BURY Clarion were cheered on by a passionate local crowd to claim a third team title in four years at the Ramsbottom Rake hill climb on Sunday.

The club's fastest rider was 15-year-old Francis Woodcock, who finished 13th overall, third in the juniors (16-17) race and won the juvenile (under 16) prize in a time of 2mins 51.8secs, just three seconds outside the course record for his age group.

He was backed up by coach and training partner Joe Cadwallader, whose time of 3:03.3 helped him to 27th overall and second in the veterans (40 and over) race, while Declan Brady was third Clarion counter, clocking 3:19.5 to finish 50th.

Sheffield-based rider Joseph Clarke won the overall prize in a time of 2:22.3, while Fiona Burnie, of GS Metro, was fastest woman in 3:11.6.

Kieran Wynne-Cattanach, of Maxxis 4 Racing Team, won the espoir prize, for riders aged 18-22, finishing third overall in 2:26.0, while Hoppers Rollers' James Noonan was top junior in 2:48.3 and Paul Roby, who rides for race organisers Lancashire Road Club (LRC), was leading veteran in 2:42.0.

Duncan Smith, LRC secretary, was delighted with the turnout, and believes the atmosphere out on the course, which is a kilometre long at an average gradient of 12 per cent, was potentially the best ever, cranked up by the success of local riders.

"It is great to be able to attract riders from all over the country to take part, but it is also really nice to see that the crowds who come out in force had local success to cheer.

"Bury Clarion put in a massive effort, with seven riders taking on the climb. We thought they looked strong this year and did not disappoint.

"As for young Francis, for anyone to do the climb in under three minutes is seriously good going, so his ride of 2mins 51secs, aged just 15, was something else.

"The general consensus from everyone I have spoken with who was out on the course was that the atmosphere was the best ever.

"It is always loud at the top, where the gradient rises to 25 per cent and there is a natural tree cover over the course that just keeps all that noise in, but I understand it was much louder than normal.

"I think the Ramsbottom Rake has become iconic in cycling circles, but it’s appeal seems to have gone so much wider than that.

"It seems to have really captured the imagination of the local public, as well as cycling fans.

"For me, I think the growing popularity of the sport has a lot to do with that, as well as the popularity of the Rake itself.

"People are saying cycling is the new golf, in terms of it being a sport for the everyman.

"In the Ramsbottom area, we are lucky that local people have the Yates brothers – Adam and Simon – they can identify with.

"These young lads are former Bury Clarion riders, so to see them enjoying success on the world stage, youngsters are naturally inspired by that."

Bury Clarion's youngest entrant, and the youngest rider in the whole event, was 12-year-old Harry Radford, who put in a tremendous effort to claim 87th place out of 88 finishers in a time of 5:18.4.

Other Clarion finishers included debutants James Richardson (3:38.3) and James Duffy (4:04.0), and club secretary Jason McDonald (3:36.3), while members David Stammers (2:58.3) and Charlotte Gorman (3:44.7) represented other clubs.

Cadwallader, who rode in the last two Clarion team victories in 2014 and 2015, paid tribute to every member of the training group that helped the club's seven finishers tame the Rake.

He said: "Four weeks ago a group of Clarion riders set a goal to win the team prize and after a gruelling programme that included hard repeat laps on the Rake every Wednesday I was super pleased to see them all deliver some great times and personal bests.

"The training regime had been made extra special by many club riders turning up every Wednesday to take part and support the team not just on the day but actually while they trained.

"I remember one really rainy night when Nigel Hood kept appearing at different points of the climb to encourage us, Dave Gamble also made a guest appearance and Ken Woodward seemed like an every present.

"Thanks again for all those who turned out and cheered for every rider. The spectators helped make the day extra special and I am sure without them all our times would have been slower."