SEVERAL York racing cyclists have made rapid starts to the new season.

Matthew Eastwood of VC York won the Wetwang road race, taking the verdict in a four-man sprint, while Paul Watson was a solid second in the Clifton CC hilly time trial at Sheriff Hutton.

The York Cycleworks racing team have also claimed two victories, a host of high finishes and the promise of even better results to come as elite riders Alistair Kay and Richard Sutcliffe ride into form.

A Cycleworks team competed successfully in the Manchester Two-Day Stage Race.

Having lost time to the time trial specialists in the opening prologue time trial, the York men were in aggressive mood for the afternoon road race stage with Chris Belsham and Jonathan Muir launching numerous attacks. The aggressive tactics paid off as Belsham surged clear with eight miles to go.

Despite only gaining a maximum 15-second gap, Belsham was able to hold off the pursuing bunch to take the victory as team-mates Muir and Lloyd Jones worked hard to disrupt the chase behind.

The third and final stage saw the riders tackle 50 miles on the tough Bole Hill Circuit near Buxton.

Belsham and Muir were again the aggressors as they broke clear of the race in a group of ten in the opening miles and then steadily whittled the group down to six as they applied constant pressure on the steep climbs in an attempt to move up the overall standings.

On the final ascent to the finish, Belsham was narrowly out-sprinted by Peter Sadler, of Stretford Wheelers, but his efforts were sufficient to move him up to third place overall.

Muir finished sixth on the stage and sixth overall. In addition, the strong rides by Lloyd Jones and Angus Trentholme meant York Cycleworks took the overall team prize.

Two weeks earlier, Belsham and Muir had dominated the Lindale Road Race near Grange over Sands as they drove a breakaway group clear on the first lap.

Having ensured this group would stay clear, the Cycleworks riders took turns to attack with Belsham escaping in the last four miles to win alone. This was a welcome victory for Belsham, who had narrowly been beaten into second in his two previous races.

The number of local riders currently racing shows how the sport is thriving around York, Britain's best cycling city.

Updated: 09:16 Wednesday, April 23, 2003