A rider from the club run that was attacked by van driver Joel Morris last November has spoken about what happened when Morris deliberately tried to run the group off the road.
Terry Hughes was leading a 24-rider group from Port Sunlight Wheelers on a 75-mile Sunday club run from the Wirral into North Wales via Northop Hall on November 17 last year when Morris drove his white Transit at the riders.
“We were all riding sensibly on the the correct side of the road,” Hughes said in an email.
“Joel Reece Morris came from a junction and saw us. He crossed the white line and drove at us probably intending as a laugh -- he and his passenger were gesticulating and laughing. The intention was there to run us off the road and if it hadn’t been for one of the ladies on the ride at the front, Nicky Fairhurst, shouting for us to take evasive action I think it would have been a very serious incident."
Terry said he didn’t have time to realise he and the group were in danger.
“It all happened so fast,” he said. “I wasn't even aware that he was coming across the white line until Nicky Fairhurst, who was in front of me, swore in her best Anglo Saxon and swerved and was only just missed by him.
“We didn't have time to be frightened, but with 24 in our group 2 abreast, length of the run — 12 bikes long — would be around 100ft on the road. It was the middle or end riders who were more aware and had time to be frightened.”
The group included UK 24-hour record holder Andy Wilkinson, his wife Jill who is the current UK 12-hour champion and a number of active road racing cyclists. Terry himself is a former 12-hour team champion. Founded in 1948, Port Sunlight Wheelers has 120 members.
In some ways, it was fortunate Morris chose such an experienced group of riders to victimise.
“He caused us all to stop, pile up and some to crash into each other, causing damage to a few bikes and minor injuries to a few riders,” said Terry. As previously reported, though, there were no serious injuries.
“He sped off after completely crossing the white line, and because a number of us gave chase and got his registration number, he decided to stop about 500 yards up the road where we caught him up.”
At this point, Morris’ original defence that he had swerved to avoid something on the road might almost have been believed, by a non-cyclist at least. But what he did next probably sealed his fate in court on Wednesday.
“He then reversed at speed running us off the road again, he then gesticulated and laughed again and did a wheelie smoking his tyres and sped off, so it was then that I called the police.”
Three months later, on Wednesday of this week, Morris was sent down for six months.
Terry hailed the attitude of North Wales police and the trial judge, Niclas Parry. “North Wales police were brilliant dealing with the incident,” he said.
“Club President Gordon Pierce, who attended the Crown court hearing, said the judge highlighted that cyclists need to be protected going about their activity, which is now quite popular.
“Gordon also said what may have originally seemed a bit of a laugh developed into a malicious incident which could have been very nasty, and so the Judge made the right call, and he was thankful nobody was seriously hurt or worse.”
Terry added that his clubmate Steve Tyler, who was also on the ride that was attacked, has managed to find a funny side to it. “I know the Welsh are not too happy with us coming and riding en masse on their roads, but that was a bit extreme to try and get rid of us,” Steve said.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.