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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Fred Whitton Challenge 2011

FURNESS cyclists stormed the high Lake District passes on Sunday during the annual Fred Whitton Challenge.

Heavy thundery showers were the order of the morning with a brisk southerly wind and a sunny afternoon to follow.

Never has England’s most densely-populated national park been so congested on its narrowest roads, with traffic vying against an unprecedented entry of 1,480 Lycra-clad cyclists on Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes.

A bystander in the car park beneath Honister Quarry said: “It’s like watching the Tour de France.”

The Lakes Road Club, the biggest cycling club in the region, was represented by more than 20 members, resplendent in their yellow and red and black Lycra tops.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, all Barrow firefighters, had almost a dozen cyclists represented and, including clubless riders, there were scores more riders from Barrow, Ulverston, Millom, Coniston and Windermere.

Torrential rain and hailstones met cyclists on Whinlatter Pass and on the steep descent into Buttermere.

There were several crashes, four on Kirkstone Pass, attended by Barrow paramedic Andy Cochrane, of the North West Ambulance Service.

He said: “I had only just parked my motorcycle by the side of the pass and four accidents happened in the vicinity within the space of an hour.

“One rider sustained head injuries, two more suffered concussion and a fourthsustained friction burns after being thrown on to the road.

“Heavy rain and a greasy surface was the probable cause. Riders had to be extra careful descending as streams were running down the road surface.”

Now in its 13th year, the annual event is rated as the most popular of its kind in Britain, with all its 1,480 places booked within 12 hours when the entry forms first appeared on the internet.

It caters for cyclists of all persuasions and is not classed as a race.

Times have been trimmed below six hours in recent years for the 114-mile event, which begins and ends at Coniston sports centre.

But because of conditions this year, no rider broke the six-hour barrier.

Once again James Dobbin, from London, had the leading time – of six hours five minutes – with Neil Crampton of the Crosstrax team tying with him across the line.

In 6th place Lakes Road Club’s Andy Sudell notched a creditable time of six hours 14 minutes. Club colleague Dave Ralph took 13th place with another top time of six hours 22 minutes. The challenge is run in memory of Fred Whitton, who was the Lakes Road Club racing secretary and died of cancer aged 50.

Paul Loftus from Foxfield, who organises the challenge, said, “It was a typical Lake District day, with all kinds of contrasting weather affecting the cyclists which is evident from the slower times – from hailstones bouncing off the road to lots of sunshine in the afternoon.

“The good thing was that the day was nice and warm, even during the inclement moments. The wet weather did contribute towards the accidents, unfortunately, but four riders have left hospital now, and the one remaining is, we are told, on the mend. All in all, it was a great day. It’s heartening to see so many riders here who return again and again to do ‘The Fred’, quite apart from the all new faces who were doing the challenge for the first time.”

 

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