Anna’s Bike Race with Sir Richard Branson
Author: Dean Greenaway
Special to The Daily News
TORTOLA — Visiting Wade Davis of New York won Sunday’s Tour de Tortola, finishing ahead of Phillipe Leroy, who was coming off hip replacement surgery last month, in a race that attracted 27 participants including Sir Richard Branson.
The 42-mile race, organized by the BVI Mountain Bike Club, began and ended on Beef Island.
“It’s all the training Richard put me through,” said Davis, who is vacationing on Branson’s Necker Island, where he learned of the race. “I was well prepared and yes, surprised. A hard climb, very hard course.”
Davis said he overtook Leroy on the climb up to Windy Hill.
“At one point, I actually had to get off and walk on one of the steep switchbacks,” Davis said. “It was a very long hill. I knew if I could keep him in sight I would be alright, as I wanted to be very conservative on the climb and keep my heart rate down and that’s where I got him.”
After his recent surgery, Leroy said he wasn’t sure he was going to compete but felt good on Saturday and decided to ride.
“But the trouble had been no training,” he said. “I died by time I got to Windy Hill. So I went climbing very easy because I didn’t want to hurt my leg, so I had to be cautious.”
Leroy, who has won the tour more than anyone else, said coming off the surgery made him slower than in the past.
“The heat didn’t bother me too much. I was worrying about not hurting my leg, the lack of fitness and being unable to train because of my leg for the past few months, otherwise, it was a good race. We got lucky it was dry -no rain.”
Expected to challenge for the top spot, defending champ Grano Andrews finished third after mechanical problems.
“Going down to West End, I realized my gear ratio was giving problems, and I saw that guys had two and three gears left and I just got lapped from there,” he said. “I just didn’t really bother to catch up because I realized that the race had already been decided.”
Branson, in his first tour at 65, said he loves to keep fit and every year he sets a challenge. In September, the Virgin Grounp founder will be dong an 1,800 mile bike ride across Italy, then swimming from Italy to Sicily followed by two marathons up Mount Etna -something he does annually with his kids.
“I need to get fit for it and I needed to come and enjoy Tortola,” said Branson, who bought Necker Island in 1983. “You always just see it from cars, but it was lovely to see it from a bike. For me a four-hour ride, it was a good one. The course is tough and there are some beautiful places.”
1. Wade Davis, 2 hours, 23 minutes; 2. Phil Leroy. 2:48; 3. Orano Andrews, 2:49; 4. Chris Potgieter, 2:58; 5. Justin Smit, 2:59; 6. Barry Jones, 3:01; 7. Alistair Abrehart, 3:01; 8. Clifton Forbes, 3:01; 9. Keith Williams, 3:06; 10. Richard Morgan, 3:07;
11. Peter Sorrentino, 3:15; 12. Dominic Bufton, 3:16; 13. Shane Donovan, 3:16; 14. Laurens Bloc, 3:16; 15. Iain Walker, 3:17; 16. Laurent Keeble, 3:27; 17. Gary Salter, 3:42; 18. Jim Cullimore, 3:49; 19. Aaron Gardner, 3:50;
20. Liam Blok, 3:52; 21. Derek Pettigrew, 3:54; 22. Carolina Pettigrew, 3:54; 23. Kenny Jones, 3:56; 24. Anna Livermore, 3:57; 25. Dave Pettigrew, 4:00; 26. Richard Branson 4:06; 27. Mike Masters, 5:01.