Tour Series 2009 (Chester)
June 23, 2009, Round 9
Pictures by Larry Hickmott
Rapha-Condor's Lapthorne and Candi TV lap-up the Chester applause
After nine rounds, and almost 500km of racing, the top three teams in this year's Tour Series are separated by one single point. The team of the early rounds, Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, packed a trio of Russell Downing, Malcolm Elliot and Graham Briggs into the first six positions and took the win by a whisker from Rapha-Condor - as Team Halfords Bikehut crossed the line a beaten team on the night. However they hold onto the overall lead going into the final race of this year's Tour Series in Southend-on-Sea on Thursday.
The tension - in front of yet another huge crowd - was palpable in the charged Chester atmosphere, as the Tour Series peloton descended on the city once home to legions of Romans for the ninth instalment of this year's 10-round series. The previous week's intense racing had seen Team Halfords Bikehut take command of the overall leader's jerseys, however Rapha-Condor had their tails up after a strong week 5 with a team win in Stoke-on-Trent and a brilliant solo-effort by Tom Southam in Colchester. The lead for the men-in-gold was a mere four points after eight aggressive, tactical and highly-competitive races. From the moment the racing rolled out in Milton Keynes this series was always going to go down to the wire.
As the riders sat on the start line, the sky got darker and the first drops of rain started to fall on the bare skin. It was going to rain and rain it did -- heavily. There is a saying that the only thing worse than cobbles are wet cobbles and the ones in Chester were certainly that. Candi TV though were not put off and they started to dish out some extra pain for those riders in their wake as Graham Briggs and Russell Downing kept the early pace high.
A few more laps under their wheels, and three riders skipped off the front led by Kristian House from Rapha-Condor and followed by Malcolm Elliot and Andy Tennant (Halford) marking the move and ensuring that there was to be no repeat of the Rapha-Condor escape of Colchester. However, as they were caught going into the first sprint, Kristian's Rapha-Condor team-mate Darren Lapthorne (former Australian road race champion) launched a big attack and took the sprint win by five bike-lengths. He continued to hold that advantage for two more laps and then extended it to almost 10 seconds as the race approached 20 minutes.
The tricky conditions were not proving to slow the relentless average speed that has marked this Series, as the riders tapped out 28 mph even in the rain. Former Australian champion Lapthorne was revelling in these wet conditions and continued to extend his lead over the next five laps to almost 15 seconds. Team Halfords and Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta were not going to let Lapthorne have his head for much longer though as Ian Wilkinson and Graham Briggs drove the chasers. As they approached the second sprint, the Flying Dutchman Jeroen Janssen had skipped away in pursuit of the Rapha man, however the main field didn't want to let another danger-man escape and reeled in the Madison rider come the sprint.
With the rain falling out of the sky, Chris Newton smashes it at the front.
Still, try as they might, the chasers couldn't pull the Australian Rapha-Condor rider back and over the next five laps, Lapthorne amazingly extended his lead to 40 seconds by the time 30 minutes of racing passed. The team games were being played now as Rapha-Condor sat on the front of the chasing group riding tempo. In Blackpool, a trio of Rapha, Halfords and Candi TV riders stole 45 seconds and looked odds on to lap the field, it didn't happen on that night, however with every lap that passed, Lapthorne looked like he was going to achieve that feat on his own.
Sprint three was highly significant - firstly Lapthorne had extended his lead to over 55 seconds and secondly there appeared to be pressure in the chasing field as Team Halfords grappled for wheels in a splintering peloton. One thing was for sure, the Rapha-Condor rider was soloing his way to another superb individual win and as the manager John Herety had said before the race, his riders were smashing it in their 'home' race.
However, as all of the teams in this year's series know, it is all about getting three riders across the line ahead of your competitors and Candi TV were highly vigilant behind the Australian and they shuffled four riders into the first 10 chasers. With five laps to go, there was a visible break in the pursuit, with Rapha's Tom Southam launching himself off the front, chased by Halford's Rob Hayles. The teams knew what was at stake tonight and none more-so than Chester 'home-team' Rapha-Condor. So, with less than 10km to go, there was to be only one winner, but the question to be answered was -- what were the placings behind going to be in Chester.
Into the last lap, and victory was assured for the supreme Lapthone and his Rapha-Condor men-in-black gathered themselves in pursuit of that team win. Chris Newton escaped in a mini-foray off the front, but was being hunted down by Halfords and Candi TV. It was to be one of the Tour Series' famous bunch gallops.
Lapthorne lapped-up the enthusiastic welcome from the Chester crowd, and arms aloft took the win, but behind there had been a last-lap carve up in the main field. Russell Downing brought the field home in customary style, chased by fast-finishing team mate Malcolm Elliot. Behind rider after rider struggled to the line, with Halfords and Candi TV scrambling for the top 10 places that mean so much.
