'WE OWE STUART BENSTEAD A DEBT OF GRATITUDE'
Roger Hammond grew up in The Chilterns, went to school there, trained on the roads, won the junior race that supports the Archer Grand Prix and, in 2000, won the Archer itself.
He reacted with sadness when he heard the race had been cancelled. “It’s a pity but I can remember it being quite busy round there,” said Hammond, who is preparing for Saturday’s Het Volk.
“London is spreading out and it seems it’s a sign of the times. It’s a pity to lose the race. It’s a nice race to do, a great course, but it would be impossible to do without full police support. In the end it became quite a labour-intensive circuit in the end, never dangerous but it definitely had become busier.
“It’s a pity for the domestic racing scene but given the changes in Britain it just shows how well Stuart Benstead [the race organiser] has done. I think everyone knows the debt of gratitude owed to Stuart and also Chas Messenger for giving us races to ride and everyone is very grateful for that.
“Of course I’d rather the race was on but what can you say? I think it reflects a trend in Britain.”
Hammond, who now rides for High Road, won the Archer in 2000 when he was part of the Belgian Collstrop squad.
Eric De Clerq, one of Hammond’s team-mates, helped lay the groundwork with substantial attack with Irishman Brian Kenneally. In the final stages Collstrop marked every move, setting up Hammond for a series of strong attacks until one finally stuck.
“That was part of a really successful year,” said Hammond. “Winning the Archer was during a period when I suddenly discovered I could win pro races. We came over with a full pro team and really rode strongly.
“I also remember winning the junior race. It was my first race of the year and I was a bit excited and I remember I attacked early and I was dying on the last hills. I have some really good memories of that.”
Another top rider with close links is Bradley Wiggins, a member of the Archer Road Club who also won one of the support races.
He said: “It’s a real pity that the Archer has been cancelled because it’s one of the oldest races on the calendar. I can remember that I even marshalled at the race as a kid as it was always a big event for us.
“I suppose the problems of policing and traffic are going to be a major problem for cycling in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if almost all racing in the UK isn’t on closed circuits in ten years time.”
A sad loss but a sign of the times – The Tuesday Comment
See Thursday’s Cycling Weekly for more on the Archer Grand Prix and The Big Interview with Stuart Benstead