Drama in cycling battle over 25 miles

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Towards the end of the 19th century the vogue for cycling took off and contests and racing events became popular. Races on the track at Halifax Cricket and Football Club at Thrum Hall drew huge crowds.

In July 1891 a 25-mile race under the auspices of the National Cyclists’ Union for the Yorkshire West Riding Championship attracted nearly 4,000 people. It was confined to cyclists living in the West Riding and the union awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to the first three home.

The event began with a one-mile race for ordinary bicycles – as opposed to “safety” bicycles used for the 25-mile race – but there were no Halifax entrants.

For the main event 17 riders entered, although five did not turn out. Ninety laps had to be covered to make the 25 miles and for the first 20 miles the cyclists kept together.

Then a Brighouse rider, who had been leading, fell behind and retired. Another rider retired at one third of the distance.

According to the Halifax Guardian “capital” speeds were maintained and at the halfway point, 45 laps, the 12.5 miles had taken 38 minutes.

Then the race began to heat up. The leading rider was hit by cramp and had to dismount, losing a full lap before he was able to resume in a vain effort to get back into contention.

The leaders clocked 46 minutes at 15 miles and 61 minutes at 20 miles. A Halifax rider called Griffiths kept well to the front until only two laps from the end, when a rider from Brighouse, named Lister, who had hardly been in the picture, put in a long spurt and won by six yards, despite great attempts by other riders to overtake him.

The time for the 25 miles was 77 minutes. Griffiths missed second place by half a yard to another Halifax man, Longbottom.

Savile Park Cycling Club held evening events on the same ground later in the same week, when between 3,000 and 4,000 again attended on each of the two evenings.

Prizes worth £70, given by local people, were awarded. The gold medal for the longest race, over five miles, was worth 30 guineas (£31.50p). The same Brighouse rider, Lister, won at both events.