Event History

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The Horwich Festival of Racing which was previously known as the Horwich Carnival Races is firmly established in the race calendar for both running and cycling, extremely popular with runner, cyclist, spectator and helper alike. For many years the Horwich Festival of Racing has grown into one of the region’s and country’s most popular and unique sporting experiences, having attracted competitors from all over the UK and from abroad. Top class cycling and running events, including the annual staging of the British Masters Athletic Federation 5K Road Running Championships, have gone hand in hand with events for all the community regardless of age or ability. The day is often described as a ‘European Style Sporting Extravaganza’, and each year has seen the number of participants grow as the word spreads about this truly unique festival of sport. A day of Fun For ALL THE FAMILY.

The fast town centre circuit, which over the years has seen so many UK best running times recorded and the great Carnival atmosphere, with thousands lining the streets for all the fun of the Carnival and the races, certainly put Horwich firmly on the map. The races are undoubtedly unique to Britain when you consider the day as a whole. Where else could you find national running and cycling championships, the final race of a week’s senior running tour, a fun run, the final run of a junior tour and cycling events for all ages, all on the same day?

The Horwich Festival of Racing has created a piece of sporting nostalgia in an age when many events are struggling to survive, let alone expand. The races have established themselves because they are a day’s package that is so different. They will continue to be at the heart of the local community and the sporting fraternity because they are just that - a unique experience, in a special place and on a very exciting Carnival Sunday. Many now routinely make a date in their diary to come and enjoy all the Fun of the Horwich Carnival and Fair and to top it all ‘Run or Cycle for Fun’.

Whether you’re a walker, jogger, fun runner/cyclist, novice runner/cyclist or more serious athlete The Horwich Festival of Racing has an event right up your street. What better way to spend a weekend than partying on the safe traffic free streets of Horwich in the middle of summer, celebrating the Carnival weekend in style. Fun for all the family and events that cater for everyone, that’s Horwich Festival of Racing . The fantastic venue and breath taking backdrop are the icing on the cake. All this, and the races help support Bolton Hospice as well as the Bolton Mountain Rescue Team.

If you haven’t tried us out perhaps you’ll give it a go. Be a part of this special sporting experience. Compete alongside the stars of cycling and running at this fabulous sporting festival on Carnival Sunday, and at the climax to the most memorable of tours “The Countryside Tour of Horwich and Rivington”.

Indeed, the Horwich Festival of Racing is quite simply unique and not to be missed.


Now, A History Lesson .....

In the beginning…

Horwich Cycling Club first became involved with the Horwich Carnival back in 1946. This was not in the racing mode however, but a ‘Cavalcade of Cycling’ as it was known, as part of the traditional carnival procession.

A collection of old cycles, including a Tandem & Sidecar, Bone Shaker and several tricycles were ridden through the streets by members of the club. An afternoon of sports was planned, but was cancelled due to poor weather conditions on the day.

In 1951 a similar activity formed part of the neighbouring Adlington Carnival.

Old photograph of cyclists with Penny Fathing in middle


The glory days

The first Carnival ‘race’ was held on Friday 6th June 1977, as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations. The race covered 20 laps of a 1.6 miles circuit, which was an extension of the current circuit used today, taking in Ramsbottom Road, Victoria Road and Church Street. The finish was, and still is, on Lee Lane outside the Council Chambers.

Winner on the night was the now famous Merseyside frame builder Terry Dolan. Horwich riders Alan ‘Swimbo’ Swimby, Andy Greenhalgh, Andy McNab, Mike Wright & former Peace Race international rider Vinny Smith were in the thick of the action throughout the 32 mile race.

In 1978 the race attracted considerable sponsorship, which helped attract many top professionals, with Commonwealth Games gold medallist Willie Moore taking the victory for his Merseyside Wheelers club, after being part of a two man breakaway which gained 50 seconds on the bunch.

By 1979 the race was longer, now 22 laps, with over £200 in prizes on offer to the 40 rider field. Winner of the race, sponsored by Smith Insurance Brokers of Horwich, was Robert Williams (Liverpool Mercury).

The 1980 race was over 25 laps, with former British Cycling National Coach John Herety taking many of the primes on offer in the race won by track sprinter Terry Tinsley.

In 1981, Smiths of Horwich extended their support to include a generous buffet for the riders at their premises in Lee Lane.

Sponsorship of the 1982 race came primarily from Smith Insurance's new owners, Swinton Insurance, with Horwich rider Vinny Smith returning from international duty in Italy out for the win. The current British Cycling President Brian Cookson was also representing Horwich CC, which now had sponsorship from Bolton cycle dealer Partingtons Cycles.

Programme for Old Horwich Carnival Bike Race 1982

The 1983 race featured professionals Steve Joughin, Phil Thomas, Gordon Smith and Dave Cockram (father-in-law to Olympic Champion Bradley Wiggins). Winner was Joughin from Thomas. The two nearly came to blows afterwards as Thomas claimed Joughin had edged him into the crash barriers in the sprint.

Lythgoe Motors came in as main sponsor in 1984, with the race being won by F Kelly, who outsprinted Phil Thomas.

Partingtons Cycles sponsored the 1985 race, along with Neil Stewart Kitchens. No race report is filed.

From 1986, the problems of racing on non-closed roads were become very apparent with several near misses causing the local police to seriously question the safety of such an event.

The last pre-millennium cycle races were held in 1989, before the police withdrew their support.


A new chapter

With Commonwealth Games fever gripping the region in 2002, Horwich Cycling Club decided now was the time to resurrect the carnival races, just days before the Games road and mountain bike races were held at nearby Rivington.

2014 will see the thirteenth year of the Horwich Festival of Racing, in its current format.


The future?

With the races becoming bigger every year, who knows what is in store. One thing is for sure, all the hard work that goes into the event pays off with a tremendous feast of sporting activity and entertainment.


Many thanks to Peter Watson for the information used to create this page.


Running information email Mark Smith Tel: 07947 004 057

Cycling information email Dave Leyland Tel: 07545 294 399

Sprint Orienteering email Kevan Latham Tel: 07806 746 947

Adapted Cycle Ride email Jamie Agar Tel: 01204 332 323