Tour veteran will lead People’s Peloton

Howard Walmsley who will take part in the People's Peloton prior to the Tour of Britain. (s)
Howard Walmsley who will take part in the People's Peloton prior to the Tour of Britain. (s)
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A Whalley man who finished 11th in the 1968 Tour of Britain is to lead a “people’s peloton” prior to Stage 2 of this year’s race.

Stage 2 of the 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain will power through 154km of Ribble Valley and Pendle between Clitheroe and Colne on Monday September 7th.

A People’s Peloton comprising Ribble Valley’s community champions and unsung heroes and heroines will undertake a 1km circuit of Clitheroe town centre under police escort prior to the top race, which starts at 11 am in Castle Street.

Bradley Wiggins might have been a nipper when seventy-two-year-old Howard Walmsley started cycling, but he is one of the reasons why next Monday’s Tour of Britain will be racing along the Ribble Valley’s roads.

Howard, of Hayhurst Road, Whalley, was instrumental in developing bike races in the Ribble Valley.

The life-long cyclist and father-of-two, who set up his own cycling club in 1965 – Clayton Velo – was a pioneer of road racing in the area

Howard, who competed in the Tour of Britain back in 1968 finishing in 11th place and in 21st place in 1970, was nominated by his wife June for his contribution to cycling locally.

“Even as a child I always had a bike, but I took up cycling seriously when I was about 14 or 15. I started with cycling touring clubs and then joined a racing club when I was 16,” Howard explained.

At the age of 17 he won the North West Junior Championship and went on to compete in many races during his lifetime travelling to Belgium and Holland, but mainly competing in the UK.

Honoured to have been nominated for the People’s Peloton, Howard said: “I think the Tour of Britain is great for the Ribble Valley.

“When I was involved with Clayton Velo we were instrumental in developing bike races in the Ribble Valley. We were pioneers of road racing in the area.

“Today cycling has just escalated beyond anything that I could’ve imagined. I watch what’s happening now and wish I was 21 again.”

Howard, who is a member of Whalley Golf Club and was captain in 2014, also represented England in the 1969 Tour of Holland.

He will be joined at the head of the People’s Peloton by Ribble Valley Borough Council leader Stuart Hirst, who was instrumental in bringing Stage 2 of this year’s Tour of Britain to Ribble Valley.

Also taking part will be Clitheroe disability activist Simon O’ Rourke, who started Ribble Valley Shopmobility and the Ribble Valley Tramper Treks scheme that offers residents with restricted mobility the use of all terrain electric buggies to access the countryside. Wheelchair-user Simon will be using a specially adapted bike, said he couldn’t wait to take part.

“I am delighted to have been nominated for the People’s Peloton. The Tour of Britain will be amazing for Ribble Valley and I can’t wait to take part.”

Other participants in the People’s Peloton include Ribblesdale Rotarian Richard Dugdale, who has raised more than £10,000 for charity from sponsored bike rides; Norman Tenray, who is chief executive of construction group OBAS and a fundraiser for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and community nurse Nicky Scorah, who is a keen cyclist and biked across Kenya on behalf of Women v Cancer.

Ribble Valley Borough Council chief executive Marshal Scott called on spectators to give the People’s Peloton a resounding cheer as it made its way around the town centre.

He said: “The People’s Peloton will give participants the opportunity to take part in a major sporting event, as well as receive recognition for their positive contribution to the community.

“Each member of the peloton is an unsung hero, who has devoted their time to cycling, the community and good causes, some of them raising tens of thousands of pounds for charity from sponsored bike rides.

“The People’s Peloton has certainly captured the public imagination and this is our opportunity to give our unsung heroes and heroines a resounding thank you.”

The People’s Peloton will set off from the official race start in Castle Street and follow the race route through town, ending in Whalley Road in time to watch the Tour of Britain pass.

The Tour of Britain will see the world’s top cyclists, among them Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish power through Ribble Valley and Pendle on a tough 154km route from Clitheroe to Colne.

It is the biggest event to be hosted by Ribble Valley in its 40-year history and will be broadcast internationally by 16 television channels across 139 territories in Europe, Australia and the USA. ITV will screen three hours of live coverage every day and a one-hour highlights programme at night.

Howard Walmsley is pictured at the Leyland Grand Prix aged about 25. (s)