British Classics: The North Road Hardriders TT

The 26th of February sees a British Classic take place with an honours list packed with British legends and greats; the North Road CC’s ‘Hard Riders’ Time Trial

Update: With less than a week to go to the official closing date (14th) there are already some impressive names on the start sheet for the North Road Hardriders Time Trial. Lots of former winners are down to ride including Wouter Sybrandy (IG Sigma Sport, 2011), Richard Prebble (Node4 – Giordana, 1992 & 2007), Julian Ramsbottom (, 2002 & 2008), and Matt Bottrill (I-Ride,2010 2nd in 2011).

Others include Andrew Griffiths (Team IG Sigma Sport), 3rd in the 2011 National 25 while a Masters champion in Roy Chamberlain (Corley Cycles) is entered. Other riders from Corley Cycles are Ashley Cox and Liam Stones. There is even a Trike entered, Ralph Dadswell of Antelope RT. Keep up to date with those rider on the club website

VeloUK has highlighted a number of classic British Road Races but the ‘Hardriders’ is an event steeped in just as much history as organiser Neil Lewis pointed out when we contacted him. Who’s heard of Alf Engers? Well, even though I was in a little country town in Australia when he raced aged 14, I read of his exploits in a magazine that was three months out of date by the time it got to Oz and his name is on the winners list as is that of Bob Downs, still seen around bike races to this day. A time trialling legend, Daryl Webster too is on the list and holds the honour of the most wins, five between 1983 and 1987.

A certain Chris Boardman was the first under the hour in 1991 and is still the event 25 event record holder.

Want more ‘names’? How about Sean Yates, Tim Stevens, Matt Bottrill, Michael Hutchinson, Julian Ramsbotton, Chris Newton, Gethin Butler and Eddie Adkins to name but a few of the names on the roll of honour. It is a bloody great classic of a race!

Winner in 2010, Matt Bottrill. Matt says of the race “The Northroad is a really classic event, all the best British Time trialist have won it. The course is very technical and hilly, I would say its probably the best organised event outside the National championships. Plus there is an amazing price list and a great atmosphere around the course. Not sure if I’m going to be there in 2012 as I might start my season a little later as the only focus for me this year will be to win the National 25 & 50 and to have a crack at the 100”.

In the book, North Road CC – The Second Fifty Years of Road Riding (1935-1985)’(by DH Gates, KM Lovatt & FC Sellens), in an extract from it, the authors sum up the quality of the winners on the list when they say “To win it said more than a little about a man’s class, and a perusal of the results in the history of each year will prove the point. Top-class road men, time-triallists and emerging champions have figured regularly, a tribute to the event and the competitors alike”.

The ‘Hardriders’ was first promoted in 1939 by the Kingsdale CC with the North Road CC volunteering to promote it for the first time in 1955. It reverted to the Norion CC for the following three years before the task of providing 35 marshalls and officials proved to be too much.

The North Road CC stepped in again in 1959 as it was felt important to retain the continuity of the event and since then the event has become one of the major events on the time trialling calendar. Held on roads locally know as ‘Little Switzerland’ or the ‘Hertfordshire Alps’ between Hertford and Potters Bar, the course has seen various versions over the years, with the use of some classic lanes such as Bucks Alley, Bread and Cheese Lane, Park Lane Paradise no longer usable and others such as Darnicle Hill having returned following a period of absence with Essenden Hill, Carbone Hill, Tylers Causeway, Cucumber Hall Lane still in use to this day.

Nominally a 25, over the years, as a result of weather conditions and roadworks, the course has on occasion ranged from 18 miles to 28 miles.

History …
The history of the race, as already mentioned, is documented in a book called ‘North Road CC – The Second Fifty Years of Road Riding (1935-1985)’ and in that the authors talk of the race owing its origins to the decision of the Balham CC to promote a “rough riders” event in mid- February in the early thirties, on roads close to the South London suburbs, as a pipe-opener to the racing season.

The event proved so successful that members of the Kingsdale CC decided, in 1939, to run a similar event on roads close to North London, but on a later date in February, to avoid a clash with the Balham event. Thus, on Sunday 26th February 1939, the Hardriders was born, and has been promoted on the fourth Sunday in February every year since, come snow or sunshine.

The original course went via Northaw, Crews Hill, Bullsmoor, the unmade roads of Theobalds Park, Cheshunt, Wormley West End, the back end of Broxbourne, Epping Green, Newgate Street, more unmade roads from the bottom of Carbone Hill, via Tolmers, to Cuffley Station, Northaw, Vineyards, Cuffley Ridgeway and finished back at Queenswood.

In 1950 objections were raised about the use of private roads and the course was revised to use all public roads by incorporating more lanes in the Little Berkhamstead, Bayford and Brickendon areas. However, despite these and all the subsequent course changes brought about by a variety of reasons, the essential character of the Hardriders, and particularly the hills, has been retained.

In 1984, the Hardriders was selected for inclusion in the Classic League Competition and Darryl Webster (the record holder for the most number of wins), who won the event for the second successive year at that time, went on to win the Classic League.

