The domestic peloton headed to the Isle of Man at the weekend for one of the toughest tests of the British racing calendar: the three-day Manx Telecom International. The race formed round 5 of the women’s National Road Series and round 4 of the men’s National Road Series.
The South African Hayley Preen (Torelli-Cayman Islands-Scimitar) prevailed to win a topsy-turvy edition of the women’s race that saw the leader’s jersey change hands several times. In the men’s race, home rider Matt Bostock (WiV SunGod) led from start to finish after a commanding display of strength from both rider and team.
The racing opened on Friday evening with a fast 1.1km crit-style stage around the Isle of Man business park. The tightly-contested women’s race ended in a bunch sprint, with junior sensation Emma Jeffers (JRC-Interflon) edging Sammie Stuart (CAMS-Basso) to take the win and the overall race lead. Stuart’s teammate Jess Finney was third.
In the men’s race, Matt Bostock was active throughout and took a deserved solo win after bursting clear of a three-man break with just over a lap remaining. His breakaway companions - teammate Toby Barnes and Stuart Balfour (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) – took second and third respectively.
The exposed Jurby Airfield Raceway played host to stage 2 on Saturday morning for a 40 km circuit race. With winds blowing across the open fields, crosswinds provided the key challenge of the day.
In the women’s race, a crash just before the first intermediate sprint split the bunch. National Road Series leader Alice McWilliam (Bianchi-Hunt-Morvelo) was one of those caught up in the clash, but quickly powered her way back.
On the run-in to the line, Lucy Lee (Team LDN-Brother UK) and CAMS-Basso’s Sammie Stuart hit the front first. Both lunging as they crossed the line, it was Lee who prevailed – taking her first National Road Series win by a wheel.
Behind, stage one winner Jeffers maintained her strong start to the race with third, enough to keep her in the leader’s jersey with an advantage of just two seconds over Stuart.
In the men’s race, WiV SunGod controlled affairs, setting a tempo strong enough to fracture the wind-buffeted peloton. The split resulted in a select group of 10 leading the way, comprised of Bostock and five of his teammates, three Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling riders and James Jenkins of Richardsons-Trek DAS.
The 10 stayed clear to fight it out for the win, with Bostock once again crossing the line first, just ahead of Ribble Weldtite’s Finn Crockett. Behind, Stockton Cycling Festival Grand Prix winner Jake Scott cemented WiV SunGod’s position with third. Victory extended Bostock’s lead in the general classification to 23 seconds over teammate Barnes.
In the afternoon, the next challenge was an old fashioned 10-mile out-and-back road back time-trial.
On a high from victory on stage two, Lucy Lee continued her strong form on the out-and-back course as she struck early to log the fastest time in 23:47. That proved decisive in shaking up the order in the general classification. Jeffers, restricted by junior gearing, lost 1:22 to Lee and slipped down the standings.
Stuart, meanwhile, was just 20 seconds off Lee’s fastest time to go third on the stage – one second slower than Lee’s teammate Ruth Shier. That left Stuart remaining second overall ahead of the final stage,19 seconds down on new leader Lee.
In the men’s race, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling delivered a time-trial masterclass as Zeb Kyffin charged to the fastest time overall – in 20:17 – to better teammate Ollie Peckover’s effort by 6 seconds. WiV SunGod’s Rob Scott was third.
Bostock, however, maintained his iron grip on the top of the standings. He set the sixth fastest time to extend his lead out to 29 seconds over nearest rival Balfour, who leapfrogged Barnes into second.
On Sunday it was the queen stage. As well as Snaefell Mountain and the fearsome Injerbreck Hill, the riders faced some horrid weather conditions, the riders shrouded in fog and buffeted by winds as they hit the hills.
In the women’s race, Nicole Coates (Torelli-Cayman Islands-Scimitar) sparked the key action of the day, building up a significant lead. She was still solo as what remained of the bunch hit Injebreck Hill. A crash on a cattle grid on the hill blew the chasing field apart. Then, as the leading chasers reached the summit, Coates’ teammate Hayley Preen, Lucy Ellmore (Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen) and Connie Hayes (AWOL O’Shea) launched clear.
Hayes lost ground on the descent, while Preen and Ellmore caught Coates. Behind, Lancaster Grand Prix winner Mary Wilkinson (Team Boompods) and another Torelli-Cayman-Islands-Scimitar rider, Annamarie Lipp, joined up with Hayes, all in hot pursuit of the lead three.
The trio stayed clear on the fast descent back to the finish line on the famous TT Grandstand, however, leaving them to sprint it out for the win.
Preen and Ellmore were neck-and-neck as they dashed to the line, but it was Preen who summoned enough energy and speed to take the win. Coates was third, while her teammate Lipp finished fourth to complete an excellent stage for the Torelli-Cayman-Islands-Scimitar team.
Overnight race leader Lucy Lee (Team LDN-Brother UK) was ninth, 47 seconds behind Preen, giving Preen enough of an advantage to take the overall win too.
Lee was second in the overall classification, 15 seconds back, while Stuart capped a fine weekend to finish third, wrapping up the Bikmo points competition win in the process. Hayes put in a strong final stage ride to finish sixth, enough to move her up to fourth overall and seal the Cycle 360 Leading Under-23 Rider competition.
In the men’s race, Injebreck Hill was once again at the centre of the key action. As they hit the climb, WiV SunGod upped the pace, Josh Whitehead going full gas. The move immediately begun to fracture the peloton. Dan Gardner (Project 51) was not deterred, however, and launched an attack. Balfour bridged across to him, along with George Kimber of Spirit BSS.
WiV SunGod, still five riders strong and leading a heavily reduced chasing group, brought the attackers back after the summit. And then, as crosswinds hit, the team used their numbers to put the lead group into the gutter, a move which whittled the lead group down to just eight riders: the two Scotts – Rob and Jake – Barnes, Irish road race champion Rory Townsend and Bostock (all WiV SunGod), along with Kimber, Balfour, and Gardner.
Behind, three of the jettisoned riders – Finn Crockett (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling), Adam Mitchell (Cycling Sheffield) and Ben Granger (Zappi Racing) – put in a huge effort, chasing for 30 kilometres, to bridge back across to the leaders.
With 6km to go, Rob Scott – celebrating his 24th birthday – put on the same show of brute force that won him the previous weekend’s Lancaster GP as he broke clear of the bunch.
Crockett, spent from his efforts chasing back on, put in a valiant effort to bring Scott back, but it was all in vain. Scott stayed clear to take yet another win. WiV SunGod used their numerical advantage to perfect effect, packing out the top five places, with Bostock second and Barnes third.
The result sealed a commanding GC win for Matt Bostock, who also won the Bikmo points competition and the best Manx rider competition. Rob Scott finished second overall with Balfour third. Barnes was fourth overall, winning the Canada Life Leading Under-23 Rider competition in the process.
National Road Series standings
Sammie Stuart’s results over the weekend were enough for her to take over as the new National Road Series leader. Stuart now has 113 points. Lee is second with 96 points, while erstwhile leader Alice McWilliam (Bianchi HUNT Morvélo) slips to third on 95 points. CAMS-Basso maintain a large lead over second-placed Team Boompods in the team standings.
It is all change in the men’s National Road Series too, as Rob Scott takes over as the new individual series leader. He has a 17-point lead over his teammate Jake Scott. Bostock is third a further 12 points back, while the previous leader, Crockett, slips to fourth. WiV SunGod continue their dominance in the team standings, 131 points clear of Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling in second.
The next round of the National Road Series is the Ryedale Grasscrete Grand Prix on 21 August.