Hardy participants brave bad weather for Harborough’s first cycling fest

A cyclist climbs the crest of a hill during the Harborough's Festival of Cycling event on Sunday.
A cyclist climbs the crest of a hill during the Harborough's Festival of Cycling event on Sunday.

Rain and wind failed to unseat Market Harborough’s first ever cycling festival at the weekend.

More than 200 people took to the streets on their bicycles for the town’s inaugural Festival of Cycling event on Sunday.

Participants during Harborough's Festival of Cycling event at the weekend

Participants during Harborough's Festival of Cycling event at the weekend

The organisers hoped it would offer something for everybody and in the end it proved to be a test of character as well as endurance.

The weather could not have been worse with gusts of 80mph and torrential rain forecast. As it turned out, conditions were not quite as bad but were still not ideal for some of the family-friendly fun that was planned.

The inclement conditions did play a part in slightly reduced numbers taking part, with about 40 people pulling out on the morning.

But 100 participants took part in the 100km route and 65 cycled the 50km course.

Harborough's Festival of Cycling event on Sunday

Harborough's Festival of Cycling event on Sunday

People came from across Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to take part and included England’s rugby World Cup hero and Harborough home-town legend Martin Johnson.

Both routes started at Harborough’s Robert Smyth Academy, in Burnmill Road, and took in many local villages including Great Bowden, Foxton, Medbourne, Kibworth and Mowsley before returning back to Harborough.

“Both the adults events were ‘Sportives’ so there is not a winner as such because of the way they are structured,” explained Amy Handford of event organisers Race Harborough.

“Given the conditions, everybody who completed the distance is a winner in my view.”

Smiles despite the weather at the weekend

Smiles despite the weather at the weekend

Other activities at Robert Smyth race HQ included 25 free coaching sessions on cycling carried out by 2012 Olympic torch-bearer and Welland Valley Whizz Kids club stalwart Dean Barnett.

The event also included a prize-laden family trail organised and run by green group Sustainable Harborough.

The organisers were quick to praise the ten volunteers who braved the weather and supported the riders along the way.

Amy said: “Without them, the event couldn’t have taken place.”

Thumbs up for the the town's first ever Festival of Cycling event

Thumbs up for the the town's first ever Festival of Cycling event

There was also a team of volunteers from the local safe cycle-route charity Adam’Smile which welcomed wet and cold cyclists at Lubenham Village Hall with a hot cuppa and some home-made flapjacks, which went down a treat.

Businesses were just as generous, with items donated from town clothing store The White Stuff being handed out in a well-deserved goodie bag as all the finishers crossed the line.

The whole event was sponsored by St Mary’s Road firm Alden Electrical.

In total, the event raised more than £1,200 for Adam’Smile.  

Many of the participants took to Facebook after the event, including cyclist James Stretton, who said: “Thoroughly enjoyed today, especially the last half the 100km with the wind finally behind us.

“Looking forward to next year, when hopefully the weather will be better.

Gavin Fletcher, Jo Sharman and Emily Crown from green group Sustainable Harborough which organised a children's treasure trail on the grounds of Robert Smyth Academy during the festival

Gavin Fletcher, Jo Sharman and Emily Crown from green group Sustainable Harborough which organised a children's treasure trail on the grounds of Robert Smyth Academy during the festival

“My thanks goes out to all the marshals and volunteers that helped support it.”

Race Harborough’s next and most ambitious event to date will be the Carnival of Running, taking place on Saturday, June 13, on Harborough Carnival day, which will include the first half-marathon in Market Harborough for more than three decades .

It will be raising money for another local charity, The Squires Effect.

For more details about the group or to register for June’s Carnival of Running event, visit the website www.raceharborough.co.uk.

Dean Barnett, of Welland Valley Whizz Kids, teaching youngsters cycling skills at the Festival of Cycling HQ at Harborough's Robert Smyth Academy

Dean Barnett, of Welland Valley Whizz Kids, teaching youngsters cycling skills at the Festival of Cycling HQ at Harborough's Robert Smyth Academy