A double winner of the event, Michael Hutchinson.

While the event is a classic well over 70 years since it was first run, that status was already being bestowed upon it even in the 60’s when the ‘Cycling’ magazine would feature it regularly. A small but significant milestone occurred in 1980 when sisters, the two Misses Wilson, of the London St Christophers, rode – the first ladies in the Hardriders.

The current Thistle Trophy was first awarded in 1965 and in 1981, RTTC events were open to professionals and the Hardriders first ‘Open’ event was to be won by a professional, Bob Cary. Every event suffers problems with the weather no matter what time of year it’s held and the ‘Hardriders’ is no exception. In 1993, it was the first time the event had to be cancelled due to weather and it was then cancelled twice more n 2001 & 2004.

And so to 2012, 72 years after the first one was held, another North Road Hard Riders is on the calendar (‘beauty’ as we’d say in Oz), Sunday 26th February. Distance for the 2012 edition is 25 miles and the first rider is away at 8am. Headquarters is at the Queenswood School, Shepherds Way, Hatfield AL9 6NS.

Entries to be on standard CTT forms to: Neil Lewis, 40 Old Rd, East Peckham, Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 5ET Entry £9.00 – cheques to North Road CC.

BRITISH CLASSIC TIME TRIALS: Can you help VeloUK by telling us about other long running time trials that can be regarded as ‘classics’. If so, click here and send us some details. Or, if you’re a winner of a classic, we’d love to feature your memories of them … click here to tell us yours!

Prior to 1955 event promoted by Kingsdale C.C.
1955    R. Gosman    Barnet CC    1.19.37
1956 to 1958 promoted by Norion CC
1959    A. Howling    Castille RC    1.12.49
1960    I. Moore    Zeus RC    1.08.53
1961    J. Bornbas    Finsbury Park CC    1.12.14
1962    D. E. Meekins    Welwyn Wheelers    1.12.58
1963    T. Nimmo    Letchworth Velo    1.05.58    23 miles
1964    S. Lovatt    Century RC    1.10.58
1965    B. McKeown    Welwyn Wheelers    1.09.19
1966    B. McKeown    Welwyn Wheelers    1.08.15
1967    B. Lapworth    CC Islington    1.10.28
1968    J. Winstanley    Finsbury Park CC    1.08.23
1969    J. Winstanley    Finsbury Park CC    1.09.57
1970    C. Kearley    Whitewebbs CC    1.07.04
1971    J. MacMillan    West London Cour    1.05.56
1972    J. MacMillan    West London Cour    1.05.53
1973    R Cary    Whitewebbs CC    1.09.08
1974    D. Sheehy    Hainault CC    1.09.39
1975    S. Poulter    Highgate CC    1.11.58
1976    A. Engers    Woolwich CC    1.08.34
1977    R.J Downs    VC Olympia    1.06.42
1978    R.J Downs    Anglia Sport    1.08.28
1979    S. Yates    Archer RC    1.06.46
1980    T. Stevens    34 Nomads    1.03.45
1981    R. Cary    Professional    1.10.47
1982    M. D. Pyne    CC Breckland    1.02.03
1983    D. J. Webster    Manchester Wheelers    1.01.39
1984    D. J. Webster    Manchester Wheelers    1.00.38
1985    D. J. Webster    Manchester Wheelers    1.02.56
1986    D. J. Webster    Manchester Wheelers    1.02.46
1987    D. J. Webster    Manchester Wheelers    1.00.29
1988    E. J. Adkins    High Wycombe CC    1.04.31
1989    J. Walshaw    Professional    1.03.00
1990    T. M. Jackson    Invicta RC    1.02.14
1991    C. M Boardman    Manchester Wheelers    0.57.20
1992    R. J. Prebble    Wembley RC    0.59.08
1993    No event.
1994    S. Dangerfield    North Wirral Velo    0.58.00
1995    G. Butler    Norwood Paragon CC    1.00.00
1996    G. Butler    Norwood Paragon CC    0.58.32    short course
1997    S.Yates    Team Clean    0.58.44
1998    M Belfield    GS Strada    1.00.20
1999    G. Butler    Norwood Paragon CC    1.05.25    28.2 miles
2000    C. Newton    Midridge CRT    1.01.57
2001    No event.
2002    J. Ramsbottom    Race Scene    1.04.41    27.4 miles
2003    C.Newton    Corima RT    0.51.03    22.2 miles
2004    No event.
2005    M. Huchinson    Api-Metrow    0.54.23    23.0 miles
2006    M. Huchinson    in-Gear Quickvit RT    0.59.14
2007    R. Prebble    Pinarello RT    0.59.45
2008    J. Ramsbottom    DeRosa RT    0.42.55    18.0 miles
2009    S. Gaywood    Team Corley Cycles    0.58.36
2010    M. Bottrill    0.59.30
2011    W. Sybrandy    Sigma Sport    0.42.22    18.0 miles
2012   Wouter Sybrandy IG Sigma Sport 56:36 Course record and 25 mile event record


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