PM+M sponsors 56th annual running of classic cycling event

By PM+M Chartered Accountants

13 Feb 2024

PM+M Bike Race

PM+M is delighted to provide title sponsorship for this year’s Clayton Spring Classic Handicap cycle road race.

Managing partner Helen Clayton said “as a natural extension of the PM+M Two-Wheeled Professionals Cycle Networking events hosted by our own Neil Welsh and Roger Phillips and for a race with a rich pedigree, we were very happy to offer our support.”

The event on 25 February will be the 56th annual edition of the traditional Northern season opener. Having been held later in the year in the last two years this year returns to the usual date on the last Sunday in February. This means that riders have an early and significant target after a full winter of training and preparation - time to switch from indoor Zwift session to the real and very ‘grippy’ roads between Clitheroe, Mitton and Bashall Eaves.

The handicap format sees a full field of 80 riders split into category-related groups. Women, Juniors (age 16-18), 3rd and 4th category seniors and veterans go next with Elite and 1st category riders forming the ‘scratch’ group, giving away close to eight minutes on group one. The racing is hard and fast from the gun over 16 laps of the 3.9 mile course as groups chase each other down for the best part of 60 miles.

Event organisers Neil Welsh, Sam Dobson and the British Cycling Commissaire team set the group gaps with the expectation that everything comes together for the last couple of laps but there have also been occasions where riders from the first group held off the chasers. Most notably 16 year old Tom Pidcock (now racing at World Tour level for Ineos Grenadiers, Tour de France stage winner and World Champion) become the first junior to win the race’s 50th edition in 2016. When asked for comment in-between his current Cyclo Cross race commitments he said of the race “a great and fun way to start the season. It’s a nice challenge to try and fend off the pros as a junior.”

Other former winners include a host of World Championship and Olympic medallists, with local legend Si Wilson who won in 2014 also entered for this year’s event. An age-related World Champion on the track, he will face the brightest young talent the country has to offer, including that of Ben Wiggins (you may recognise the surname).

Support from PM+M, along with that of Burnley College/Fitness Evolution contribute to a generous prize list for all categories and there are also lap prizes to fight for along the way. The event carries full NEG (National Escort Group) motorcycle marshal support, alongside British Cycling Accredited Marshals with the legal right to control traffic.
 
Although the event operated at a slight loss last year, previous profits held by Team SB Hub have been used to support the development of young regional talent. For the last couple of years Matilda McKibben has raced throughout the UK and Europe with equipment and travel expenses partly subsidised by Team SB Hub. PM+M support makes it much more likely that similar support can be maintained and extended to others through 2024 and beyond.

Race organiser Neil said: “I grew up with a neighbour of my parents (Dave Gabbott) who was a racing cyclist and member of Clayton Velo. When he first invited me to join him for a ride at age 14 I was immediately hooked and introduced to events like the Spring Classic.

"I became a member of Clayton Velo myself and from that went on to form Cycle Sport Pendle with another Clayton member Peter Boast. Together and with the help of others including Pendle Borough Council we secured funding for the construction of the Steven Burke Sports Hub in Pendle and the formation of Team SB Hub. I’ve raced the Spring Classic myself in the past but was proud to accept the role of organiser when Peter handed over the reins.

"I’m extremely grateful of the support provided by PM+M for this year’s event, as well as that of Fitness Evolution and look forward to a great event. I know in advance that we are guaranteed a worthy winner.”

Looking Back

Clayton Velo was founded in 1968 and one of their first tasks was to contribute to the racing calendar in the North West and the Clayton Spring classic was born. Riders in the new club where drawn from several East Lancashire towns but took their name from Clayton le Moor near Accrington because founding member Jack Spencer had a bike shop there, they still meet every Sunday in Whalley.

Club secretary Alan Roper has been involved with all previous editions of the race said “We are all getting on a bit now so the riders no longer head out for 100 mile thrashes around the Bowland fells or Yorkshire dales, those days have long gone. We are no longer organising several races each season like we used to do but are determined to keep the Spring Classic going with the help of Team SBHub, represented by organisers Neil Welsh and Sam Dobson.”

The club established itself as a force throughout the 70s and through to the early 90s with a constant stream of Elite riders, several going on to represent GB at world championships, commonwealth games and Olympics. Tony Gornall led the way with a 15-year career which included winning the Lincoln Grand Prix in 1975, that same year he was National Star Trophy overall series winner. He and club mate Howard Walmsley both rode the Tour of Britain, Tony‘s highest finish was 9th on GC and 2nd King of the mountains.

Alan and Mark Gornall (no relation to Tony) and Sister Linda all went on to successful careers including Gold for Alan at the 1986 Commonwealth games. The Smith brothers Karl and Nigel followed, both prolific winners including the Eddie Soen’s for Karl and who is still racing and entered for the 2024 edition. Pete Boyd was a multiple National champion on the track.

Tour de France rider Alan Ramsbottom (born in Clayton) was in the club during a brief comeback to racing in the 80s. He rode the Tour de France twice, finishing 16th overall in 1963. Alan sadly passed away age 86 in 2023.

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