James Stewart was the winner of the 50th Eddie Soens Memorial this morning at Aintree Racecourse.
The UK Youth rider proved fastest from a eleven-rider breakaway sprint.
It is fitting that the half-century edition of the race was won by someone with profound links to both the event and local cycling.
Local lad Stewart went through the legendary Kirkby CC, which created the race, as a teenager. He was under the tutelage of late, longtime organiser Ken Matthews, who is also commemorated by the race. The former national junior time-trial champion even did his first road races at Aintree.
“Perfs Pedal was a good one a few years ago [Stewart won in 2009], but I’ve been waiting a while for this one. It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” he told Cycling Weekly.
On a strangely-windless day at Aintree Racecourse, the scratch group ensured there was no repeat of last year, when the junior group hared round and tagged on the back.
A lone foray by strong teenage tester Ryan Mullen (Planet X) notwithstanding, 150 competitors – one of the biggest entries in years – were all together on the course’s long, wide straights by the halfway mark, with well-represented Team Raleigh doing the lion’s share.
Despite the sprinter-friendly nature of the circuit, an escape with the right combination of teams and riders edged away with eight laps to go and quickly put time into the pack.
It consisted of Liam Holohan, Matt Kipling, Matt Cronshaw (all Team Raleigh), Mark Christian, Tom Moses (100% ME), Stewart, James Lowsley-Williams (Team UK Youth), Simon Wilson (CyclePremier.com-Metaltek), Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport-Specialized), James Sampson (Motorpoint) and Andy Tennant (Rapha-Condor-Sharp).
Making the most of his team’s numerical advantage up front, Cronshaw attacked going into the final lap, dangling out front until being swept up as the sprint flared into life.
“It was disappointing; I looked back with 200 metres and they were right behind me,” he said afterwards.
In the sprint, the black-clad figure of Rapha-Condor-Sharp rider Andy Tennant struck out, but it was Stewart who charged past to take the win.
50th Eddie Soens Memorial, 49.2 miles (30 laps): Results
1. James Stewart (Team UK Youth)
2. Andy Tennant (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
3. Matt Kipling (Team Raleigh)
4. Simon Wilson (CyclePremier.com-Metaltek)
5. Mark Christian (100% ME)
6. Liam Holohan (Team Raleigh)
7. James Sampson (Motorpoint)
8. Tom Moses (100% ME)
9. Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport-Specialized)
10. Matt Cronshaw (Team Raleigh)
12. Jon Mould (100% ME) at 20secs
13. Tony Gibb (CyclePremier.com-Metaltek) at same time
Riders start off
James Stewart wins
James Stewart celebrates
Magnus Backstedt congratulates James Stewart