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Sunday, May 12, 2019 - 19:00

Three times world champion and Olympic silver medalist Wendy Houvenaghel took part in her first cycling event for five years when she joined riders from across the country in the Eden Classic today (Sunday May 12, 2019).

Nearly 900 registered for Cornwall’s biggest cycling day. Blazing sunshine, dry roads, challenging climbs, stunning scenery and barely a puff of wind greeted Northern Ireland’s greatest female cyclist Wendy, her husband Ian and their fellow riders taking part in the celebrated annual sportive.

Cornwall-based Wendy, who retired from cycling in 2014, only signed up at the last minute for the 60-mile mid version.  

The bulk of the riders follow the 60-mile course while others participate in 36 and 100-mile routes.  All start and finish in front of the world-famous Biomes and zig-zag up the side of the former clay quarry.

Wendy said: “Ian discussed the event with me yesterday and I thought, ‘Yes, I’ll have a go at that.’  We went to Clive Mitchell’s (cycle shop) and bought some bits and pieces and here we are.”

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wendy won individual pursuit silver before cementing her place as Northern Ireland’s greatest female cyclist by winning team pursuit gold at the World Championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Relaxing in bright sun after the event, Wendy said: “It was my first organised ride for five years since retiring and I really enjoyed it. It’s a great venue and a very well-organised event. The course is beautiful and the signage is excellent.”

She praised the spirit, professionalism and regard for safety of the riders she cycled with along the way.

Cyclists travelled from Kent, Lancashire, Norfolk, Sussex, and many other parts of the UK to join the ride. Among cycling clubs well represented were One and All of Cornwall, Wadebridge Coasters, Mid Devon, Royal Navy and Royal Marines and YOGi. 
While there were many sleek multi-geared road machines on show, perhaps the biggest-head turner was a 1931 all-steel Rudge-Whitworth sports tourer, complete with just three Sturmey-Archer gears.

It was ridden by owner Ian Kay (63), who lives not far from Eden.

Ian said: “I’ve said I’ll do the Eden Classic on this bike until it is too hard and I have to get off.  I never got off today.  It was the best time I’ve ever done.  Because the bike’s so heavy it goes really fast downhill.”

The event boasted what many say is the finest cycling food station anywhere, based at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, where tables laden with energising snacks, including the Heligan Miracle Bar, packed with fruit, nuts and a secret ingredient -  proved a winning nibble among the riders.

Cyclists started the day at Eden with pre-cycle breakfast, with muesli, porridge and honey and bananas on offer. On completion they topped up their calories with a free pasty.

Eden operations director Neil Stark, who also completed the 60-mile route, said:  “There’s has been a terrific spirit at our fifth annual Eden Classic today. How great to see cyclists of all ages and lots of different levels of ability taking part – and what an honour to have a world champion among us too.

“The event is now very-well established on the cycling calender and we are already looking forward to the sixth one next spring and of course the Tour of Britain coming to Cornwall later in 2020.”

Family and friends who wanted to cheer on the riders got free entry to the Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan over the weekend.