Abi Smith and Alex Richardson showed off their class to take commanding victories at the Ryedale Grasscrete Grand Prix, with Jack Rootkin-Gray’s second place in the men’s race sealing a Saint Piran one-two.
After a slight break for most of the domestic peloton after a ferocious long weekend on the Isle of Man for the last round of the National Road Series, the penultimate race of the series proved to be a more measured affair in the early stages.
Setting off from Ampleforth Abbey for the first time, the group stayed together through the village and up Yearsley Bank for the first time as the field elected to take things steady rather than put in any early digs to try and splinter the group.
Through the two longer laps of the course, the group stayed as one with CAMS-Basso marshalling the front of the course, as they looked to ensure that Sammie Stuart retained her individual lead in the overall standings.
It was on the shorter laps that the race finally found some spark with Smith launching an attack off the front through the feed zone in the grounds of the Abbey.
While she didn’t stay out front for too long, it did give a warning to other teams that they couldn’t sit back and let the race come to them. Taking up the mantle, Emma Matthews (CAMS-Basso) attacked and opened up a gap that grew to 30 seconds, but as she went through the start/finish line to start the penultimate lap, she was pulled back in by a group of 10 other riders.
There was a brief disruption through Ampleforth Village as Alex Morrice (Team LDN – Brother UK) took a small fall, but the group worked pretty well together to build up a lead of more than 90 seconds over a similar-sized chasing pack behind.
It was on the final lap – the fifth in total, and third of the smaller circuits – that Smith made her decisive attack. Talking after the race, she said she chose her spot on the flat after the Yearsley Bank climb having sensed that the peloton was starting to relax.
Attacking from the front, her senses proved to be spot on as no one joined the chase. Not dropping the tempo at all, she came into the grounds of the Abbey for the last time with more than 50 seconds in hand over the competition, taking a stunning solo victory on the roads she learned to ride a bike on, having grown up in nearby Oswaldkirk.
Behind her, Mary Wilkinson (Team Boompods) added a second place finish to her victory in the Lancaster Grand Prix by taking the reduced group sprint from Dani Shrosbree (CAMS-Basso). Kate Richardson (Alba Development Road Team) and Zoe Langham (Pro-Noctis – Rotor – RedchilliBikes by Heidi Kjeldsen) took fourth and fifth respectively.
In the National Road Series, Sammie Stuart keeps hold of the lead for CAMS-Basso despite finishing 31st overall, on 113 points, with Lucy Lee (Team LDN – Brother UK) still her nearest challenger on 96. Alice McWilliam (Bianchi Hunt Morvelo) is a point behind on 95 and Wilkinson has moved up to fourth on 75.
In the team standings, CAMS-Basso has a massive 316 points, more than double their nearest challengers Team Boompods on 152.
While the first few laps of the women’s race proved to be relatively cagey, the men’s race was anything but with action throughout the four-hour race.
Straight from the off five riders launched an attack with who else but Jake Scott (WiV SunGod) leading the way alongside Stuart Balfour (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling), Dean Watson (Embark – Bikestrong), Leon Mazzone (Saint Piran), and Tom Williams (Nopinz Motip Race Team).
The peloton was never too far behind in the early long laps, and come the next run up the lung-busting Yearsley Bank climb the lead group alongside Scott changed completely with Saint Piran sending up two riders – Alex Richardson and Jack Rootkin-Gray – to join Sam Clark (trainSharp Elite), Ribble’s Zeb Kyffin and Wales Racing Academy’s William Truelove.
Even that group didn’t last too long, as Scott and Rootkin-Gray attacked coming into the sharp left-hander at Grimston Grange and built up a handy advantage of a dozen or so seconds relatively quickly.
On the final of the three long laps, they were just about reeled in as Saint Piran, WiV SunGod and Ribble all worked together to form a group of at least 14 riders which included series leader Rob Scott (WiV SunGod).
Like most things in this race, the situation didn’t stay still for long as yet another four riders powered off the front in their own attempt to force a move with four laps remaining.
This move, though, was more decisive, as Richardson and Rootkin-Gray found themselves in a strong quartet with Toby Barnes (WiV SunGod) and Balfour. Working strongly together, they built up a lead of almost two minutes over a group of 16 riders which started to fracture as the pace kept getting lifted ever higher.
There was to be yet another twist on the race though, as Richardson attacked on the penultimate lap and splintered the leading four, with Balfour dropping off into the group behind, Rootkin-Gray just about keeping in the race and Barnes caught in purgatory a minute down on the Saint Piran duo and the same distance ahead of the chasers.
Coming into Ampleforth Abbey to start the final lap, the Saint Piran riders came in together and worked to increase the gap to Barnes.
However, on the final assault of Yearsley Bank disaster struck for Rootkin-Gray as he punctured. A quick service allowed him to retain second on the road – 30 seconds down on Richardson – but it meant the result was put beyond doubt.
The Cornish team took a well-earned one-two with Richardson leading home Rootkin-Gray with an advantage of more than a minute as he continued to run a high pace until the finish.
Having been caught on the final lap by the chasing pack, it wasn’t Toby Barnes who took the final podium spot, but Jake Scott – who prevailed in the bunch sprint against Finn Crockett (Ribble Weldtite) to continue his impressive string of podium results.
Sixth was enough for Rob Scott to keep hold of the National Road Series lead by 11 points over team-mate Jake Scott, with Finn Crockett third and 30 points down on Rob Scott. WiV SunGod also retain the lead in the team standings.
Both the men's and women's National Road Series conclude on Sunday 18 September, with the Curlew Cup for the women and Beaumont Trophy for the men in Northumberland.