Matt Gibson won’t have many better weeks in his road cycling life than this one.
Crowned national circuit champion as recently as Friday, Stockton had already proved a happy hunting ground for last week’s Bristol Grand Prix winner.
But the JLT Condor rider took even those achievements to new heights with his second HSBC UK | Grand Prix Series race win in succession, crossing the line first after a bunch sprint finish ahead of Matt Walls.
That kept Gibson firmly in touch with series leader Connor Swift though the race in Stockton was reduced following a serious crash earlier in proceedings.
Early crash causes lengthy stoppage
Rounding off the Stockton Festival, the peloton wasted little time in getting going with a strong pace being set from the off, with Tour of Britain qualification spots at stake.
An early crash saw four riders down, quickly regaining their feet, but the pace caused another incident – this time involving 20 riders as the race was neutralised for a lengthy period of time.
By the time the race resumed, Daniel Pullen, Ashley Cox, Zeb Kyffin, Luke Barfoot, Adam Pinder, James Jenkins and Daniel Mcquillan all had to abandon. We wish everyone involved a speedy recovery.
Immediately on resumption the peloton broke off into small groups with six leaders forcing an advantage of 28 seconds having themselves been split into chase and lead groups.
But as the last lap of the main circuit approached, the bunch were all back together again – a tale that was to become familiar as the race continued.
Breaks thwarted as peloton gathers
As Canyon Eisberg’s Jack Pullar took the second sprint points – closely followed by Swift of Madison Genesis – the peloton were in a much more strung-out state.
But after one leader was hunted down, Alex Richardson and Taylor Gunman were the latest to chance their arm with ONE Pro Cycling and JLT Condor leading the chase.
They held a 23-second advantage with four laps to go of the finishing circuit but by the time they next crossed the line, the peloton once was again back together.
Joe Holt was the next to have a go, with the 100% ME rider breaking away from deep as he looked for the glory moment.
But, as he had seen go before him, the group were all back together with one lap to go with a bunch sprint finale on the horizon.
Gibson crowns a perfect week
Maybe Gibson himself wondered how much was left in the tank after the week of weeks on the road.
But if there were any doubts left about stamina, he cast them one side ruthlessly to take the win by the narrowest of margins with Walls within an inch of taking the win himself.
Emils Liepins took third with the top 29 all receiving the same time, while all of the top 50 finished within 20 seconds to give an indication of how close this race was.
Gibson is now within nine points of Swift in the HSBC UK | Grand Prix Series standings, with Pullar just a further three points back in what is shaping up to be a classic series.