The new five-round series has been designed in collaboration with the Road Commission and regional teams to increase the number of available racing opportunities for talented young riders in the UK. All rounds are designated as National B races, with an overall series winner crowned following the final round. As announced in December 2021, an Under-23 Women’s National Road Series has for the first time this year been incorporated into the Junior Women’s National Road Series, in order to support those races to become more sustainable and competitive.
A field packed with many of the country’s top UK-based espoirs were blessed with fine spring weather for the Yorkshire Under-23 Classic, which took place on a rolling circuit at Upper Denby, West Yorkshire.
As predicted by team managers beforehand, the racing was open and aggressive from the start. James Harrison (Manx Viking Wheelers), Josh Price (Spirit BSS) and Tom Mitchell (trainSharp) were the first riders to break clear, leading the bunch after the first of nine laps of the 13.2 km circuit.
The formulation of the breakaway riders constantly changed through the next hour of racing, and as the riders crossed the finish line at the end of lap four, the break had swelled to eight. Mitchell had dropped back, while Harrison and Price had been joined by James Hartley (Cycling Sheffield), Jaimeson Blain (Embark-Bikestrong), Samuel Clark (trainSharp Development Team), Thomas Lowther, Matthew Ellis (both SRCT Muc-Off), and Price’s teammate Farley Barber.
The eight’s advantage yo-yoed as WiV SunGod riders Toby Barnes and Josh Whitehead led the chase in the bunch behind. With three laps remaining, however, the gap had gone out to one and a half minutes as WiV SunGod paused their pursuit.
The breakaway still had a 40-second advantage as they took the bell to signal the last lap of racing. It was at this moment that Samuel Clark pressed on, putting a gap on his breakaway companions and escaping alone. The breakaway was shattered in the melee, with many being caught by the splintering bunch on the final lap.
Toby Barnes managed to escape with Jack Rootkin-Gray (Team Inspired) but a crash for the latter slowed Barnes’ advance. Nonetheless, he caught all but Clark who managed to hold on for a classy solo victory. Barnes came in alone to claim second place, while Farley Barber pipped Jameson Blain as they sprinted it out for third on the uphill finish. The rest of the top ten came from the fractured bunch.
After the finish, Clark, a relative outsider for the win today, told us how he played it: “Last time up here, I pressed on, looked round, and had a bit of a gap. So I just carried on going and tried to hold on,” he said. He told us the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix on 8 May will be his next race and that he will “definitely” be back to defend his Series lead at the next round, which takes place in the Central region on Sunday 5 June.