FORMER Halesowen rider Ben Healy scored an impressive solo victory in the Halesowen Athletic and Cycling Club road race on the tough Astley circuit near Stourport.
Healy, hoping to ride on the continent next year, powered away from an eight-man lead group on the final lap to finish a minute and eight seconds ahead of Theo Hartley of Identity Racing.
The eight leaders came together over the climb up to Astley on the second of the five laps in the 113-kilometre race, with junior Healy – who began his racing career at Halesowen but now rides for the Oxford based Zappi junior team - joined by two other under-18s in Hartley and Ross-on-Wye rider Josh Sandman, and four others including local rider Joe Charley from Stourbridge CC who eventually took third.
In spite of the fact that last year’s West Midland league champions Rhino Racing of Shrewsbury did not have a representative in the lead group, no sustained chase came from the pack and the group’s lead hovered around a minute, looking increasingly promising as the race unfolded.
On the final lap a group of six evaded the peloton to finish the race on the heels of the seven riders pursuing Healy, with the sprint for ninth place taken by Matthew Higgins of Mammoth Lifestyle, and the remains of the peloton a further minute behind. Afterwards, the prizes were presented by the former world pursuit champion Hugh Porter.
The promoting club were unlucky to suffer two punctures in their six-man team, with the in-form Nick Clayton’s race ending on the second lap, but Halesowen rider Matt Clarke made a successful comeback after two years out with a knee injury, featuring in the last-lap chase to take 13th place.
The Halesowen cycling club were more fortunate elsewhere, however, with their Wenlock Spring mineral water sponsored Academy rider Jack Stanton-Warren continuing his progress towards his elite category licence with a brace of fourth places in national events, first on Saturday in the British University Championship, where he formed part of a 10-rider lead group, and then on Sunday in the Lake District where professional James Gullen won.