We take in Cheshire’s rural charms with a cycling club that truly does it all
- Words: Russell Jones | Photos: Andy Jones
Meets: Chester RC start the week with a 6.30pm Monday Mooch, a steady ride to spin out any racing from the weekend; it’s also a great opportunity for newer riders to ride with some of the more experienced riders. Tuesday night is the 7pm chaingang around Saighton, followed by the 9am Wednesday Work Shy for those who are available to ride during the week. Check the website for details of weekend and other rides.
Website: www.chesterroadclub.co.uk | Twitter: @ChesterRoadClub
Gifted with the sprawling Cheshire lanes one way and the testing hills of North Wales the other, some would say that the Chester Road Club has the ideal location. Club chairman James Eastbury is the first to agree: “Yes, the riding in North Wales is just amazing, and although everyone says Cheshire is flat, I don’t think you are going to experience that today.”
It’s Saturday morning and Rubens Coffee in Chester is surrounded by the red, white and blue of the club kit, all of us sorting into our own little groups then filtering through the Roman walls that mark the city boundaries. Before long we’re pedalling along quiet lanes through Mickle Trafford and Guilden Sutton out towards Kelsall hill.
Road and cyclo-cross racer Nick Whitley, now riding alongside me, explains how although he got into cycling only six years ago, he’s been racing for just as long. “Cyclo-cross is strong here now, it’s picked up massively in the club. We’ve got a few groups that head off into Llyn Brenig and quite a few of the ladies get involved too.”
Eastbury was right, the flat lanes quickly give way to undulations, eventually culling the conversation as we climbed the ‘German Wall’ of Kelsall, rewarding us with views across to Wales, before cutting through the back of Delamere Forest and then onto the typically quaint Cheshire village of Tarporley.
The group we were out with seemed to represent the club well; a mix of ages, experience and abilities, all chatting together and moving in harmony against a backdrop of Beeston Castle before heading on through Hart Hill, Malpas and finally on to Saighton, taking in part of the club’s Thursday night TT course.
Approaching Chester I roll alongside vice chairman and club co-sponsor Phil Pearson of Pearson Financial Management. “I only took up cycling six years ago and I hadn’t a clue what I was doing,” he laughs. “But the club brought me on and they were very helpful and supportive, so I kept going back. Slowly I got better and eventually I wasn’t the last lad up the hill. It was never just about the fast boys here, there was a definite move towards wanting to bring kids and beginners through, which gave me the impetus
to get involved.”
Guided back via the bike paths that dissect the city, we come to a stop by the cake stand at the New Scene Centre, the location of Friday night’s club meeting and today’s Go-Ride event. Organised by the Chester RC every Saturday, the field outside is full of parents and children learning lifelong skills. Luckily, I’ve chanced upon their monthly homemade cakes day; run alongside the Go-Ride, it’s an ideal opportunity for the older and newer riders to socialise.
Wiping away the crumbs from my mouth before I left, one of the main things I noted after spending the morning with the Chester RC is that everyone I spoke to felt the club was perfect for them. Some were focused on racing, others on endurance riding, others riding solely for the social element. It was a varied mix of members, each bringing their own special little something into the melting pot of the club.
Co-sponsor Gary Maoudis of Toni & Guy (Chester) confirmed: “For me, the thing with the Chester is, when I was training for the 12-hour, well there’s a 12-hour specialist in the club, the same when I was training for 10-mile TTs too. Also, if I have a year off and come back I’d like to still have a group I can ride with.
“It’s simple really, we have a ride for everyone no matter how fit and what ability you are, and I think anyone could turn up and find something that’s right for them. It’s just cycling at the end of the day, it’s about us all riding bikes and having fun.”
Formed back in 1932 by a group of friends, The Cestrian Wheelers quickly became an NCU-registered club and boasted regular club rides out towards the likes of Denbigh in North Wales or Shrewsbury in Shropshire.
As the club grew it gained a strong reputation for time trialling, promoting its first ‘25’ in July 1937 and its first ‘50’ in the September of that year.
Club runs and racing returned in force after the war and soon after a young ‘Vinnie’ Denson joined, quickly setting tandem records with Keith Lawton.
As Denson progressed through the ranks and onto the professional road stage, the club consolidated its burgeoning time trial reputation.
Just over a decade ago, with numbers down to 150, the committee decided a different direction was needed and started the today’s upward trend, boosting membership by 200 in the space of three years. With the club focusing on offering a number of different runs and also new rider development for all ages, they also attracted sponsorship from Toni & Guy (Chester) and Pearson Financial Management.
Meanwhile, the club’s time trialling success has continued — the torch now carried by the National TTT Championship winning team of Gina Riley, Jill Wilkinson and Rebecca Holland.
- With a successful rider development plan already in place, it was a natural progression for the local Go-Ride sessions to merge with the club.
- This year the club hosted the National Para-Cycling Championships.
- Vin Denson, the Tour de France team-mate of the late Tom Simpson, started his racing days at the Chester back in 1950. Recently a guest speaker at their annual club dinner, Denson was the first British rider to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia and also the first to win a continental national tour (1965 Tour of Luxembourg).
- Cementing the club’s time trial reputation, the Chester RC took last year’s Women’s TTT National Champs, placing second this year. “I think it was important to us that we were going to do it for our local club,” beamed Rebecca Holland, one third of the team.
Chester Road Club club run
1 German Wall
Nicknamed as a nod to the WW2 German POWs held here who built the brick wall on the hill. A testing climb but the views from the summit made it all worthwhile.
2 Beeston Castle
We skirted past this wonderful English Heritage site. Also displaying Bronze Age items excavated from the site, the ruins of this medieval stronghold are a popular family destination.
3 Chester Cycle Paths
Nearing the end we were given a taster of the excellent network of cycle tracks that crisscross the city, helping commuters and social cyclists bypass the traffic through the city centre.
Just a stone’s throw from the city walls, the cafe easily seats club riders and the general public on a Saturday morning. “We’ve lots of favourite cafes dotted around but this is the meeting place for our weekend rides,” says Gina Riley. Rubens Coffee, 122 Foregate Street, Chester, CH1 1HB