Stuart Reid (HerbalLife Wheelbase) - defied all manner of tourism commonsense when making a weekend trip to Middlesbrough an unusually joyous affair.
Stuart Reid (Herbalife/Wheelbase) taking top spot from Harry Tanfield (Team Wallis) and Alan Nixon (Blackhawk Bikes)
Reid, a double World Fire Fighter Mountain Bike Champion proved that he's got speed in spades on tarmac as well as on the trail roads when taking the six up sprint from the fast legs of Harry Tanfield (Team Wallis Cycles) and on-form local cyclo-cross star Alan Nixon (Blackhawkbikes.com). Forging the main break of the afternoon along with teammate local time trial supremo Simon Baxter, the pair of Herbal Lifers played a tactically perfect race,
Their main competition was in the form of a trio from the Endura Development team; a quintet from the regionally self-acclaimed Velo 29 squad, and solo riders: yellow jersey wearer Harry Tanfield (Wallis Cycles) and Tom Barras (Cycles Premier). Points jersey wearer Will Brown (Fietsen Tempo), the feisty Espoir from Whitby, also looked a likely contender whilst stood under starters orders, but once the cranks were spinning, the girls wielding their tasty tarts looked more likely to inflict damage on the peloton than the ineffective Brown, and so it was, by the midway point, the out of form Brown could be spotted hiding out in the refreshment tent, filling his face, with said tasty tarts.
To place both HerbalLife riders in a break of six with four singletons after only five minutes was perhaps a bit cheeky, and definitely more than a little hopeful, and taking the lead to a maximum of just 35 seconds, many expected the surprisingly fluid break to be doomed. Other racers present: Tanfield - smarting from his out-witted performance of the previous week, Gary Hand - old hand and team captain from Endura Development, Thomas Timothy - the lightweight gutsy rider from Velo 29, and on-form cyclo-cross expert Nixon.
Questions were rightly asked of the Velo29 outfit, like why was the team seemingly happy to offer-up lightweight hill climber Timothy as sacrificial lamb to the six-up sprint slaughter. Whilst lacking a true pair of fast legs in the squad since the departure of Tanfield to the junior team of Wallis Cycles early in the year, many of the team's victories have come through strength of numbers, ambition and working as a cohesive unit.
Maybe they were missing the experience of Team Captain and TLI National M1 Criterium Champion Dan Smith, or the classy legs of previous event winner Richard Meadows, or maybe it was end of season slackness. Whatever the reason, with four in the peloton, and choosing not to drive the break down, the team were effectively happy to scrap for the lower placings. The more clued up spectators were also wondering why Timothy was selflessly contributing to the escapees progress when his chances of victory were so slim, and when considering he had a backup of four men just a half minute behind, it was really a strategy straight out of a schoolboy comic book. So, the peloton was a shambles, a picture of tardy thought and lazy leg work, sporadically sparkled with attacks by the two Endura boys, Barras and the 29 boys, but with no meaningful effort to read the last rites to their quarry.
Meanwhile, at the head of affairs, Baxter was cleverly leading out long the length of the tailwind home straight and claimed two of the primes provided by www.godleyscycles.com whilst the other, a carbon bottle cage from www.blackhawkbikes.com was snatched away by Hand. It was a smooth operation, with the only chinks in the chain coming from some speculative probing attacks towards the end of the drama by Nixon, and then Hand coming into the final loop. But the strong testing legs of Baxter kept the unit from fracturing, keeping it tight for the speedy Reid. Maybe the fast legs of Tanfield were sniffing another victory, maybe Timothy was praying for a miracle, but the result was never really in doubt: the speedy Reid taking the fast legs of Tanfield to the cleaners, and back again, sealing a relatively easy triumph and a top day out in Middlesbrough for the Herbal duo.