After long deliberation the judges called the result and it was to be the Candi TV team that took the spoils on yet another historic night's racing on the Tour Series.
Post Race Reactions
Darren Lapthorne: “I went out to smash it tonight but I did think a couple of guys might want to go with me! I ended up out there by myself and it sorted of worked out for me. I found a good rhythm and the time gap kept growing and I loved being out on there on my own (with the crowd all screaming Aussie, Aussie, Aussie) knowing that if I could hold it together I was going to get the win.”
“I was actually quite pleased it was raining because I thought there would be a good chance the breakaway would survive because it’s a lot quicker being in a small break than the peloton. So I thought my chances would increase substantially once it rained.”
“It is a nice feeling winning. It was good in Canada but here for my team at home, it’s a great feeling. We have our biggest races still to come and the form is coming along nicely.”
“It is a lot different the racing here in Britain and it pays off to be aggressive. In the European races, you have to be more careful and conserve your energy but here you are better off going out and giving it everything.”
Big smiles from Darren with two appearances on the podium for winning the race and the sprints.
Russell Downing: “It was pretty controlled once Darren got away. I knew the legs were good and I had good position and I could see when everyone was getting gassed so I hit them hard a few laps out. I took a couple of risks around the corners and could hear the clatter and bangs behind me and that was good.”
“Rapha rode brilliantly to control the race and we were just trying to go with things and keep it together and if anything went, and Rapha wanted it to go, then we’d put a man in there. Malc, Pete, and Graham were riding really well by putting themselves in those moves. When those came back, I think Sigma and Rapha were away in between and Hayles really isolated himself and brought it back for a full lap and that was when it started going over the top.”
“With the cobbles and the wet, there were a lot of gaps opening up out there when people couldn’t put the power down and that was good for us.”
Rob Hayles: “It was difficult with the conditions and sitting on the line with the rain coming down and knowing what the circuit was like I could see heads falling off riders. It wasn’t until we got going though you could see who was fresh, who was tired and the rain completely turned that race on its head. Rapha made the most of it.”
“I am sure they thought they had the team award in the bag but CandiTV with Russ and Malc in there did a fantastic job to take the team win and it was very fortunate for us they did. When the weather is like this, everyone is like time trialling round and it’s difficult to turn round and chat to your teammates and get organised.”
“Southend will suit us for sure. It can rain and it won’t be a problem on that course. The hotdog should suit us a lot, like it did in Blackpool and that went in our favour. We’re glad to get this one out the way and still be on top.”
Team Results – Round 9 – Chester 23.06.09
1. Candi TV – Marshalls Pasta
2. Rapha – Condor
4. Team Halfords BikeHut
5. Sigma Sport Cycling Team
6. Sports Beans – Wilier
7. Endura Racing
8. Team Corley Cycles
9. BMC UK Racing Team
Sprints: Darren Lapthorne
Individual Results – Round 9 – Chester 23.06.09
1. Darren Lapthorne RAPHA-CONDOR
2. Russell Downing CANDI TV – MARSHALLS PASTA
3. Will Bjergfelt, Sport Beans/Wilier
4. Malcolm Elliot CANDI TV – MARSHALLS PASTA
5. Jeroen Janssen MADISON.CO.UK
6. Chris Newton RAPHA-CONDOR
7. Graham Briggs Marshalls Pasta
8. Kristian House RAPHA-CONDOR
9. Ian Wilkinson TEAM HALFORDS-BIKEHUT
10. John Mozely MADISON.CO.UK
11. Tom Southam RAPHA-CONDOR
Team Standings after Round 9
1. Team Halfords BikeHut 84 points
2. Candi TV – Marshalls Pasta 84 points
3. Rapha – Condor 83 points
4. Madison.co.uk 77points
5. Sigma Sport Cycling Team 48 points
6. Sports Beans – Wilier 44 points
7. Team Corley Cycles 38 points
8. Endura Racing 26 points
9. BMC UK Racing Team 19 points
10. www.cyclingbargains.com 19 points
CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta clowning around at the start!
Darren looks over his shoulder to see he has a gap early on in the race.
Chester is one picturesque city not helped by the rain!
Jeroen Janssen from Madison tries to cross to the leader on his own.
Pete Williams attacks up the finish straight with Tom Southam on his wheel.
Behind Russ Downing in second, was Malcolm Elliott in third helping them to the team win on the night.
Darren with his trophy for the win.
The crowds were fantastic again
Olympic champion Ed Clancy flat out on the went cobbles.
Another view of the race and the historic buildings in Chester
Tom Southam and Rob Partridge line up on the start side-by-side
The team mascots on their way to the start