Like clubs up and down the country, the last few years have seen our membership flourish. The figure currently stands at more than 120 riders. We promote time trials at all distances, road races on the closed Wheal Jane circuit near Truro, plus roller racing and an annual hill climb. We have regular Sunday club rides, and a weekly Tuesday social night at The Star Inn in Crowlas. Our Prostate Ride in April, comprising a circuit around the West Penwith peninsula, is an extremely popular event, and has so far raised more than £10,000 for the charity.
The origin of Penzance Wheelers can be traced back to 1937. Formed out of three clubs – Penzance Wheelers, Penzance Cycling Club and Penzance Corinthians – the team colours that were adopted persist to this day: red, white and blue.
At the time the main form of racing was the 25 mile time trial, with the local course starting at Eastern Green, heading up the A30 and turning at Camborne. With mass start road races not allowed, the other type of racing was grass track. The home venue for this was the cricket field at St Clare, while there were also grass track meetings at Falmouth, Praa Sands and Rosudgeon.
Racing further afield was difficult because of both distance and transportation. One Wheeler who did it however was Maurice Nicholas, who rode at Herne Hill in the White Hope Amateur Sprint. He came second, and a picture of Maurice’s feat appeared in the national cycling press.
The Second World War put an end to club cycling, with virtually all young riders being called up.
In the early 1950s a group of local cyclists got together and resurrected Penzance Wheelers. A club 10 was instigated, which started at the Mounts Bay Coaches garage at Eastern Green and headed up the A30 to a milestone at St Erth, where riders made a dead turn and headed back to Penzance.
Riders would improvise when it came to racing out of the county. Sometimes a lorry was hired, leaving Truro at Saturday lunchtime. Penzance riders would first catch the train to Truro, where the lorry was loaded up with riders and bikes for the trip to Devon. After racing they’d make the trip in reverse. There was a St Just – Penzance time trial, while in the 1970s circuit races were held at Predannack Airfield.
Towards the end of the 1970s the Wheelers fell into a dormant period, but things got back on track in 1983, with the club run meeting every Sunday in front of St John's Hall. Time trials were held locally on the S32 course – starting at Praa Sands and turning at the Cheshire Homes roundabout at Marazion. RAF Portreath was first used for road races in 1995. The exposed, 1.3 mile circuit made for hard racing, with competitors making the trip from as far afield as Plymouth and Somerset.
Tom Southam joined the Wheelers aged 12. At 14 he raced abroad for the first time, and several years later joined the professional Amore e Vita squad in Italy. This was followed by stints at Barloworld and Rapha Condor Sharp. Currently a Director Sportif at EF Education First Pro Cycling, he remains a Penzance Wheeler, his origins forged over the tough but beautiful training roads of West Penwith.