Sean Lacey heads out on an Easter Day parade with a club surrounded by spectacular scenery
- Photos by Andy Jones
A quick glance at the computer shows almost 40mph as we snake down Jiggers Bank, carving through the curves until we reach the birthplace of industry, Ironbridge, nestled in the gorge on the River Severn. The group takes a moment to gather the riders as the next couple of miles are the complete opposite and uphill, following the river west up to a breathtaking vista over the valley.
Recently elected club chairman Dave Moore is out with us today leading the ride on his, well… mountain bike. His road bike is in surgery and to be fair, he’s just as quick on its fat-tyred brother. “Last year the club was looking for a fresh face to lead the club. I was nominated at our AGM, which was something of a surprise, and felt obliged to give it a go,” he says.
A baptism of fire somewhat, but Moore has relished the opportunity.
The club has a strong tie to racing — time trials especially — and although it is evolving into a more social and club-run friendly group, the committee are determined to retain a link to those roots. For years now the club have run a hugely popular Wednesday evening TT series spanning pretty much the whole season, attracting riders from all over the county and beyond.
Despite the warmer temperatures and odd ray of sunshine, the Shropshire lanes are staying particularly damp and mucky, with the odd flooded section to keep us on our toes. Nevertheless, spirits are high, with the talk being of spring finally arriving and no one seems bothered about filthy bikes and wet feet.
Out with us today is Kirsti Wells, who is another new addition to the club committee. Wells tells us, “I joined the club four years ago through a recommendation and I’ve loved it — so much so, I joined the committee as the British Cycling liaison and welfare officer. It’s great to get more involved and give something back.” It’s a common theme talking to the members out today, with a lot of love for the club and a willingness to get involved and help to improve it.
The scenery today is something special; it’s what Shropshire does best and it’s a peach of a place to ride a bike. As we head toward Church Stretton, the hills rise up all around, but we take a flatter route to the cafe in the valley, the infamous Burway climb perched precariously on the sheer hillside. In the comfort of the cafe we tuck into various treats and catch up with Ron Perks — in his seventies, the oldest member out today — who joined back in 1952.
“Today is the 63rd anniversary of my first ever race, the 1955 Easter Sunday Gornal Junior GP!” he says. “I still get out as much as possible, joining the Sunday runs and still racing the evening TTs.” If ever there was an advertisement for cycling being a healthy pursuit, Perks is it.
The run back is somewhat flatter than the lumpy ride out and the pace reflects it; the group humming along nicely, bets being taken in a friendly wager on who will take the glory at the Tour of Flanders, under way a few hundred miles away with a couple of club members over in Belgium to ride the sportive and watch the race. Parting shots are from Damian Jay who is membership secretary and looks after the website: “We have revamped the club over the last few months, membership is on the rise and with plenty of great ideas we are certainly on the up!”
They are indeed, and we’re sure the club’s centenary celebrations will be something special.
Boasting the claim of the oldest club in Shropshire, Wrekinsport formed in 1922 (as Wrekin Cycling & Athletic Club) and are edging ever closer to their 100th birthday — the 90th anniversary included an evening and ride out with Irish legend Stephen Roche, but thoughts are already turning to how that can be bettered.
Over the decades the name has changed, during the war to Wrekin Racing Cycling Club and in 1965 the club joined forces with another local club, Dawley Velo, to become Wrekinsport.
During the first 50 years or so the club was run in the main by the Clements family and in 1948 the eldest son Ernie won a silver medal at the London Olympics road race. He had already won National Championship races and ridden the biggest domestic races of the day such as London to Glasgow.
Younger brothers Walter, Frank and Roy also raced at a high level, Roy was a national junior road race champion in 1957, as was a young Graham Bufton the following year. Bufton also won three veteran cyclo-cross titles in his later years after a career as a professional rider.
Another prominent rider from that time was Mick Jeggo, who in later years became the organiser of many top races including for many years the floodlit Newport Nocturne until his recent passing.
In recent times the club has prospered as a top local club in the TT scene, winning the county top club award for nine out of the last 10 years. Paul Manning rode for the club as a junior rider just a few years before the first of his Olympic team pursuit medals and Andy Bason gained National CTT placings in championship events.
New for 2018, Wrekinsport are proud to be hosting a round of the prestigious British Cycling Paracycling National Closed Road Circuit and Time Trial Series.
Taking place on Sunday, July 8 using the club’s well-established evening 10-mile circuit — albeit with different start and finish points — this is a re-run of an inspiring event first put on by Mid Shropshire Wheelers in 2016.
Ride highlights: Wrekinsport CC
1 Jiggers Bank
Listed in Simon Warren’s 100 Climbs book, we are descending it today; the fast swooping road is a thrilling ride down into the Ironbridge gorge, past historic buildings and furnaces followed by a serene ride along the river.
2 Corkscrew Hill
You will have been climbing for a while but the Corkscrew starts here. Winding its way up, the focus is the beautiful spot at the top with a memorial bench to Graham Bufton, three-time national champion.
3 Church Stretton
This rural town is an ideal base for exploring, sitting at the foot of the hill known as the Long Mynd. There are a variety of routes over and around it plus the myriad of stunning cycling roads in the area.
Favourite cafe: Carding Mill Valley
The National Trust-owned cafe in the valley is big enough to host plenty of hungry cyclists. It gets busy but there are still plenty of tables to enjoy the selection on offer, from full lunches to some tasty looking cakes, washed down with good coffee or even a beer. You’ll deserve the reward — especially if you’ve tackled one of the killer hills. Carding Mill Cafe, Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton SY6 6JG, 01694 725000.
Member Q&A: Dave Spencer-Brown
CW: How long have you been a member and why did you join Wrekinsport?
DSB: I’ve been a member of Wrekinsport for nine years. My first contact with the club was when a friend convinced me to do one of the club’s Wednesday night time trials. I can’t say I enjoyed the actual time trial itself but everyone was friendly and encouraging.
Later I went along to a Sunday club ride; the best advice I received on that first club ride was from a long-standing member who said, “If it’s a big group make sure you’re at the front of the group when you arrive at the cafe stop.” That has always stuck with me and I am slightly embarrassed to say it’s become a bit of a habit! I joined shortly after that first club ride.
CW: What prompted you to join the committee earlier this year?
DSB: I was elected onto the committee this year as an ‘additional member’ which means I don’t have a specific role but help out with things like organising our social and presentation evenings and leading club runs.
Wrekinsport has a long tradition of being a time trialling-oriented club and we are now attracting a lot more members who are quite new to cycling and are initially more interested in social and sportive rides rather than racing, so we are trying to cater for what the members want and to realise the club must evolve.