Great Britain’s Matt Gibson finished sixth on general classification after placing eighth on the final stage of the 2014 Course de la Paix Juniors in the Czech Republic.
The 17-year-old British Cycling Olympic Development Programme athlete held the yellow jersey for two days after a win in the time-trial on stage 2a but dropped to seventh overall after the tough third stage on Saturday.
The final stage was another hard day; 99.8-kilometres starting and finishing in Terezin, featuring three king of the mountains climbs.
The Great Britain squad of Gibson, James Shaw, Gabriel Cullaigh, Joe Evans, Joe Holt and Leon Gledhill had two aims for the day’s stage; to try to get Shaw back into the polka dot jersey that he’d won on stage one; and to set up sprinter Cullaigh for a potential stage win.
Shaw contested all three king of the mountains sprints but each time, eventual king of the mountains winner, Dutchman Pascal Eenkhoorn, had the edge.
Shaw broke away in a group of six riders, including Eenkhoorn, on the second climb and the escapees got almost a minute on the peloton before being brought back with around 20-kilometres to go.
The focus then shifted to the team’s second objective as the finish loomed. With a kilometre to go, Shaw and Gibson began to lead Cullaigh out, Shaw putting in a huge turn despite his exertions on the hills earlier in the stage. Shaw peeled off with 700 metres to go, leaving Matt Gibson to take up the lead-out.
Gibson delivered Cullaigh to the last corner with around 350 metres to go but Cullaigh, who’d crashed earlier and had to chase back through the convoy from the doctor’s car, didn’t have the legs to come around Gibson, the pair finishing eighth and ninth on the stage, with the win going to Polish rider Patryk Solinski and the overall going to Magnus Klaris of Denmark.
Shaw finished in the bunch in 49th, six seconds down, leaving him 19th overall, giving Great Britain two riders in the top 20 on general classification. Shaw also finished second in the king of the mountains competition, on 20 points, seven points behind winner Eenkhoorn.
Following the stage Great Britain Olympic Development Programme Coach Matt Winston summed-up what his riders had learnt over the four days of racing.
"All in all a decent week,” said Winston. “We had the yellow jersey for two stages, we won the time-trial, had the king of the mountains jersey for two days, so lots of positives in there but lots of things for the guys to go away and think about. "
Course de la Paix was the third and final UCI Nations’ Cup event that the Great Britain squad will contest, with Paris-Roubaix Juniors, Tour of Istria and Course de la Paix Juniors acting as the perfect environment to develop racing skills alongside their international peers.
Winston believes that over the course of the three events the team experienced everything that top-level road racing can throw at them.
"Last year Tao Geoghegan Hart and Scott Davies we were up at the front end of the bike race a lot,” said Winston. “Matt and Gabriel were part of that team and although we haven't been as successful this year in terms of results on paper, I feel that over these three races, compared to the same three races we did last year, we've learnt more and we've picked up on more skills.
"I think that's a lot down to the bad luck we've had,” continued Winston. “We've had a lot of crashes, a lot of punctures, a lot of bike changes and all that stuff will stay with them now and they'll be more savvy on what to do in those situations.
"We had nine punctures in Roubaix, we've had riders crash every day here, we've had strong crosswinds where teams have tried to split it in echelons. We've had lead-outs and bunch sprints, we've had setting up for a yellow jersey to stay on the mountain stages even though he wasn't a pure climber; we've looked at trying to win king of the mountains jerseys.
"We've tried to tick a lot of boxes there; every rider has been back and collected bottles from the car; every rider has had a puncture or a mechanical so they've had to ride through the convoy.
“We've had a lot of experiences to take forward for when they go to academy or turn pro in few years’ time.
“That's what those races are about rather than what results we get over the line,” Winston concluded. “So from a development point of view, it's been good and it's been a worthwhile three races.”