Sunday 13 February 2011

Mick Waite talks about Perfs!

British Cycling Website 17/02/11
As the 46th edition of the Perfs Pedal race got the 2011 domestic road season underway, I spoke with organiser Mick Waite and it is obvious he is as enthusiastic as ever about the race. Problems with the road surface on the original Portsdown Hill course had forced Mick to move the race to the Staple Cross circuit.
“It wouldn’t be Perfs without a change!!!!” he said, indeed, down the years the now traditional season opener has had its fair share of incidents. This year proved to be no different with heavy rain throughout the race leaving standing water all around the course. Mick takes it all in his stride, calmly getting involved with everything at the HQ before the start, then working out on the course doing whatever is needed before handing out the prizes. There is no doubt about it this guy loves bike racing.

“Perfs was my idea and started life in July 1964 as an independent (semi- professional) 1st & 2nd cat race. The first race was on the Harting Hill circuit in West Sussex, 3 climbs, 2 laps, and 50 miles, and I have promoted every edition since” he proudly says. That first race was one by Tony Mills (Ryall/Raxar) who picked up £3 for his efforts with bottles of St Raphael wine going to the prime winners. The following year the race moved to Hambledon and its now regular early season slot where it remained till the early 80s “The race had outgrown the village and the parish council finally got there way after several years of trying and banned the event” recalls Mick.
Racing in February is always difficult, as is promoting events, “The biggest problem with organising at this time of the year is of course the weather and lately the poor road surfaces, snow was a problem for the 1983 race, the planned circuit up Lodge Hill was unusable so we found a replacement on the day with no police permission, we could not get away with that now”. In 1989 for the first time we had a field of 80 riders, the police, unhappy with some of the riding, abandoned the race, “I am 100% certain the club would have had its first winner that day, one of our fastest ever Roadman/sprinters, Nick Noble was riding, still he kept his form to win the Wheely Down race two weeks later” Paul Rogers (VC St Raphael/Waite Contracts) would provide that elusive “home win” for Mick in 1991.
After these problems Perfs moved to the Forestside circuit in West Sussex to get away from the Hampshire police area. The race was by now, firmly established as an early season event that all the riders wanted to win and the list of former winners includes some illustrious names, Ian Hallam, Dave LeGrys, Chris Newton and Sean Yates among others. Graham Moore (Bristol RC) 66, 70, 71 and Tim Harris, 83, 84, 86, both have three wins to their names, whilst Tim Stevens, Mark Markowski, Brian Flemming and Julian Winn have all won this classic twice. Flying the flag for testers everywhere, Glenn Longland has also won the race twice, in 78 and again in 85.
The mild, wet winters during the 90s made flooding more of a problem than snow, Mick remembers the 2003 event on the Owlsebury circuit,” the police cancelled the race due to a “puddle” they were not happy with, they would not let us delay the start so we all went home, the puddle was gone by 11.30!” Road works, ice, snow, rain they have all affected Perfs over the years but the race still survives, “some years we have delayed the race to break up iced over puddles and put salt down on the corners. I continue to promote as it is now the established season opener and I hope to make it to race number 50.” I ask Mick what he thinks the future holds for domestic racing, “In my opinion it’s not looking good for a variety of reasons, risk assessment and safety is now a big issue, people are nervous about promoting and even more nervous about marshalling. The poor road surfaces are losing us courses. I will be using four NEG motor bikes on Perfs, this is the way forward, however as with everything now cost is a fine balance, riders will have to get used to paying higher entry fees to cover costs.” (Perfs is one of only a handful of races in the South DC this year)
What about the highlights of Perfs? “Well apart from Paul’s win in 1991, it has to be the years at Hambledon, with those bunch sprints of 40 riders, field limits were 40 back then, racing through Hambledon village, missing all the parked cars and skip bins, to provide the spectators on both sides of the road back to the 200m mark with an exciting finish”

As we all know, nothing is certain in road racing, after all that is one of the attractions, but even if the future is in doubt you can be sure that the Perfs Pedal race will open the 2012 season.

Before I leave Mick to lock up the village hall, I ask him about the name Perfs, I have always wanted to know, “There have been various theories none of them have been correct, so it’s my secret!”
Nice one Mick!

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