Chris Lawless (Team Wiggins) sprinted to victory at the end of a thrilling Grand Prix of Wales, which was the penultimate round of the British Cycling Elite Road Series, on Sunday.
The 19-year-old from Wigan, who won the Stockton Town Centre Race last month as well as round six of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, took the win just ahead of Yanto Barker (One Pro Cycling) with Graham Briggs – the winner of the Chepstow Grand Prix and Wales Open Crit earlier in the week – taking third.
Breaks had got clear all day throughout the 113-mile race, but they were all pulled back until a thrilling finale in Abergavenny city centre.
The race began at a high pace from the off, but it didn’t take long for the attacks to begin with Dominic Jelfs (Madison Genesis) and James Gullen (Velosure Starley Primal) off the front.
They gained a maximum of 35 seconds, but were pulled back by the bunch after around 20 minutes of freedom.
But it wasn’t long before two more riders went off the front with Sam Williams (One Pro Cycling) and James Davey (Velosure Starley Primal) flooring it and gaining around one minutes and 40 seconds before the bunch reacted.
The chase was concerted, and led by national 25-mile time trial champion Ryan Perry (SportGrub KUOTA) who quickly closed to within 22 seconds, with the bunch not far behind him.
The leaders were soon reeled in, but another attack went including Dan Patten (Team Wiggins), Dale Appleby (NFTO) and Josh Edmondson (Giordana) only to be caught soon after.
With the race approaching two hours old the pace showed no sign of relenting – averaging more than 29mph – and four new leaders got away, Luke Grivell-Mellor (JLT Condor), Dexter Gardias (One Pro Cycling), Rhys Lloyd (NFTO) and James Gullen (Velosure Starley Primal) again after his earlier efforts.
Their lead reached 30 seconds before they too were snapped back into the bunch after 15 minutes.
Almost inevitably, another break went clear, this time ten riders including representatives from most of the big teams, but it wasn’t to last, perhaps nobody willing to take a one in ten chance of victory.
Instead, a break of four got away, with Mike Cuming (JLT Condor), Jack Pullar (Velosure Starley Primal), Dale Appleby (NFTO) and George Atkins (One Pro Cycling) powering off the front.
After ten minutes off the front, the quartet had gained around 36 seconds, but there were several on the front of the bunch who looked desperate to bridge across, and their lead looked fragile.
With eight laps of the seven-kilometre finishing circuit remaining the lead had dropped to 20 seconds, and they were soon within a few metres of being caught. Pullar dropped back to the bunch, but the other three kicked on and avoided being caught in brave style.
Within a few minutes their lead had gone back out to 35 seconds, and with six laps left they seemed determined to have a three-way sprint for glory.
But the chasers hadn’t given up hope, and Raleigh GAC were chasing hard as they looked to preserve the lead of Steve Lampier in the Grand Prix Series.
With four laps left their lead had dropped to 13 seconds, and it was still touch and go if they would stay clear as they came back through Abergavenny with three laps to go.
Atkins made a brave attempts to go it alone as they looked like being swallowed up, but with Raleigh driving hard first Appleby and Cuming and then Atkins were pulled back in and the race was back together for a thrilling final lap.
But just as Abergavenny was preparing for a bunch sprint, Kristian House (JLT Condor) attacked, and Ian Bibby (NFTO) went after him. Second in the overall Series, Bibby saw his chance for glory with Series leader Lampier out of the picture and struggling to finish the race.
But they were both caught in the closing stages of the last lap, and victory went to Chris Lawless (Team Wiggins) with Yanto Barker (One Pro Cycling) second and Graham Briggs (JLT Condor) third.
“It was pretty quick from the start and it was hard on the first two circuits which we weren’t expecting," said Lawless. "But I was feeling good on the climbs so I decided on the second lap to hit it hard where there are some steep ramps. My team-mates helped me do that and it split the race into two.
“Shortly after that I got away in a small group which stayed away until the smaller circuits, but we got caught pretty quickly once there. After that another group got away, and I just had to sit and wait and hope it would come down to a sprint because I’m pretty quick in a finish.
“Luckily Raleigh were interested in riding and it controlled the race. Coming into the finish it was carnage really. I just had to hit out early with over 500 metres to go, just going into the second last corner. I knew if I took those corners quickly I would be able to stay away.
“At the start of the day I was just planning on rolling around at the back and hoping it would come down to a sprint, but once I got out there I felt good and had a go early on.
“It’s great for the team’s profile. We’ve not had too many wins yet with us being a new team. Everything is coming together though. It’s a good group of lads and we’ve come together really well.”
1 Chris Lawless (Team Wiggins)
2 Yanto Barker (One Pro Cycling)
3 Graham Briggs (JLT Condor)
4 Steele Von Hoff (NFTO)