Harry Hardcastle soloed to victory in round seven of the British Cycling Junior Road Series as he got the better of the bunch at the Hatherleigh Junior Road Race.
With overall series leader Oscar Mingay not racing, Hardcastle closed the gap to the Giant Cycles-Halo Films rider in the standings, with a perfectly timed attack.
The Wheelbase Cabtech Junior RT rider used a roundabout as the launchpad for his move and it could not have worked out better as he took the win by two seconds from Anthony Anderson and Jim Brown.
The race consisted of two laps around a 56.5km loop, with the terrain making it difficult for any significant break to form on the first circuit.
The rolling course – large sections of which were on three fast but scenic A-roads – prevented any successful breakaways, and it wasn’t until the closing stages that anyone pulled out more than 30 or 40 seconds on the bunch.
Two riders – Alex Cross of Team Vision Innovative Leisure and Daniel Scarffe of Equiom IOM Junior Cycling – got away early on but the bunch did not let them get out of sight.
The lead group swelled to nine riders but never managed to distance the peloton and the race came together again.
Go hard or go home
With just over half a lap to go and sensing a lull in the intensity of the bunch, Hardcastle broke away on his own.
As the riders turned back on to the A386 for the final time Cross bridged the gap to the lone leader and the pair began to work together.
The duo stretched their lead out to more than a minute at one point, but as the kilometres ticked down the bunch’s relentless pursuit was appearing to pay off.
The decisive break
With around half a kilometre to go the leading pair had almost been swallowed up by the bunch, but it was at that point, as they exited a roundabout, that Hardcastle seized his opportunity.
He held on for the solo victory, with Anderson just edging out Brown in the sprint for second place.
“It was coming down in the last kilometre and my legs were hurting – I was going backwards,” said Hardcastle.
“And then I saw the roundabout and thought ‘right, I’m going to have to go now’ because I could see them coming – and I went really early and just held it. It was a good race.”
Battle will be resumed in two weeks’ time at the Bath Road Club race in Leighton Buzzard – but there’s no rest for the riders in between, with the National Championships taking place next weekend.
1. Harry Hardcastle Whellbase Cabtech Juniot RT 2:15:40
2. Anthony Anderson SigmaSport.co.uk @2 seconds
3. Jim Brown PH-MAS/Paul Milnes/Oldfield ERT same time
4. Ethan Vernon Team Corley Cycles st
5. Thomas Bostock Equiom IOM Junior Cycling st
6. Adam Kelly Equiom IOM Junior Cycling st
7. James Ridehalgh HMT with JLT Condor st
8. Brecon Burnett Cardiff Ajax CC st
9. Joe Hill Sussex Revolution Velo Club st
10. Daniel Pullen SunSport Velo st