Tour Series: Blackpool (Round 5)

Tour Series: Blackpool (Round 5)

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Tour Series: Blackpool (Round 5)

June 9, 2009; by Larry Hickmott

Halfords Rock Blackpool with Hayles' Killer Blow

Above: Our Rob celebrates on the podium with 'our' president -- British Cycling's -- Brian Cookson, a guest of honour at the Blackpool round of the Tour Series.

Halfords Bikehut once again underlined their strength as they won round five of the Tour Series in Blackpool tonight (9 June) with victory in the race going to their British Road Race champion Rob Hayles backed up by 5th place for Ian Wilkinson and 9th for Ed Clancy. The evergreen Rob Hayles, who has a world title or two to his name as well as Olympic medals from two Olympiads, won the race in some style, out cornering and then outsprinting his three rivals from the break that had dominated the race.

Conditions for the Tour Series’ first foray north, were a little cooler than previous rounds, with a reasonably stiff north easterly wind facing the teams on the home straight but despite some rain falling on the windscreen on my way there from Manchester after finishing work, the weather in the seaside resort was bright and dry. Arriving with less than an hour to go, the crowds were a little thin on the barriers but that soon changed as the start time got ever closer and pretty soon, the barriers at the start/finish right the way down to the Casino corner were packed with people.

After the formalities were out of the way with the presentation of the teams on stage, as well as rider interviews whilst they did so and a parade of the team mascots, the riders were lined up on the start line before the siren sounded at 7pm.

It was a steady start for the race but the pace soon warmed up with some incessant early attacking from the Candi TV, Halfords and Sigma squads and you only had too look at the back of the group and the riders being shelled, to know the gas was being turned up well and truly to high. After 10 minutes of the hour’s racing, Dean Downing, Tom Barras, Russell Downing and Rob Hayles were in a select group of four riders that escaped the already thinning field of 50. They quickly gained 50 metres and by the time 15 minutes had elapsed, this had become 20 seconds.

The game was set as the big four teams in this year’s Tour Series all had a man in the break and it was now that the team’s strategies came into play and whilst the teams not represented in the break did try and bring the leaders back, and I'm sure the pace was on, there were a few in the peloton who had time to pull funny faces at the camera and wave as they sped past. After 30 minutes of racing, the break’s lead had become 30 seconds as back in the main group the chase was being disrupted by the other members of the main protagonist’s teams, as Sigma, Sport Beans and Endura tried desperately to get the head of the chase organised.

Sprint two was easily taken by Russ Downing from brother Dean, as the main field sprinted for 5th place. This intermediate gallop only served to break up any chase for the escapees and by the time 35 minutes of racing had passed, the lead was almost 40 seconds and it was looking like a ‘first lapping of the field’ in this year’s Tour Series was on the cards. Blackpool was serving up a tasty dish of team tactics for the growing numbers of cycling fans.

Above: British circuit race champion Dean Downing leads the break into the Casino corner at the top of the circuit.

As the clocked ticked by into the final third of the hour required, the Endura Racing boys from Scotland decided that they weren’t going to go down without a fight and Evan Oliphant came through the start finish area with a grimace as the clock reached 40 minutes. Next time round it was the turn of Team Corley Cycles’ Matt Higgins to drive the train as the teams of Halfords Bikehut, Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, Madison and Rapha-Condor sat and watched in a chase group of around 25 riders.

With the race now entering the finale, Russ Downing demonstrated why he is amongst the fastest men in the UK in a road sprint by taking the third and final dash for the line and the money on offer, and with 10 minutes remaining the field were almost 45 seconds back. It was now evident that the field were not going to be lapped, but equally the leading four riders were surely not going to be caught. It was now just a matter of which teams were going to occupy the first four places.

Three laps to go and the concerted efforts of the Endura, Sigma and the Corley boys was starting to reel in the break, however the leaders were now settling themselves for the last lap sprint that would determine the winner of a great night’s racing in Blackpool.