Tanfield's fast legs and presence of mind, a talent belying his age, saw his lead extend in the General Classification competition, with his second place to Barras in the 1km prologue time trial serving to cement his lead still further. Barras winning another week's bunch gallop saw him climb to second in GC with Meadows and Brown lurking in joint third. A special mention goes to Barras, posting a new lap record of an incredible 1:13.05 in the time trial. Will Brown's feisty performance in the previous two rounds saw him with a big enough cushion to hang on to his points tunic for the final round.
Tom Garwell (Dirt Wheels RT) was as animated after the race receiving the flowers ‘by Edwina' as he was during the Mulebar stakes 3rd/4th category race. The happy victor escaped the clutches of the peloton with fellow assailant Paul Dixon (VS Cycles Brighouse) in the latter part of the race, the duo displaying huge courage and tenacity to hold a slender lead all the way to the line.
It would be usual now to give some detail as to character and outcome of the race, but at the outset of the race, misfortune made herself present, and with a broken microphone, a hasty trip to the electrical store ensued. Faced with an option of town centre or local shopping park, the wrong choice was made, and an hour sat cursing in a traffic jam of crazy shoppers trying to escape the hideous park was the price to be paid. A picture of plastic people, extinct of spirit, void of soul, locked in a giant carpark of nothing was too much, whilst back in the arena of life, dreams were being made and lungs were being broken. Haring back to the show, it was time enough to see Garwell take a tight sprint from breakaway compatriot Dixon, with consistent Daniel Plant (Ferryhill Wheelers) taking another bunch gallop for the last spare podium spot.
Biggest loser on the day was Martin Hopkinson (Fietsen Tempo) who managed only sixth place, his assault on the yellow jersey of Alex Clayton (Durham University) looking less a given, and could well be thwarted by joint second placed Plant and fourth placed Simon West (Cyclesense). Highlighting the class of Southampton based Ph.D. student Clayton's first two event wins; he still leads the GC by three points and the points competition by five points.
In the youth A/B races, the boys were spared any potential blushes as super youth Alice Grieve was competing at Newport in the Inter Regional Track Championships. So, it was down to visitor Josh Cutlet (RST Racing) to stick his fellow wheelmen in the pain locker. Ben Hetherington (Ferryhill Wheelers) was the only rider able to match Cutlet, the pair lapping the remnants of the field and Cutlet proving fastest in the dash for the flowers. Declan Bowler (Stockton Wheelers) was best of the rest, claiming his place on the podium with a fierce gallop for the chequered flag.
Joe Howard (Cleveland Wheelers) took the racing and revenge to Jake Dobson (Newcastle Phoenix) in the under 14 boys, and beat him in both the time trial and the criterium reversing the positions from the first week. Daniel Leng (Stockton Wheelers) a new comer to the event took third in both the 1km test and the road race. Megan Hopper (Cleveland Wheelers) was as impressive as the boys, posting a time on par with the boys in the prologue and later riding a comfortable road race. Dobson holds a huge lead on the GC with a tight battle for second between Thomas Horton (Newcastle Phoenix) and Ben Honeysett (Cleveland Wheelers).
Richie Allen (Newcastle Phoenix) outfoxed the Cleveland Wheelers pairing of Aaron Preston and Toby Tanfield in the boys under 12 to take both the time trial and the road race. Tiny Tanfield fought so hard that he nearly never made it up onto the podium, preferring instead to be ‘unwell' in the toilets. Father Stuart provided a fine fill-in until Toby was able to drag himself over for podium duties.
New boy Mathew Eggleston (Beacon Wheelers) embossed his mark on the race, relegating last week's winner Joe Wilson (Stockton Wheelers) and Joe McKenna (Unattached) to second and third in the Boys Under 10. Wilson leads McKenna in the GC with Patrcik Lally (One Life Racing) hovering menacingly in third.
The boys under 8 saw a trading of wins for Patrick Kilcullen (Stockton Wheelers) and Zak Johnstone (Stockton Wheelers) in the prologue and the road race, with Kilcullen leading Johnstone in the GC.
Roisin Lally (One Life Racing) again scored maximum points, this week narrowly beating Abigail Slack (Unattached) in both road race and prologue.