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Hartlepool Road Race

Wetherall wins by inches

ONLY inches separated the leaders when they hit the finishing line at the end of Cleveland's cycling road race season opener at Hartlepool after 38 miles of racing dominated by five riders.

Grabbing the first win of the year, Ryton Cheviot's Ray Wetherall squeezed out Thornaby CRT-Been Bag's Dave Thompson over the closing yards with the rest of the group which had controlled more than two third of the race - challenging hard.

There was plenty of early season fitness in evidence as the field of 40 seniors from Tyne Wear, Yorkshire and Cleveland clubs set a fast early pace.

This produced numerous attacking moves before Thompson, Wetherall, Stockton Wheeler Paul Curran, Paul Carroll of the Tyneside Electric and Richmond and Darlington's Arthur Caygill pulled clear of the rest and began to establish a commanding lead.

Urged by Ferryhill Wheeler-Dryden Insurance rider Steve Davies, VC Stockton's Iain McKenzie and Middridge CRT's Hilton McMurdo, a chase developed, but as the leaders lapped the one-mile Oakesway circuit with even greater determination their advantage increased rapidly.

Within six miles of the original break forming, they had opened up a 30 seconds lead and looked in very little danger of being caught.

Shortly after the half-way distance, the main field split as the leaders stretched their advantage to 45 minutes with Davies, McKenzie and Middridge's Peter Stevenson starting the move.

But they were quickly followed by three Tyne Electric men, Colin Davison, Trevor Greenor and Paul Blackett, and Richmond and Darlington's Steve Wilson, before the pursuing group was increased to 11 riders.

Close finish

With just four laps left, the breakaway group had lapped the main bunch and it was Thompson who took the initiative down the finishing straight with Wetherall, Carroll, Curran and Caygill all still very much in contention.

It was Wetherall's experience and early season fitness that gave him the decision, timing his final thrust almost as they hit the line to take the race by just inches from Thompson.

With a win under his belt the previous weekend, Carroll narrowly outsprinted Curran with Caygill in fifth place before Davies led McKenzie home for sixth and seventh places.


1. Ray Wetherall (Ryton Cheviot)
2. Dave Thompson (Thornaby CRT)
3. Paul Carroll (Tyneside Electric)
4. Paul Curran (Stockton Wh)
5. Arthur Caygill (Richmond & Darlington)
6. Steve Davies (Ferryhill Wh)
7. Iain McKenzie (Stockton Wh)