Team Raleigh’s Alexandre Blain is only one round away from securing the 2014 British Cycling Elite Circuit Series, which ends with the Wales Open Criterium on 30 July in its new home of Chepstow.
Only a lapse in series leader Blain’s consistent scoring stands in the way of the 33-year-old taking the title, after closest rival Dean Downing retired at the penultimate round in Sheffield.
Blain tops the table on 122 points, ten clear of Downing, whose aggressive racing has kept the Team Raleigh man on his toes throughout the previous five rounds.
However the gap is immaterial now Downing has moved into a behind-the-scenes role in the NFTO outfit, so Blain’s closest effective challengers are Velosure-Giordana RT’s Matt Cronshaw on 104 points and NFTO Pro Cycling’s Adam Blythe on 92.
With a theoretical maximum of 40 points available in Chepstow, only Cronshaw, Blythe, Chris Opie and George Atkins can catch the flying Frenchman, but the maths doesn’t take into account Blain’s consistent finishing and performance in the sprints, which has seen him head the table despite not winning a single event.
The 2013 Wales Open Criterium saw Mike Northey take victory in Abergavenny town centre, riding for Velosure-Giordana RT. Northey, now part of the Madison Genesis squad has already taken victory in 2014, winning the cobbled Beverley Grand Prix.
Rapha Condor JLT have produced two race wins so far in the 2014 series – Graham Briggs taking victory in Colne while Kristian House claimed the win in the Sheffield Grand Prix last Wednesday.
2013 champion George Atkins could add to his winning tally, the Team Raleigh rider winning in Stockton, while British circuit race champion Adam Blythe could elevate his position in the series standings by replicating his win in the opening round in Otley.
For 2014, the Wales Open Criterium moves to historic Chepstow from its long term home of Abergavenny and riders will face one hour plus five laps of the 1.2-kilometre town-centre course.
The race begins on Bridge Street near Chepstow’s iconic castle, heading south west to a hard left onto Upper Church Street before a sharp right onto the narrow, cobbled St Mary’s Street.
A series of left turns brings the race onto Nelson Street heading north east onto Church Road and Lower Church Street before looping back onto Bridge Street via St Anne Street. It’s a tight, twisting course that will provide a great spectacle for the series’ final round.
Racing begins at 7:15pm with the Go-Race event for fourth category riders before the Elite Circuit Series finale at 8:00pm.