Endura Racing made it three from three as The Halfords Tour Series made its first ever visit to Oxford, with thousands of spectators turning out to welcome Britain’s leading televised cycle race Series to the heart of the city on a warm summer evening.
Scott Thwaites added victory on the St Giles circuit to his win in the opening round of the 2012 Series seven days previously in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
The double victory for Endura, who took both team and individual prizes, had looked against the odds, as Team UK Youth, under the watchful gaze of Team President and Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell packed the front group with four riders and again placed three in the top ten.
Endura though endeavoured to be in every move around the Oxford group, also putting three riders into the front group of fourteen that escaped midway through the race to contest the honours. With Thwaites placing third and Dean Windsor and Jonny McEvoy following it up with third and fifth respectively the team prize was once again heading to the Scottish team, who now have a seven point lead over defending champions Rapha Condor Sharp.
With warmth and sunshine finally arriving at the 2012 Halfords Tour Series, the heat and high-speeds around the Oxford course that combined technical slow turns with two long flat our blasts up and down St Giles took their toll on the legs, causing numerous splits from a peloton that was strung out from early on.
Windsor joined Marcel Six in the first meaningful attack of the evening to stick, as the Metaltek Scott rider began his hunt for Boardman Bikes Sprint points, and both were in the eventual group of just over a dozen that went clear.
Numerically Team UK Youth and Endura Racing had the advantage, but with Rapha Condor Sharp’s Ed Clancy seemingly perfectly suited to a course that echoed the Southport drag strip where he won in 2009 it looked like a win could be on the cards for the Team Great Britain rider.
Instead it was Thwaites and Six who duked it out in the final drag for the line from the last hairpin, with Windsor and Chris Opie in attendance, with the latter initially complaining he had been blocked in the sprint.
Victory though again fell to Thwaites, just edging Six who turned in an impressive evening’s work in both the overall and Boardman Bikes Sprints competition.
“We had three riders [in the leading pack] which was enough,” said Scott Thwaites afterwards. “Sometimes when you have more people expect you to ride harder so we were comfortable with that and kept the pressure on. We wanted to make sure the pack didn’t catch up.
“Dean and Jonny were riding so hard, I was maybe struggling a bit out of the dead turns, I don’t quite have the zip I had last year but it’s coming. I think I am a lot stronger than I’ve ever been but I am lacking that top two percent. With a sprint like this, quite a long sprint and into a head-wind, my strength came through.”
The win keeps Endura Racing top with maximum points from three rounds, behind the battle for second tightened up with Rapha Condor Sharp, Team Raleigh – GAC, Team UK Youth and Node4 – Giordana Racing all split by just two points with eight rounds still to run.
In the Boardman Bikes Sprints competition Marcel Six bounced back from a poor showing in Durham to take a clean sweep of all three ‘hot spot’ sprints. That wasn’t enough though to retake the yellow Boardman Bikes jersey, which instead went to Team Raleigh – GAC’s Bernard Sulzberger, who has a healthy seven point lead.
“It was very tough tonight because of the hairpins. I was a bit worried because Marcel got the first sprint so I had to be up there for the next few. It was very tight, I think I only managed to win it by one point,” said Sulzberger afterwards.
“It’s good to get the jersey for the team. We’ve got Thursday and Friday to come so I am going to try my best and keep the jersey.”
Round Three Individual Result
1. Scott Thwaites, Endura Racing
2. Marcel Six, Metaltek Scott
3. Dean Windsor, Endura Racing
4. Chris Opie, Team UK Youth
5. Jonny McEvoy, Endura Racing
6. Mike Northey, Node4 - Giordana Racing
7. James McCallum, Rapha Condor Sharp
8. James Stewart, Team UK Youth
9. Niklas Gustavsson, Team UK Youth
10. Bernard Sulzberger, Team Raleigh - GAC
Round Three Team Result
1. Endura Racing
2. Team UK Youth
3. Rapha Condor Sharp
4. Node4 - Giordana Racing
5. Team Raleigh - GAC
6. Metaltek Scott
7. Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes
8. Team IG - Sigma Sport
9. Team Hope Factory Racing
10. Cycle Premier - Kover
Overall Team Standings, post-Round Three
1. Endura Racing, 30pts
2. Rapha Condor Sharp, 23pts
3. Team UK Youth, 22pts
4. Team Raleigh - GAC, 22pts
5. Node4 - Giordana Racing 21pts
6. Team IG - Sigma Sport, 12pts
7. Cycle Premier - Kovert, 11pts
8. Metaltek Scott, 11pts
9. Team Hope Factory Racing, 7pts
10. Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes, 10pts
Boardman Bikes Sprints winner Oxford: Marcel Six (Metaltek Scott.
Boardman Bikes Sprints standings, post-Round Three
1. Bernard Sulzberger, Team Raleigh - GAC, 32pts
2. Marcel Six, Metaltek Scott, 25pts
3. Kristian House, Rapha Condor Sharp, 21pts