Gutsy Pledger wins President’s Cup: Peel District Cycling Club

Last year's winner Ken Portman and Derek Crowther.       Picture: Colin Rose
Last year's winner Ken Portman and Derek Crowther.       Picture: Colin Rose

THE final road race of the season for Peel District Cycling Club, the President’s Cup, was won by Luke Pledger at the weekend.

The President’s Cup is a handicap race where all riders compete over the same six laps of the 8.5km Casuarina circuit.

The competitors’ start time is determined by their race grade, with the aim of all riders finishing together.

Last year, the race was won by 78-year-old Ken Portman, who cut four minutes off his previous time to win convincingly.

Portman was back to defend his title and was going to need to beat last year’s time to win.

Portman was joined on the start line by the slightly younger Derek Crowther and the much younger Calum Milne.

On the first lap, junior-grade rider Milne could not keep pace with the more experienced riders and was dropped.

Milne showed perseverance to complete the gruelling race.

Within a couple of laps, it became apparent Portman was not going to repeat his win this year, as Crowther rode away from him.

Ten minutes later, D-Grade started, but after a fast first lap, the bunch disintegrated, leaving riders scattered all over the course.

The C-Grade put in a workman-like performance with solid times and the group shed few riders.

The biggest group of the day was B-Grade, which gained slowly on C-Grade, but by the halfway point it looked unlikely they would catch them.

A-Grade set a blistering pace of more than 42km/h for the first three laps to catch B-Grade on the fourth lap.

The pace slowed for A-Grade, but picked up for B-Grade.

With one-and-a-half laps to go, Luke Pledger and Wade Longworth attacked up a slight rise.

The bunch did not chase and the pair rode away.

Pledger and Longworth caught C-Grade with less than a lap to go.

With only a couple of kilometres to go, the pair caught and passed Crowther, who had ridden most of the race alone.

In the end, Pledger rode away to take the win, with Longworth second.

The bunch had now swelled to more than 30 riders, with a mix of A-, B- and C-Grade riders.

They caught Crowther in sight of the finish.

In the sprint for minor places, Conor Leahy was third and Ben Blacklock fourth.

Racing will resume with the mid-week summer time trials starting on October 28 at Hopelands.