Pedal Heaven eye Clayton Spring Classic crown

Ian Wilkinson leads his new Pedal Heaven team-mates on a training ride earlier this winter. Picture: Hugh McManus
Ian Wilkinson leads his new Pedal Heaven team-mates on a training ride earlier this winter. Picture: Hugh McManus
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Ian Wilkinson has insisted Pedal Heaven have the firepower to win the Clayton Spring Classic on Sunday.

The 36-year-old, who lives in Chatburn, signed for the newly-promoted UCI Continental team at the back end of last year.

He will make his debut for the Hampshire-based outfit alongside David McGowan, Jack Pullar, Jacob Tipper, James Gullen and Jake Womersley this weekend.

The traditional northern road race season-opener has also attracted the likes of Ian Bibby, of NFTO, and Luke Grivell-Mellor, from JLT Condor.

But Wilkinson, who is a two-time Rutland-Melton winner, reckons his new team are major contenders for victory in the 58-mile handicap battle, hosted by Cycle Sport Pendle.

He said: ‘We definitely have the strength to win it.

David McGowan. Picture: Hugh McManus

David McGowan. Picture: Hugh McManus

‘There are some great riders in the north, like Ian Bibby, but we have got a really strong team in for the race.

‘I am going all right and I can’t wait to get stuck in, with the added motivation of it being my local race.

‘But there are also Pullar and Gullen, from Lancaster way, who have been training their hearts out all winter. They are absolutely flying.

‘So all things being well, no punctures and no mechanicals, we should have a really good chance of winning.’

Ian Wilkinson

I am going all right and I can’t wait to get stuck in, with the added motivation of it being my local race

The Clayton Spring Classic, which is based at Edisford School, is a handicap race, with three groups beginning at different times on the 3.9mile Bashall circuit.

Wilkinson and his fellow elite and category one riders will start seven-and-a-half minutes adrift of the juniors, who will kick proceedings off.

In between, at four minutes, will be the category two, three and four contenders.

Wilkinson knows the scratch group must work together it they are to close the gap and have a chance of following in the footsteps of former winners such as Ian Stannard, of Team Sky, and Rob Hayles.

‘Obviously, everyone will have to contribute something otherwise you are not going to win the race,’ said the former Endura rider, who has won stages at the Tour de Normandie and RAS.

‘Having a team of six riders can work the other way, with teams looking at you to do it.

‘So we will just have to try to get everyone involved early on and get the race as close together as possible, then we can start racing.

‘I don’t have too many fond memories of the Clayton Classic because the weather is usually horrific!

‘But it is a good, little race. It is a very good format for training early on in the season because you have to do some riding early on before you get into the race.’

Pedal Heaven launched their season with Rory Townsend’s victory in the Perfs Pedal earlier this month.