Cyclists celebrate 90 years of Mid Devon Cycle Club

Colin Lewis presenting young starlet Harrison Wood with the President's Trophy

Colin Lewis presenting young starlet Harrison Wood with the President's Trophy - Credit: Archant

One Sunday morning in April 1930 three friends set out on their bikes from Newton Abbot on their regular ride to meet fellow members of the Exeter Wheelers.

The club's special jersey

The club's special jersey - Credit: Archant

As they toiled up the climb towards Haldon, the trio - Fred Bolt, Charlie Phillips and Bill Best - asked each other: 'Why can't we form our own club and avoid this hill every week?'

Less than a month later, they called a meeting in Newton Abbot and did just that - the 'Newton Abbot Wheelers' was born, with 17 members.

On May 18, they held their first 'club run', from Newton to Brixham's Berry Head and back, and by June 1 they had organised their first 'Time Trial', a ten-mile event won in just under half-an-hour.

In 1936, the fledgling club changed its name to the Mid-Devon Road Club and now, as the Mid-Devon CC, the club is celebrating its 90th birthday.

Roy Hopkins

Roy Hopkins - Credit: Archant

It has grown from those 17 founders to more than 500 members today.

On some weekends 100 of them, in the famous red, black and yellow jerseys, take part in eight club runs, according to ability and fitness.

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The fastest are in serious training, keeping up the club's tradition of producing some of the best racers in the UK.

And if you want to win a ten-mile time-trial now, you have to go well under 20 minutes.

After 75 years as the 'Road Club', the Mid-Devon became the 'Cycling Club' in 2005, to reflect the increasingly broad interests of the members, especially cyclo-cross and mountain biking.

But competition has always remained at the heart of the Mid-Devon's ethos, and the region's hilly terrain and a series of inspirational leaders has combined to make the club one of the strongest and best-known in the country.

It has produced six national champions on the road alone.

Professionals Colin Lewis from Torquay and Jeremy Hunt from Totnes each won the UK Senior Road Race Championships twice and both rode in the Tour de France. Lewis also rode in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Roy Hopkins, who won a record-breaking stage of the 'Tour of Britain', and Mike Parker were National Veterans' Champions and Yanto Barker won the National Junior RR Champs.

In recent years Robin Delve has won national and world 'Masters' titles in cycle-cross, and Teignmouth's Donald Brooks has lifted World and European Age-Group Triathlon Championships.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke also won a series of major races at home and abroad, culminating in the 2012 Tour of Britain, before being suspended in a still-controversial 'Biological Passport' ruling.

Many other riders have punched above their weight at national level, including Newton Abbot duo Lauren Dolan, who last year won a team bronze medal at the World Road Race Championships in Yorkshire, and Matt Langworthy, a bronze medallist in the National Time Trial Championships.

The Mid-Devon is currently attracting scores of talented young riders from all over the South West to its ever-growing youth system, backed by a squad of qualified coaches.

Nineteen-year-old Harrison Wood from Torquay is the latest product of that system.

After a year in France with the AVC Aix-en-Provence club, he has been selected by Holland's crack SEG Racing Academy development team to continue his dream of becoming a top international pro.

And underpinning all the activities is the Dartmoor Classic, the hugely successful 'sportive' which attracts up to 4,000 riders from all over the world to South Devon each year.

From its first edition in 2007 the Classic, backed by hundreds of volunteers, is now the UK's top not-for-profit cycling marathon.

New club chairman Liam McGrath says: 'Over the next 90 years we intend to be an example of a modern and progressive community sports organisation and centre of excellence, providing opportunities for fun and good mental and physical well-being.'

The Covid-19 lockdown has put some celebrations on hold, but a special 'birthday' jersey has already been linked to a £5,000 fund-raising campaign which has delivered hundreds of jars of skin cream to hospital and care staff across Devon.