Merseyside Invitation TT

Newton smashes record
By David Taylor for Snowdon Sports Editorial. Photos by Phil O’Connor

Stuart Dangerfield was unable to defend his Mersey TT crown but Chris Newton proved a worthy successor - not only did he beat off the challenge of Jeff Wright and co, he also broke Chris Boardman's course record into the bargain

PREMIER Calendar winner Chris Newton (Team Brite) brought his season to a close with a record-breaking win in Merseyside Wheelers' Invitation Time Trial at Hatchmere, Cheshire, on Sunday. Newton became one of the few riders to lift a Chris Boardman record when he won the 20th edition of the 28-mile event, storming round two laps of a course around the Delamere Forest in 1-04-27 to chop 31 seconds off Boardman's mark set in 1995, when Newton finished third with 1-06-54.

Newton's impressive effort left second-placed Jeff Wright (Guru) no less than 2-38 in arrears, with Gethin Butler (Norwood Paragon) four seconds behind Wright in third place.

The expected battle between Newton and BCF time trial champion Stuart Dangerfield did not materialise, Dangerfield having already left for Holland in preparation for this week's World Time Trial Championship at Valkenburg.

He was not the only big name missing. Matt Bottrill and Bradley Wiggins were also en route to the World's, and with others absent, mainly through illness, there was a total of 15 non-starters.

Organiser Bob Memery, understandably, was not a happy man at the start. But Newton's record effort, he admitted, made up for everything.

"It's saved the event as far as I am concerned," he said after promoting the Merseyside race for a 19th year.

Newton cleaned up on the day's top prizes. Apart from claiming the £225 first prize, he took a further £60 for the fastest two laps of the 14-mile circuit and £40 for being the fastest rider over Overton Hill on both laps. Add £25 for event record, and Newton took home £350 for his winning performance - not a bad pay day, even for Britain's top roadman.

While the men's record was beaten, Maria Lawrence's 1-17-27 best time for a woman was unchallenged.

Angela Hunter (Team Ambrosia) won the women's event with 1-18-30, just four seconds better than team-mate Lawrence managed this time.

A calm but dull day greeted riders as they faced the timekeeper at the start by Hatchmere Lake. Times for the opening lap soon revealed the race pattern as Graeme Stirzaker (VC St Raphael), off number nine, recorded the first ride inside 36 minutes, with 35-29.

Hill-climb specialist Jim Henderson (Oxford University CC) soon improved that, his 35-00 underlining his form as the National Hill-climb Championship approaches. Henderson was also credited with a 2-43 for the timed climb of Overton Hill.

It was man-of-the-moment Mark Lovatt (Team Ambrosia), winner of the last two rounds of the Premier Calendar, who moved to the top of the listings when he came through Hatchmere for the first time in 33-53.

Within minutes Gethin Butler completed his opening lap, and a time of 33-29 put him in command.

Julian Ramsbottom (Team Harrods) was next of the big-hitters to finish the 14-mile opening circuit, his 33-40 moving him into second place.

Newton, however, was already well into his stride. His first ascent at Overton had already indicated his form, his 2-40 a record for the opening climb and seven seconds better than Dangerfield managed last year.

The red clad Team Brite rider steamed through Hatchmere at half-distance and, as his opening lap time of 32-10 went up on the results board, the race was on.

Newton was already in record mode. When Boardman put up his 1995 record, he had taken six seconds longer for the first lap.

The question was, could Newton hold his pace over the final 14 miles?

Wright had already lost 12 seconds to Newton over Overton, and his first lap time of 33-28 put him one second up on Butler but 1-18 down on Newton.

RTTC time trial series winner Richard Prebble (Team Clean) was the last of the seeded riders to come through, but his 33-41 put him in fifth behind Newton, Wright, Butler and Ramsbottom.

Graeme Stirzaker came home with a creditable 1-10-44 followed in by the promoting club's Jim Howard with 1-12-26.

Angela Hunter was also now in. The winner of the Jo Bruton road series had trailed Maria Lawrence by two seconds at the end of lap one, and that after losing 16 seconds to Lawrence on Overton.

Lawrence, however, faded on the second circuit, losing six seconds on Hunter even though she had been nine seconds faster than Hunter over the second ascent of Overton.

Mark Lovatt then finished, and his 1-08-17 gave him temporary top spot. Butler edged him out with 1-07-09 and then Ramsbottom slipped in behind Butler with 1-0727 as Newton sped in with that staggering time of 1-04-27 which was enough to give him victory. Wright and Prebble were still to come in. A 33-37 second lap saw Wright maintain his second spot. Prebble, one second down on Ramsbottom at 14 miles, managed to turn the tables over the final leg to beat Ramsbottom by one second to claim fourth place, one better than last year and in 1995, when Boardman had shown everyone the way home.