As the foursome rounded Casino Corner, Tom Barras made a dash for home, however the older heads in the group held their nerve and allowed the Madison rider to lead out round the back of the course. Turning the sharp right-hander into the last straight, it was the oldest head of all, Rob Hayles, who hit front and with his heavily pregnant (due very soon!) wife Vickie watching with daughter Maddie, 'Killer' Hayles had plenty of time to glance back and then throw his arm out in a victory celebration two bike lengths ahead of Russell Downing.

However, the Tour Series is all about the Team race, and with the first four places decided, the big challenge for the teams was to get as many of their riders as high up the finishing list as possible in the bunch kick and as they came into view, the peloton filled the whole width of the road as the riders in the teams battled elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder to get their front wheel across the line first.

Above: Team winners in Blackpool, Halfords Bikehut -- Ian Wilkinson, Rob Partridge, Rob Hayles, Ed Clancy and Ian Bibby.

That honour went to the Halfords Bikehut squad, as Ian Wilkinson ably backed-up Hayles to help his squad take the team prize on the night. Lead by Russell Downing, who won the Sprints award on the night and was second on the night, Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta cemented their overall lead as the Tour Series hits the half-way point.

Afterwards I spoke to winner Rob Hayles who admitted that he actually felt pretty bad out there. “I could see the field splitting behind but up front it was quite nice. I put a few spurts in to try and come round because I felt tired and I was trying not to listen to what my body was saying. I knew had good form in my legs, it was just a matter of getting it out so I really had to think about the finish.”

“You can’t give any of those guys an inch. Tom was too keen on the sprint because he went early which put me in fourth and I didn’t want to come out of the last bend fourth even though it was a long run to the finish. Because I was feeling tired, I wanted a bit of sliding space to get up to speed. So I dived under them into the corner and I wanted to take it steady away because it was quite long and I didn’t want to go too quick, too soon, but when I looked down, I saw Tom had my wheel  so I knew I had to jump to try and get a gap.”

“I didn’t want Dean or Russ to get alongside me – so I just went as hard as I could and sprinted -- in a straight line  -- just to prove I can win them!”

Above: Sprinting in a straight line -- that's what Rob Hayles is saying as he celebrates a victory.

Above: Rob goes looking for his wife Vicki and daughter to present them with the winners bouquet.

“It was never an intention to get in a break – it just happened. After last week, I knew the lads were capable of pulling themselves together and they didn’t really need me there. So I’m very happy to get the win but I did say to some one before the race, I won’t win one of these now which is why I had tried to win the first one because I knew the team award was the goal and that is what it's about.”

“Obviously, I’m very pleased to win for myself but I was also a bit anxious because I wanted the team to win. We have to try and peg the other guys back so it was a relief to get the team award.” On how hard the race was, Rob replied “I think this race split more than any of them except for perhaps Woking where it was horrendous at the front as well as at the back whereas this for me, it was a walk in the park, or to put it another way, a stroll on the boulevard at the front!”

Above: Okay, no need for a caption on this one eh Russ!

Russell Downing: “You can’t win everything. I got the last corner wrong. Rob took me by surprise, jumping in there and Dean went left and Tom sort of bobbed on the corner and it totally threw me. I came out I think in too smaller a gear and Rob got the jump. He got the gap, and I went to sprint and they were pulling away from me so I had to cog it down a few and I just gave it everything. There was no chance of getting Rob back though.”

On how he felt after a lot of racing and travelling in a few days, Russell replied “I’ve been really tired. I’d like to have slept for 12 hours yesterday like my older brother (Dean) but we did some publicity thing around the Stoke schools – we did four assemblys yesterday, the first one at a quarter past 10, and the last one at half past two. Dealing with 240 kids for half an hour was not the best preparation but I got home last night, turned the phones off and dropped the tools at 10pm and slept until half past 9 this morning. I feel a lot better because the weekend did destroy me!”

