Ferguson and Baker crowned winners on Saltburn Bank at East Cleveland Classic

Ferguson and Baker crowned winners on Saltburn Bank at East Cleveland Classic

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Cat Ferguson and Rowan Baker were crowned the winners of the East Cleveland Classic after dramatic finishes on the iconic Saltburn Bank on Sunday.

The East Cleveland Classic played host to the opening round of the Open National Road Series, and round two of the Women's National Road Series after the ANEXO/CAMS Women's CiCLE Classic in March.

Women race

Cat Ferguson (Shibden Apex RT) won the East Cleveland Classic after a powerful ride up the steep hairpins of the infamous Saltburn Bank, opening up a clear gap on her rivals on the same finish used in last year’s National Road Race Championships.

It was a remarkable win for Ferguson, who will join WorldTour outfit Movistar in August, as she was forced to change bikes after a crash with 28km remaining. A frantic chase to get back to the front of the race could not stop her as she romped home to win the second round of the National Road Series.

The bunch faced 111km of undulating roads, featuring four ascents of Saltburn Bank, with the summit of its 15% slopes coming only 300m from the finish line.

The first 30km were run at a typically ferocious pace, but the peloton remained largely intact, with no breakaway established until the riders reached the 400m long Saltburn Bank in single file. Ferguson and Shibden-Apex Race Team teammate, Imogen Wolff, were the protagonists as they lit up the race on the steep slopes with Tiffany Keep (DAS-Hutchinson-Brother UK) the only rider able to immediately keep contact.

Jessica Finney

A group of six formed as the riders crossed the finish line for the first time as Jessica Finney (Doltcini-O’Shea), and Women's CiCLE Classic podium-placed Eilidh Shaw (Alba Development Road Team) and Alice McWilliam (HESS CYCLING TEAM) joined them.

The group worked well together, but by the time they reached the next ascent of Saltburn Bank, the chasing peloton caught the front trio. The peloton started to splinter on the road towards the coast at Brotton, with Ferguson active as she looked to forge a breakaway on the descent into Saltburn-by-the-Sea. A group of around 25 remained as they passed the finish line for the penultimate time, with no-one committing to an attack after the stinging effort of the early race.

Finney seemed determined to get away, attacking up a small climb midway through the final lap, dragging three more riders with her. Attacks continued to come from the chasing bunch, which swelled in number, as the Pro-Noctis-200 Degrees Coffee-Hargreaves Contracting team came to the front to head the chase.

Next, DAS-Brother-Hutchinson took control of the peloton, with Frankie Hall setting a strong pace as they descended from the high point of the circuit at Lingdale, the chances for attackers to make their move before the final climb of Saltburn Bank diminishing as riders towards the back of the pack began to visibly tire.

With the pace remaining high into the final kilometres, no rider was able to get away, the favourites keeping their cards close to their chest as the race headed for a showdown on the final ascent of Saltburn Bank.

Podium East Cleveland Classic

In the final 3km, the bunch split and Ferguson emerged at the front of the race as the riders began the climb. The 17-year-old remaining seated most of the way up the steep hill, opening up a commanding gap over her rivals before sitting up to celebrate a stunning victory. 

Behind, it was new the series leader Eilidh Shaw (Alba Development RT) and Ferguson’s teammate Imogen Wolff who rounded out the podium.

Full results

Open race

Rowan Baker (Saint Piran) claimed a stunning solo victory in the opening round at the East Cleveland Classic after a day on the attack.

The bunch set off in near perfect conditions from Saltburn, facing 167km of the rolling circuit. The pace was high from the start, but riders found it difficult to open up a gap on the chasing peloton. Dom Jackson (Foran CC) and Tom Martin (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli) were the only riders to do so inside the first lap, joined by Saint Piran’s Baker as the trio tackled Saltburn Bank for the first time.

After a failed move with a teammate, Ollie Hucks (TAAP Kalas) found himself up the road again at the end of the second lap, and was joined by Martin and George Kimber (Spirit TBW Stuart Hall Cycling). Despite the strength of the trio, the gap never got above 15 seconds before they were reeled in by a storming Saint Piran.

Rowan Baker

With the race approaching halfway distance it was the Cornish team’s opportunity to send a rider up the road, Baker again attacking, being joined by six more riders after 10km solo. Another group made the catch shortly after, making 15 riders in front; Saint Piran and Richardsons Trek-DAS having the luxury of two riders within the lead group.

The Richardsons Trek-DAS squad headed to East Cleveland with high hopes of causing an upset. Connor McGoldrick came to the race with a pair of second places in the lead up to this race and having performed well in a breakaway at the National Road Race Championships on a similar course last June. Backed by a strong team including former Team Sky recruit Alex Peters, McGoldrick found himself in the lead group with teammate Cai Davies.

McGoldrick wasted no time in attacking, as the bunch swelled to around 30 riders, before a rapid descent from the course’s high point at Lingdale saw the Londoner force a split, taking four riders with him. The group’s existence was short lived however, as Saint Piran’s Rhys Robotham set a high tempo, dropping his breakaway companions with 59km to go.

Podium East Cleveland Classic

Former national cyclo-cross champion Thomas Mein (Project1) attacked from the bunch, linking up with Robotham to make it two riders at the head of the race.

Not long after, Baker bridged across to the leading pair and Mein was dropped by the Saint Piran duo only minutes later. Not far behind, the bunch was strung out over the undulating terrain.

On the penultimate ascent of the savage Saltburn Bank, Baker powered away from his Australian teammate. The dynamic of the race suddenly changed, with only 30 seconds separating Baker from the peloton with a lap remaining.

However, Baker pressed on, smoothly turning the pedals as he tackled the rolling terrain with a terrific display of power and technical descending ability, extending his lead to an incredible 1:30 with 16km to go.

Podium East Cleveland Classic

Baker laboured up Saltburn Bank for the final time, a smile on his face and fist clenched at the summit as he reflected on a magnificent victory. Behind, the race for the podium was still on and it was Tim Shoreman (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli) who used his fast finish to outsprint James McKay (Saint Piran).

Baker takes the first leader’s jersey of the series with the next round the Lincoln GP in May.

Full results