CYCLING: Luckwell shows his Olympic class to win in South Cerney
FORMER Olympic cyclist Ben Luckwell showed there is plenty of life left in his 48-year-old legs when proving a comfortable winner of the South Cerney Road Race on Sunday.
The first round in the eight-race series which makes up the 2014 Cotswold League signalled the potential dominance this season of local team Ride 24/7.
The Cirencester-based outfit have certainly gained early bragging rights in the friendly rivalry with Poulton's Performance Cycles, who sponsored the event, as Ride 24/7 had four of the first six home in Luckwell (winner), Mark Perry (third), Nick Watson (fourth) and rider/manager Grant Bayton (sixth).
Sponsors’ rider Dan Guest, who has been doing so well in local time trials, tried to draw first blood, but it was Luckwell, last year’s winner Perry and Craig Wallduck (Dream Cycling) who made a decisive attack on lap two – and they never saw the pack again.
With under a lap to go in the 88km race, 1990 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and Seoul Olympics veteran Luckwell made his move.
Attacking from the leading group of three, he burst clear, winning alone, in front of packed street-side crowds.
Wallduck took second from Perry, who had the consolation of taking the prize decided on the three sprint sections. Guest finished fifth Significantly this season, Ride 24/7’s two elder statesmen – Luckwell and Bayton – have dropped down from Elite One level to race in Category Two events and with their wealth of experience they are going to be very hard to beat.
They have also been boosted by the capture of Perry.
"Mark and I have been riding together for years," said Bayton. "I tried to get him to join us over the winter but he was committed to his team. However, when they ran into difficulties he came back to me and asked if the offer was still open.
"That's our sixth win this year from around 20 races and I could not ask any more of the team.
"There are no team prizes in the Cotswold League so the aim is to win each of the eight races individually.
"It's not the biggest event we tackle by any means but it means a lot to local riders and our sponsors.
"Ben and myself are both in our 40s and have taken a tactical stance to drop down a level.
"We are no longer prepared to give the level of commitment required to compete against a lot of full-time pros. We've had our day and are moving towards semi-retirement.
"But we find the best way to coach our hugely successful youth team is alongside them – shoulder to shoulder. They don't listen to you from the sidelines!"
Wearing his other hat as regional events officer in the south for British Cycling, Bayton said: "Cycling is booming and South Cerney is jut one of the races we are trying to build on a European model with a number of 'kermesse' races.
"Kermesse is the Flemish word for fete and the idea is to tie in races with another major event in local market towns or villages.
"In South Cerney's case it was the hugely popular Street Fair and Duck Race over the holiday weekend."
In addition to the Cotswold League, Bayton insists the Ride 24/7 team will focus on the Area Championships which have been delayed until later in the season, while he and Luckwell will challenge for the GB Vets Championships at Leighton Buzzard at the end of June.
Of Ride 24/7's second year as a fully-fledged road race team, Bayton says: "We wanted to walk before we could run. We are up to jogging now."