The Archer Spring Criterium on 26 April at Hillingdon circuit is unusual being for 1/2/3 categories without the presence of elites. This reflects its origins as the main support race for the classic Archer GP when it was seen as a stepping stone for up and coming riders. It merited this status since it started in 1957 with such winners as Graham Webb (subsequent world champion), Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Roger Hammond, Steve Heffernan and Matt Stephens among other notables. The race has kept going despite the demise of the GP and its transference to Hillingdon circuit in recent years has allowed the maintenance of a top class prize list of over £750 for the meeting, with £100 to the winner. Last year the race attracted possibly the biggest number of entries of the year at one meeting and advance entries look as though this will be surpassed this time. An organiser for all 57 years, Stuart Benstead says: “We have always guaranteed a first class prize list beforehand and our pre-race confidence has each year been rewarded with sufficient entries to clear ourselves, albeit with a lot of goodwill from officials. So each year we have again increased the guarantee to reward riders financially for actual race success, which is perhaps old fashioned, rather than points based obsessions.” Entries are via the BC on-line system or will be accepted on the day at a slightly premium level
Three sets of organisers and the managements of three London state of the art cycle circuits have uniquely linked up to promote the Condor Cycles London 3-day race for 2/3 categories on 3/4/5 May. The venues are the new Lee Valley VeloPark, the Kent CycloPark and Hillingdon traffic free closed circuits.
In an example of how three different regions can work together for the broad based good of cyclesport, East London Velo at VeloPark headed by Jack Steven have now joined the organising team already composed of the SERR League and BC West Thames Promotions.
Co-ordinated by Stuart Benstead of Hillingdon, the SERR League headed by Kim Anderson is providing a core of the organisation by providing their transponder system and their Luke Anderson is to be chief Judge. He and Richard Hemsley of SE Region have drawn up specific rules to cover this unusual event, while Aidan Hegarty, of Central Region, with be the chief commissaire applying them.
Benstead and Jez Cox of VeloPark conceived the original idea and state: “We have observed in recent years the huge growth in closed circuit racing which in numbers is now bigger than open road racing. The increase in BC membership, including race licences, is bringing into the sport newcomers who welcome the opportunity of high speed racing in traffic free conditions. This ideally complements open road racing by providing safe bunched racing experience as a stepping-stone.
“More and more circuits are opening around the country and the Condor Cycles London 3-day will provide an example of how others can link up and provide a wider experience of different terrain and challenges.”
The event is aimed at the sport’s core 2nd and 3rd cat riders and entries are already nearing the budgeted number, being on a first come basis, no doubt attracted by the prize list of over £1,100 and the promised high quality of organisation.
Entries are via the British Cycling On-Line system and close on 20 April.
A gathering of a hundred riders, officials, friends and admirers of the late Chas Messenger gathered at Hillingdon Circuit for his son, also Chas, to cut the ribbon on a memorial bench opposite the finishing line. The inscription on the bench reads:
2014 – 2008
Without whom the cycle circuit would not exist
British Cycling Hall of Fame
President BC Central Region
Chas Messenger was famed for many things, including organising the Milk Race Tour of Britain and managing the GB team when Beryl Burton and Graham Webb both won world road championships on the same day. That has never been repeated. In London however, his most important legacy is his 10 year search, haggling with councils, and eventual success in obtaining the Hillingdon circuit that now operates with events on seven days a week and providing safe traffic free cycling for thousands of riders.
In fact it also caters for any non-motorised sport such as the London Nordic Ski Club which was one of the many organisations, clubs and individuals who contributed over £1,000 to purchase and install the bench.
Four members of the Pickwick Bicycle Club attended the ceremony, two wearing the regulation straw boater and two who will be fined for being improperly dressed! Left to right: Sean Bannister, a member of Chas’s Chequers Road Club and a coach of Bradley Wiggins in his junior years; Chas Messenger Jnr; Stuart Benstead, chairman of the circuit managing Users Group; and Ray Kelly, a regular official for Chas’s events and a founder of the circuit’s Slipstreamers children’s club.
Chas Messenger Jnr sits on the bench, behind which is Tony Gibb, who started his career as a youth rider in Messenger events on the adjacent Hayes by-pass (along with Bradley Wiggins at the same time) which led to the present circuit.
With Tony is Bill Butterworth, who rode many Messenger organised events. He is still racing and is also now multiple organizer of BC Masters and, separate, women’s races. Both were competing in the race that followed the ceremony.
Colin Mann, right, is a regular official at the circuit and raced and officiated at Messenger promotions.