HALESOWEN Athletics and Cycling Club team manager Dave Viner has praised the efforts of his young riders at the Junior Tour of Wales.

Road team cyclists Charles Walker, Sam Dighton and Patrick Fotheringham, all aged 16, together with guest rider Elliott Reynolds, 18, all put in impressive performances at the three day, five stage race in South Wales last weekend.

Walker finished a fine 34th overall, followed by Dighton in 48th, Elliott in 69th and Fotheringham in 72nd.

Some 22 teams started the race, which covered a total distance of 269km, with the Hales team finished in 13th position, followed closely by fellow local club Wolverhampton Wheelers in 14th.

Viner said: " We are very proud of the fact our team, together with Wolverhampton Wheelers, were the only two teams from traditional cycling clubs with home grown riders, rather than the 20 other teams of sponsored squads.

"We concentrate on developing local riders and are very proud of Charles, Sam, Elliott and Patrick who rode really well and, apart from Elliott who will become a senior rider, the boys are determined to return next year to make a real impact."

The competition is billed as one of the toughest junior stage races in the world and will include the finest 100 junior riders from around the UK.

Previous competitors include some of the top professional riders in the world, including Dan Martin, David Millar, Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish.

The final stage which finished at the top of the famous Tumble climb, and is due to be used by the Tour of Britain this September, was held in torrential rain and seven of the teams were unable to finish the race with complete teams.

Walker finished the stage in a superb 25th position followed by Dighton in 32nd and Reynolds 67th. Some ten riders failed to finish the stage but Fotheringham, who is more at home on a flatter circuit, showed true grit and refused to get off his bike, finishing 72nd many minutes down.

The team's performance was boosted by having their own team car provided by Trust Skoda.

"It made a real difference to us," added Viner. "Having the use of a team car was a great help, it was superb to have support from a local business."