Niklas Gustavsson took a first ever Halfords Tour Series victory for Team UK Youth and the first for a rider from Sweden, swooping to victory on a challenging Redditch circuit.
The charity backed UK Youth team couldn’t overturn the Endura applecart however, with the orange clad quintet once again taking victory in the all-important teams classification to make it four wins from four in the 2012 Halfords Tour Series.
Gustavsson outsprinted breakaway companions Dean Windsor, Bernard Sulzberger and Kristian House up the punishing final climb of Unicorn Hill to the finish. He took not only the first Series win for Team UK Youth rider but also the first for a rider from outside of the Endura Racing, Rapha Condor Sharp and Node4 – Giordana triumvirat since Tony Gibb at Canary Wharf in the opening round of 2010.
Behind the Swede Endura placed riders in second, fifth and seventh to comfortably take a fourth win of 2012, although UK Youth once again placed four riders in the top ten, showing their time will soon come.
The topsy-turvy nature of the battle to hang onto Endura’s coattails continued, with Node4 – Giordana Racing taking third on the night, despite only starting four riders, to ensure second to fifth overall are separated by just three four points.
In hot and sunny conditions, with large crowds once again heading to the Series, the pace was initially easy but the battle for Boardman Bikes Sprints points between Sulzberger and Marcel Six sparked the race into life.
Durham winner House went clear, soon being joined by Windsor as the pair fought out the second Boardman Bikes Sprint. Sulzberger then crossed to them before the duo of Matt Cronshaw and Gustavsson fought their way across.
The five worked well and built up a minute’s lead around the Choose How You Move Redditch circuit and with five teams represented in front there was a ceasefire from the main field, who would instead battle it out for the all-important second and third placings.
Onto the final lap and the five strong break were reduced to four when Cronshaw crashed on a corner with just a few hundred metres to go. Gustavsson took the initiative and attacked at the foot of Unicorn Hill but despites the efforts of Windsor to chase the UK Youth rider held firm in front through the final sweeping right hander to take the win.
Afterwards he reserved some praise for the Worcestershire crowd.
“It was an amazing atmosphere here. It’s the first event here and it was really good. I am very pleased to see such a big crowd tonight,” said Niklas Gustavsson.
“It was a big win for me tonight, I’ve been really looking forward to having a win because last year I came second and all I wanted to do was have a win. It feels great. It’s always great to cross the line first, especially in front of some of these guys.”
Second placed Dean Windsor was also pleased by the support the riders received on the roads of Redditch, saying, “The noise tonight was phenomenal. Redditch put on a really good show. I really hope we come back here next year. The crowds got right behind it. They’re a friendly bunch here and I really want to come back.
“It was quite difficult, it was quite a fast decent and then it dragged all the way up. The last hill was really steep so you had to use all the power you had to get up there. One of the best Tour Series we’ve had I think.”
Kirkcaldy and Oxford winner Thwaites continued his good form by taking the bunch sprint for fourth, after the demise of Cronshaw, who trailed in 34th.
Endura Racing now have a maximum 40 points from the opening rounds, with a lead that now stands at nine points over nearest placed challengers Team UK Youth.
At the other end of the standings Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes and Team Hope Factory Racing remained locked in an intriguing battle level on nine points, with the former picking up an impressive seventh on the evening, ahead of UCI Continental squad Team IG – Sigma Sport, who had an evening to forget
Sulzberger cemented his lead atop the Boardman Bikes Sprints competition, keeping hold of the yellow jersey going into the Aberystwyth round, with a win in Redditch to move 12 points clear of Metaltek Scott’s Marcel Six, with House in third a further two points behind.
Highlights of Round Four from Redditch will be shown on ITV4 at 20:00 on Friday 25th May. The Halfords Tour Series swings back into action for its third round of the week, with Round Five of the Series on Friday 25th May for the only Welsh round of 2012 in Aberystwyth.
Round Five forms part of the Aberystwyth Cycle Festival, with a number of support races taking place during Friday afternoon, while the festival will culminate in the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the Welsh resort on Sunday 27th May.
Round Four Individual Result
1 Niklas Gustavsson, Team UK Youth
2 Dean Windsor, Endura Racing
3 Bernard Sulzberger, Team Raleigh - GAC
4 Kristian House, Rapha Condor Sharp
5 Scott Thwaites, Endura Racing
6 Chris Opie, Team UK Youth
7 Jonny McEvoy, Endura Racing
8 Rico Rogers, Node4 - Giordana Racing
9 Ed Clancy, Rapha Condor Sharp
10 Yanto Barker, Team UK Youth
Round Four Team Result
1 Endura Racing
2 Team UK Youth
3 Node4 - Giordana Racing
4 Rapha Condor Sharp
5 Team Raleigh - GAC
6 Cycle Premier - Kovert
7 Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes
8 Team IG - Sigma Sport
9 Team Hope Factory Racing
10 Metaltek Scott
Overall Team Standings, post-Round Four
1 Endura Racing, 40pts
2 Team UK Youth, 31pts
3 Rapha Condor Sharp, 30pts
4 Node4 - Giordana Racing, 29pts
5 Team Raleigh - GAC, 28pts
6 Cycle Premier - Kovert, 16pts
7 Team IG - Sigma Sport, 15pts
8 Metaltek Scott, 12pts
9 Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes, 9pts
10 Team Hope Factory Racing, 9pts
Boardman Bikes Sprints winner Redditch: Bernard Sulzberger (Team Raleigh - GAC)
Boardman Bikes Sprints standings, post-Round Four
1 Bernard Sulzberger, Team Raleigh - GAC, 44pts
2 Marcel Six, Metaltek Scott, 32pts
3 Kristian House, Rapha Condor Sharp, 30pts