Albi bound! Six Wheelers to take on the world

From left: Rick Garman, Kirsty McSeveney, Neil Mackley, Marianne Holt and Mark Herbert sporting their Great Britain kit. Picture: Habibur Rahman (171049-35)

Six members of Fareham Wheelers will represent Great Britain at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship in Albi, France on Sunday, August 27.

Neil Mackley, Kirsty McSeveney, Rick Garman, Mark Herbert, Marianne Holt and Levienne Croft qualified for the event with fine performances in the Tour of Cambridge in June.

And they are hoping their efforts will inspire a new breed of Wheelers to turn to life on two wheels or even take up racing their bikes.

Mackley, who had not expected to ride the qualifier until a last-minute change of plans at work, said: ‘It was a pretty amazing feeling in Cambridge.

‘It was a bit of a shock really. I’ve done a little road racing but not a huge amount and now I’m off to the world champs!

‘We are pretty upbeat. We know it is going to be a very tough event and the heat could be a big problem, with only two feed stations on the route.

‘Some might say it is a good excuse for a holiday but we are all taking it pretty seriously and have put plenty of training in.

‘We know there are qualifiers going on all around the world. You have to be realistic but everyone is going to give it their best shot.’

The top 25 per cent of finishers in each age group won the right to represent Great Britain in Albi.

Mackley, McSeveney, Garman, Holt and Herbert found out they had qualified on the day. Croft only learned of her selection three weeks ago.

The six Wheelers will also be joined by friend of the club, Vankru Cycling founder Garth Kruger.

The Fareham club are in rude health, with a growing membership enjoying both social and competitive action in a range of cycling disciplines.

And Mackley hopes the latest wave of success will open the eyes of budding cyclists of all ages to what opportunities are on their doorstep.

He added: ‘We are a smallish, family club with a massive membership.

‘It all sounds very strange but it is a very strong club.

‘A lot are there for the fun and social side of it but all of a sudden there is a realisation there are people in the club doing some pretty special things.

‘We’ve just had two riders do London-Edinburgh-London – that’s a 1,400km bike ride – in 100 hours. That’s one side of the club.

‘Then on the other, we have 14-year-old Izzy (Brickell), who came third in RideLondon. An amazing result.

‘We have the whole spectrum. It is a very proactive club and it’s exciting to be a part of it.’

McSeveney and Holt will race in the female 35-39 age group and Croft in the 55-59 category. Both contests are 97km in distance.

Herbert (19-34), Garman (45-49) and Mackley (50-54) all face 155km races.

The Tour of Cambridgeshire was one of 15 worldwide qualifiers for the Gran Fondo World Championships.

To find out more about Fareham Wheelers, visit fareham-wheelers.org or click here to visit their Facebook group.

More from Sport