Last week, for the first time ever (I think), Exeter hosted a professional bike race. As part of a race programme called the
‘Tour Series’ Exeter held one of 10 city centre races to be held in the UK this summer. There are 10 professional teams, each of 5 riders, and although these aren’t the very best professional teams in the world, there were some impressive luminaries racing.
For starters we had Malcolm Elliot. As well as winning the Tour of Britain, and completing the Tour de France twice, Malcolm’s main claim to fame, I reckon, is as one of only two Britons ever to win a jersey in a Grand Tour. Primarily a sprinter, Malcolm won the points jersey in the 1989 Vuelta D”Espana – the ‘Tour of Spain’, by common consent the 3rd of the 3 Grand Tours after the Tour de France and the Giro d’Talia. But that makes it the 3rd biggest race in the world of cycling, and Malclom Elliot won the points jersey – that puts him in the best possible cycling company, and among Brits only Robert Millar with a climbers jersey in the Tour de France and the Giro can match that.
Malcolm retired in 1997 aged 36, but came out of retirement in 2003 and has been winning some high-level races ever since. He’s older than me (just!) and wins regularly on the professional circuit – that’s amazing.
The Tour Series website has details of the remaining races, and if you get the chance go and see one. They’re also televised on Friday evenings at 7.00 pm on ITV 4 in the UK, and although I helped to marshall the Exeter race it was only on the television that we were able to see the crash that split the peloton and allowed a group to escape containing the eventual winner, current British champion Dean Dowling.
Also racing, for the Rapha Condor team was Chris Newton, twice world champion on the track, and winner of two bronze and one silver medals at the Olympics. It was serious racing, and spectacular to watch.
But the events leading up to the race were just as much fun. My favourite was the fancy dress ride.
There were a few ‘ringers’, Paddy cycling his fixed wheel without fixed handlebars, and a beautiful young girl playing the violin while cycling up and down the High Street on a unicycle. Very clever stuff.
The result of the fancy dress ride was a bit weird though. The winner for best fancy dress was Pingu. Then the Overall Winner was Peter Pan. Good effort on both parts, but how come Peter Pan didn’t win the best fancy dress if he was the best ‘overall’. I suspect a fix – Peter Pan did well, but I’d have given it to Pingu.
You can judge for yourself who was the rightful winner.