman (Maltby CC), Jon Clay, Julian Ramsbottom, Pete Coggins (Brough Wheelers), David Cook (Middridge CRT) and Dave Williams (Team Ambrosia) were in the front group.
The chasers included Keith Reynolds (CC Giro), Mark McKay (Team Ambrosia), Paul Curran, Rob Watkinson (Dinnington RC) and a determined Chris Walker (IMI Management), winner of the previous week's Premier Calendar race in South Wales.
The strength sapping, quarter-mile climb of Wright's Hill was taking its toll by the halfway mark, splitting the race into four groups with gaps of three and a half and four minutes opening up.
Walker, the man in form, gritted his teeth and powered the chasers back into contention to bring the race back together.
With three laps to go David Cook took the final prime from Curran, and it looked as if the winner was going to come from a group of 16 riders who were clear. But by the bell the race had split again, with Mark McKay leading nine contenders to throw the outcome wide open once more.
Chris Walker had missed the move, eventually salvaging 10th place.
Through the heat haze and into the finish on Scrooby Road it was Walsham who displayed his superior sprinting power, hitting the front and timing his effort to perfection to take a memorable and well deserved victory in front of Curran and Ramsbottom.
Walsham was delighted with his performance, which also saw him take the Steve Machin Memorial Trophy as the first North Midlands Division rider.
'It was tremendous to win in front of Tom's home crowd,' said the Premier Calendar leader.
'The heat didn't bother me, and having Neil and Rob working for me really helped.'
Walsham still harbours hopes of the fifth Olympic road race place which is due to be decided after Sunday's national championship.
'It's certainly my ambition,' he admitted. 'I'm riding the Manx International and the national championship, and will be looking for the sort of results that might put me in contention.'
Paul Curran, who will be concentrating on time trials during the coming weeks, was not disappointed with his second place. 'Considering I didn't feel too good today, I'm pleased with the way it went,' he said.
'When I looked round at the sprinters in the group, I was happy to get on the podium.'
1. Mark Walsham (Gill Airways-Peugeot) 93m in 3-30-25
2. P. Curran (Optimum Performance RT) at l0sec
3. J. Ramsbottom (Kodak-Adidas)
4. I. Gilkes (Parker International RT)
5. M. McKay (Team Ambrosia) all st
6. N. Hoban (Gill Airways-Peugeot) at l5sec
7. J. Clay (Team Orange-Pertex) at 20sec
8. D. Cook (Middridge CRT)
9. D. Williams (Team Ambrosia) both st
10. C. Walker (IMI Management) at 4-30.