Alex Morrice and Ben Chilton defy the odds to deliver stunning solo victories at the third round of the National Circuit Series in Guildford.
Alex Morrice (CANYON//SRAM Racing) returned from her Women’s WorldTour racing calendar to put on a masterclass of racing at her home circuit in Guildford.
The 23-year-old started strongly and was a crowd favourite as she put on an impressive display of strength on a tough circuit that included the cobbled climb up to the finish line on Guildford’s High Street.
Jo Tindley (Pro Noctis-Heidi Kjeldsen-200 Degrees Coffee) was first off the line, pushing the early pace and stringing the bunch out on the winding course. Closely following was her teammate Robyn Clay, Alice McWilliam (Hess Cycling Team), and Emma Jeffers (DAS-Handsling), who won the National Circuit Series in 2022.
Tindley gave way to Morrice after just 500m, and the CANYON//SRAM Racing rider went to the front with steely determination.
It seemed as though Morrice was staying out of trouble by taking the race up at the front. However, it soon became clear that she was set to race for the win in spectacular fashion. She rounded the final corner of the first lap at a pace that only Monica Greenwood (DAS-Handsling) could match and, just a dozen riders back, the strain was already causing splits all the way down the peloton.
Morrice was happy to set the pace, pushing on with a long line of riders on her wheel. Three laps later, just nine riders remained at the front.
Coming into the tight hairpin bend a few hundred metres after the finish, Greenwood lost traction and was catapulted into the air. Incredibly, she was up and remounting her bike in seconds, but the crash had caused a split behind Alex Morrice.
Morrice, now with a handful of seconds’ advantage, continued her pace from the first few laps, but it proved too much for Tindley and the others to close down. Cornering with absolute precision, Morrice started to stretch out a slender lead.
Tindley came close to closing the gap, dangling a few seconds behind Morrice for a few laps, but she was unable to make up the difference and was eventually swallowed up by the chasers. Even with the added firepower of the riders behind, the gap continued to grow. Repeated attacks from Tindley and Corrine Side (Pro Noctis-Heidi Kjeldsen-200 Degrees Coffee) splintered the chase group until Side and Emily Proud (Le Col RT) made their way clear.
With three laps to go, the gap to Morrice had grown to almost a minute, leaving her plenty of time to savour the win in front of her home crowds, finishing the race with her arms in the air.
Behind, Proud outsprinted Side for second and third respectively, with Proud putting on an incredible display of strength after a dropped chain had put her in last place on the first lap.
Side’s third place means that she now leads the overall competition in the National Circuit Series ahead of Round 4 in Dudley.
Ben Chilton attacked early on to catch the bunch by surprise, forging on alone to take an impressive solo victory for Ribble Collective at the Guildford Town Centre Races.
The stunning win was the 20-year-old’s first for the new team and arguably their biggest win to date. Chilton was ever-present at the front of the race, following the early moves before launching his own after 10 minutes of racing. His attack left him on his own against a chasing bunch for the majority of the race, but he held on to win by a comfortable margin.
Wales Racing Academy swamped the front of the race at the start, with Huw Buck-Jones and Benjamin Bright covering the early moves. More attacks came from Team PB Performance and Wheelbase CabTech Castelli’s Callum Laborde.
Laborde’s early move gained a handful of seconds, but by the time he reached the finishing straight for the fourth time, the bunch was within touching distance. Chilton accelerated across the small gap, using Laborde’s slipstream to recover across the top of the cobbled section. After only a few seconds of rest, Chilton swept round Laborde and continued up the road alone.
Behind, the bunch was struggling to come to terms with the power of Chilton’s attack, and he quickly gained an advantage of five seconds. Alec Briggs (TEKKERZ CC) was wise to the danger of a fast-cornering solo rider on the technical course and made a big effort to catch the flying Chilton.
Over the next ten minutes of racing, Chilton led by 10 seconds ahead of Briggs, who was chased by a dwindling front group. However, Chilton was proving to be unstoppable on a course that mimicked the efforts from his winter of cyclo-cross racing.
Chilton’s advantage continued to grow as he started to lap dropped riders, eventually stretching out to over one minute ahead of a select group of three. Briggs worked alongside Buck-Jones, while Chilton’s teammate, Tom Couzens, was disrupting the chase.
Coming into the finale, Briggs attacked hard, breaking away from Couzens and Buck-Jones, but it didn’t dent Chilton’s advantage.
The Ribble Collective rider relaxed as he rode into the finishing straight for the final time, high-fiving the crowd and celebrating as he crossed the line.
Briggs rode in alone one minute down on the leader, while Couzens sprinted to third ahead of Buck-Jones, rounding out an incredible night for Ribble Collective.
The win propels Chilton into the National Circuit Series lead ahead of Matt Fox going into Friday’s round in Dudley.
Ben Chilton (Ribble Collective)
Alec Briggs (TEKKERZ CC)
Tom Couzens (Ribble Collective)
Alex Morrice (CANYON//SRAM Racing)
Emily Proud (Le Col RT)
Corinne Side (Pro Noctis-Heidi Kjeldsen-200 Degrees Coffee)