1. Chris Newton (Team Brite) ......... 1 04 27 (course record )
2. Jeff Wright (Guru) .......... . . . . 1 07 05
3. Gethin Butler (Norwood Paragon) ..... 1 07 09
4. R. Prebble (Team Clean) ............ 1 07 26
5. J. Ramsbottom (Team Harrods) ...... 1 07 27
6. M. Lovatt (Team Ambrosia) ......... 1 08 17
7. C. McCulloch (Manchester Tri Club) ... 1 09 58
8. L. Suthard (Team Lease Direct)....... 1 10 26
9. J. Henderson (Oxford Univ CC)....... 1 10 30
10. G. Stirzaker (VC St Raphael)......... 1 10 40
11. M. Baker (Team Velo Sport) ......... 1 10 56
12. D. Sweeney (Rockingham Forest Wh). 1 10 59
13. T. Bayley (VC Deal)................ 1 11 10
14. J. Wainmann (Hull Thursday) ........ 1 11 16
15. W. Moore (Leo RC) ............... 1 11 21
16. J. Howard (Merseyside Wh) ......... 1 12 26
17. J. Shaw (Wyre Forest CRC) ......... 1 13 05
18. N. Rothwell (Leo RC) .............. 1 13 32
19. D. Perry (Preston Wh) ............. 1 13 33
20. N. Taylor (Birkenhead Victoria CC) .... 1 14 02

Juniors.- Mark Baker.

1. Angela Hunter (Team Ambrosia) ..... 1 18 30
2. M. Lawrence (Team Ambrosia) ....... 1 18 34
3. M. Johnson (Letchworth Velo) ....... 1 22 29

What they said

Winner Chris Newton knew he was on to a ride. "I thought I would be close to the record today - the conditions were perfect, with hardly any wind," said a smiling Newton as he was congratulated by his supporters and helpers.

"I suppose I have achieved most of my aims this season. The only setback was not getting selected for the World's time trial, but Stuart [Dangerfield] met all the conditions to get the place and he was going better than me when it counted. I was unfortunate to be ill when the BCF time trial championship came around, and that was the final decider for World's selection."

"I was relaxed today. It's my last event this year, so I'm looking forward to a good rest and a few pints. Today's money will help pay for repairing my car after I crashed it last week on my way to the Tour of the Peak."

Newton, who has led Team Brite's domination of the Premier Calendar series, added: "Things are looking good for next season. Talks are going on with a prospective sponsor to take over from Brite. That will be good for the sport - you need strong teams, although I don't think it's a good idea to have all the best riders in one team. There should be a better spread."

Now his season has ended, what is Newton's next big day? "I'm getting married next month," he revealed

Jeff Wright was happy with second place. "I used a new bike, specially made for time trialling," he said. "It went very well, and I did a personal best today, but I finished with rubber legs.

"I was pleased - a couple of weeks ago I lost one and a half minutes to Prebble. I've changed my training for time trialling, doing little stamina work.

"I prefer hilly time trials - I can attack the hills and then rest on the downhill."

Wright rides the hill-climb championship at the end of the month, but misses the Rake event this Sunday. "They apparently didn't get my entry," he explained.

Gethin Butler was celebrating his best ever placing in the Merseyside event. "I was fourth last year, so this is an improvement," he said.

"The Merseyside comes at the wrong time of year for me. I've spent the last months riding BBAR events on dragstrip courses, and that doesn't help when it comes to hilly events."

"I'd do a lot better if it was held in the early part of the season.

"I'm happy enough to finish second in the BBAR to Kevin Dawson. There isn't much between us, but I chose the wrong 12-hour event. Next season I'm going to ride his local 12-hour, the North Midlands event, and aim for more than 300 miles - but don't tell Kevin!"

In last year's event, triathlete Matt Belfield impressed. On Sunday, it was Manchester Tri Club member Charles McCulloch who made his mark.

McCulloch found the hills hard going. "I weigh 13-and-a-half stone, so that doesn't help," he said.

He plans more time trials, as a knee injury has brought a halt to triathlons. Richard Prebble lost most of his time on the climbs.

"I couldn't make it up on the flat," he said. "There didn't seem to be any tailwind bits to help either, but fourth place is my best here.

"I have had a better season than expected - I did very little winter training," Prebble added.