Cycling Weekly

PROVING GROUND

Unpacking my bike on Halstead’s Market Hill and looking down the road, I almost did a double take. “Wow, that is a lot steeper than I expected, that’s a proper hill. Must have really stung the legs.” From 1964, this testing little ramp through the heart of town was the finishing straight of one of the great British bike races, the Grand Prix of Essex. On event day it would be lined five deep with spectators, with more peering through and hanging out of the windows of the shops and pubs to catch sight of the action. Although the race was already 10 years old, with early editions being run further south around the Romford and Southend area, it’s the town of Halstead with which it will forever be associated.

For 46 years until its demise in 2001, the Grand Prix of Essex was a

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