It was a night to remember for Cumbrian cyclist Andrew Hawdon who claimed a career best win with Colne Grand Prix on Wednesday in front of thousands of fans.
The Raleigh-GAC rider, who was fifth in 2013 and third last year, won the 12th edition of the Welcome Cottages sponsored race with a powerful sprint finish, edging out Matt Cronshaw of Madison Genesis into second and Felix English of JLT Condor into third.
Riders set a frantic pace from the off around the sunkissed town centre street circuit with teams constantly jostling for the lead in a hotly-contested race.
New Zealander Tom Scully of Madison Genesis was agonisingly caught by the bunch in the finishing straight having seemed destined to win when he broke clear of the peloton with five laps to go.
Hawdon (39), who works full time as an electrical engineer at Sellafield, produced a glowing performance in fading light and his victory sparked celebrations within the team after rescuing a potentially poor night for Raleigh.
In one of several bumps, his team mate, Barnoldswick star Ian Wilkinson, had his own hopes of a win on home turf dashed when he crashed out of the race at high speed along with four others. The incident left JLT Condor’s Richard Handley with a broken collarbone.
Hawdon said: “I’m over the win with it. I didn’t think I would be getting one this year because I’ve been injured at the start of the year and I’ve had a couple of crashes.
“The nature of these races is that it’s all on from the start. You’ve just got to be attentive, look for moves going and try and play it cool and keep your powder dry so luckily that’s what I did tonight.”
Asked if fans would be seeing him in Pendle and the Ribble Valley for Stage Two of Tour of Britain in September, he said: “Obviously, it would be a dream to be picked for it but there are stronger lads than me in the team so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Earlier in the evening, Lee Brown of Holmfirth Cycling Club took the chequered flag first in the Fort Vale Sprint for Success Race, with Matthew Walls of Velocity Globalbike finishing second and Thomas Pidcock of Speedflex Race Team completing the podium in third.
In the first event of the night, youngsters had their chance to shine in the Marsden Building Society Future Stars Race.
Harry Hardcastle won the under-16 boys category for Speedflex Race Team and the Holmfirth Cycling Club duo of Jack Ford and Jim Brown were second and third respectively.
VCUK Ph-Mas rider Ava Oxley won the under-16 girls category, second place went to Sophie Thackray of Paul Milnes - Bradford Olympic Road Club and third was Speedflex Race Team’s Sam Verrill.
In the under-14 boys section, Joshua Greenwood of Kirklees Cycling Academy finished first, Joseph Pidcock of Chevin Cycles.com Trek team was second and Inspire VCUK Racing Team’s Tom Ashcroft completed the podium.
In the girls under-14 competition, Eastlands Velo’s Maisy Vasic was first, with Cycle Sport Pendle pair Lucy Naylor and Kate Taylor second and third respectively.
Spectators were drawn from far and wide and Tim Howcroft, of Otley Cycle Club, praised the event as a whole on his first visit to the Grand Prix, especially the youth race in which his son raced.
Tim said: “It’s a great, free night of entertainment for the family.
“I think the circuit is ideal because it’s short so we see the riders a lot and the organisation with the barriers and the finishing straight and all the razzmatazz round there is excellent.
“We’ve got a youth team within Otley that are doing rather well and we’re following them round all the circuit races.
“This year, they’ve obviously done the Otley one, Doncaster, Ilkley, Skipton and a couple of other ones similar to this.
“What it gives these youngsters is a chance to show themselves on a bigger stage.
“Obviously the crowds are here to see the professionals, but because they put a youngsters race on beforehand, it gives these guys a chance to have a taster of what it’s like to be at this level and perhaps have the ambition to move on to that level of racing.”