Finally, when asked what his goals were now with the British champs (road race) now looming on the horizon, he replied “I’d like to do well there and the race at Ryedale was good preparation. We are struggling to train and I’m just doing two hours in the morning and then the crit in the evening but I think with the race (Men's British RR championship) being 160k, it will be better than it would if it was over 200k when I think I’d struggle. Tomorrow I’ll probably get four hours in, maybe five but we’ll see how I feel.”

The race now moves on to round six in Southport on Thursday the 11th. Follow the Tour Series on ITV4 at 7pm on Wednesday’s and Friday. Five rounds down, five to go!

Photos of a great night out in Blackpool!

Above: After a slight mishap before the start, it was all right on the night for Graham Briggs as he celebrates his team, CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta, holding on to the leader's jerseys.

Above: Graham Briggs and Pete Williams of CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta sprinting for the first sprint.

Above: Bunch kick for fifth place and Halfords have riders up the front to do enough to clinch the team award on the night.

Team Results – Round 5 – Blackpool
1. Team Halfords Bikehut   
2. Candi TV – Marshalls Pasta
4. Rapha – Condor
5. Sigma Sport Cycling Team
6. Sports Beans – Wilier
7. Endura Racing
8. Team Corley Cycles                                                            
10. BMC UK Racing Team

Individual Results – Round 5 – Blackpool
1. Rob Hayles Halfords Bikehut
2. Russell Downing, CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta
3. Dean Downing, Rapha Condor
4. Tom Barras
5. Ian Wilkinson  Halfords Bikehut
6. Malcolm Elliot  CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta
7. Tony Gibb
8. Yanto Barker Sigma Sport/Specialized
9. Ed Clancy  Halfords Bikehut
10. Graham Briggs  CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta
11. Jeroen Janssen,
12. Liam Holhan, Rapha Condor
13. Chris Newton, Rapha Condor 
14. Ian Bibby,  Halfords Bikehut
15. Rhys Lloyd,  Rapha Condor
16. Will Bjergfelt, Sport Beans Wilier
17. Jon Mozley,
18. Evan Oliphant, Endura
19. James McCallum, Endura
20. Peter Williams,  CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta
21. Macin Bialoblocki,  Sport Beans Wilier
22. Matt Higgins, Corely Cycles
23. Gareth Mongomerie, Sigma Sport/Specialized
24. Jon Teiran-Locke,  Sport Beans Wilier
25. Simon Gaywood, Corely Cycles
26. Simon Holt,  CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta
27. Rob Partridge,  Halfords Bikehut
28. Raphael Deinhart,
29. James Williamson,  Sigma Sport/Specialized
30. Ross Creber, Endura
31. David Lines, Endura
32. Callum Wilkinson,  Endura
33. Joe Skipper, BMC UK
34. Will Fox,
35. Mark Wordsworth, Corely Cycles
36. Jason White,
37. James Cambridge,
38. Karl Freeman, Corely Cycles
39. James Whatling, BMC UK
40. Steven Griffiths, BMC UK
41. Daniel Krogan, BMC UK
42. Martin Freeman, Corely Cycles

Team Standings after Round 5
1. Candi TV – Marshalls Pasta 
3. Rapha – Condor
4. Team Halfords Bikehut                                                       
5. Sigma Sport Cycling Team
6. Sports Beans – Wilier
7. Team Corley Cycles      
8. BMC UK Racing Team            
9.  Endura Racing                                               

Tour Series Dates
Round 1 - 21st May - Milton Keynes
Round 2 - 28th May - Exeter
Round 3 - 2nd June - Woking
Round 4 - 4th June - Peterborough
Round 5 - 9th June - Blackpool

Round 6 - 11th June - Southport
Round 7 - 16th June - Stoke on Trent
Round 8 - 18th June - Colchester
Round 9 - 23rd June - Chester
Round 10 - 25th June - Southend on Sea