On Thursday 28th May, a collection of top professional cyclists took to Durham’s cobbled streets to compete in Stage 5 of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series. The Series consists of ten stages which take place over a four week period with locations of stages encompassing all of Great Britain, ranging from the Isle of Wight, Wales, Scotland, London and eventually finishing in Bath. The roll call of riders also provided some added stardust to the already impressive list of top cyclists competing, with the participation of six time series winner and Olympic champion Ed Clancy along with a new debutant team, headed by Sir Bradley Wiggins. At the halfway point of the series and on a notoriously difficult course in which riders are reported to reach speeds of up to 40-50kph, the Durham stage of the series represented a pivotal race in determining where the Series trophy will end up this year.
In terms of the event itself, Richard Handedly won the individual event on the day to secure his first ever individual Pearl Izumi Tour Series win in Durham. Racing for the ONE Pro Cycling Team, Handedly’s win represented a fine achievement individually but in regards to the series, it had far greater implications in determining who will walk away with the overall title. Unlike the vast majority of cycling events, The Pearl Izumi Tour Series is unique in the way in which the competition is focused on the teams. To win a stage on the series, a team must complete the race in the lowest cumulative time with their five riders, making them the fastest team on the night. Although there was the kudos of a personal milestone for Handedly, his ONE Pro Cycling Team still trail the league leaders Madison Genesis going into Stage 6 at Barrow.
However, there was even more cause for celebration for Richard Handedly as he also convincingly won the Chain Reaction Cycles Sprints prize, an event that runs alongside the main event of the series, to gift fans with further opportunity to witness these impressive athletes in action.
Arguably the greatest achievement of the night came from ONE Pro Cycling’s fifth rider George Harper. Harper had a terrible start to the race as he was caught up in a messy crash which seemingly had put him out of contention of making significant contribution to his team’s efforts. However, Harper produced an incredible comeback effort and was able to overtake the final Madison Genesis rider on the road, Mark McNally, to cap a fantastic evening for the ONE Pro Cycling Team.
With its narrow streets, steep hills and unforgiving cobbled streets, it seems peculiar to think that Durham provides such a thrilling course for the stage of this ever increasingly prestigious cycling competition. Nevertheless, the popularity of the event was clear to see from the strong crowds that lined the streets to watch and provided a fine example of the special place which cycling has in the hearts of British sports fans.
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons