Guernsey Press

Sam off to perfect start

SAM CULVERWELL is off to a winning start.

Sam Culverwell wins the 2024 Portsdown Classic on his competitive debut for the Saint Piran team. (Picture by Larry Hickmott, VeloUK)

The Guernsey elite rider won the season-opening Portsdown Classic on Sunday, marking a successful racing debut for UCI Continental team Saint Piran.

The National B race is set in Hampshire – where Culverwell is currently based – and takes in the county roads and villages around the imposing Portsdown Hill, spanning 72km over five laps plus a steep finishing climb.

It has replaced the Perfs Pedal Road Race where he placed sixth in 2019.

The 23-year-old had overpowered teenage talent Jamie Whitcher on that decisive climb, while fellow Saint Piran rider Rowan Baker rounded out the podium.

‘The main thing was to come away with the win,’ Culverwell said.

‘We’re the only “Conti” team here, so we knew everybody would be looking at us, and of course you want to come away with the win, so mission accomplished really.

‘Especially to get two on the podium is really nice.’

Culverwell had featured in a breakaway group of six – also including Saint Piran development rider Huw Buck Jones – upon first cresting Portsdown Hill.

They were cut to five when Matthew Gilmour suffered a puncture near the end of lap one, and a circuit later, they had a full 56sec. on the peloton.

Baker made a stunning bridging effort to join them, yet the concerted efforts of several national-class racers behind them could not close down the break.

Culverwell and Whitcher made a decisive move up Portsdown Hill on the last lap and worked together, before the Sarnian used his strength – and local knowledge – to nail the harsh 1.2km finishing climb.

Culverwell said Saint Piran ‘can never take anything for granted’ despite controlling the break.

‘It’s only February as well. A lot of us aren’t near top shape yet with the racing coming up in a couple of months,’ he added.

‘There was a bit of pressure after the team got a 1-2-3 last year.’

Only 57 riders from 80 starters finished the attritional race, which included a very early crash.

The win bodes well for Culverwell ahead of racing picking up in mid-March.