FORMER national junior champion George Atkins continued his impressive return to the top level with victory in the 30th edition of the Jock Wadley Memorial Road Race in Essex.
Fourth in the Roy Thame Cup race the day before, 20-year-old Atkins (100% ME) was at the head of the action throughout the 84 miles and had enough left in the tank to hold off a late challenge from in-form Marcin Bialoblocki (Node4-Giordana Racing), who got across to the front in the closing two miles.
Matt Higgins (Node4-Giordana Racing), who also figured in the five-man break which went away on the first of the 12 laps of the Reservoir circuit, near Colchester, took third place a dozen seconds down.
Richard Cartland (Team Corley Cycles), John Heaton-Armstrong (Felt Colbournes) and Niklas Gustavsson (Team UK Youth) were in the early move with Atkins and Higgins on a bright, sunny morning and with little initial interest from the bunch, their advantage rose steadily to top three minutes.
Going into the last five laps a trio of Marcel Six (Metaltek-Scott), Simon Yates (100% ME) and David Clarke (Node4-Giordana Racing) were off the front of the main field with the gap at two minutes, and as the bunch stirred the chasers grew to a group of around 20 before splintering down to nine with two laps to go.
The five leaders were still over a minute clear at the bell, but Bialoblocki – winner of the Severn Bridge race a week ago - and Barker ate up the ground behind them and got across with the Node4 boys kicking hard to lead the way up the finishing climb.
Bialoblocki struck out for home, but the resurgent Atkins – a silver medallist on the track at the 2010 Commonwealth Games before taking a break from the sport - was on his wheel and came round to take the sprint.
After the race, George Atkins spoke to our man, Andy Whitehouse: "I went with the first attack of the day, We have 6 really strong guys in the team and we always want at least one of us in any break that goes and it just so happens I got in that break."
"We came here to race hard today and we had a guy in the break so we were happy with that. The break rode a pretty even paced race throughout. The UK Youth guy was the strongest in the break and he put a lot of work into the group - in fact with five to go he wanted to put a faster lap in just to hold the gap.
"The last 5 km we had a couple of guys ride across to us, Marcel (Bialoblocki) and Yanto(Barker) I think it was and they said they had guys coming across to us so we had to race. Barker attacked and Bialoblocki went after him with me and Mark Higgens. Mark rode hard to keep the gap and took us with him. Marcel had worked hard to get across and it looked like his legs were tired so it worked out well for me."
"It could have gone the other way to be honest, I'm not that fastest sprinter but I have a decent kick which I've got from the track which always helps. It's been a good weekend for the team, I think we've shown we have a good team and there isn't a weak link in it."
1 George Atkins (100 Per Cent ME) 3-25-00
2 Marcin Bialoblocki (Node 4-Giordana Racing) same time
3 Matt Higgins (Node 4-Giordana Racing) at 15 sec
4 Yanto Barker (Team UK Youth)
5 Richard Cartland (Team Corley Cycles)
6 John Heaton-Armstrong (Felt Colbournes)
7 Niklas Gustavsson (Team UK Youth)
8 Jason White (Metaltek-Scott)
9 Dale Appleby (Metaltek-Scott)
10 Owain Doull (100 Per Cent ME)
11 Dave Clarke (Node 4-Giordana Racing)
12 Will Bjergfelt (Wilier-Live2ride)
13 James Moss (Node 4-Giordana Racing)
14 Peter Wagner (Felt Colbournes)
15 Colin Parry (Wilier-Live2ride)
16 Roy Chamberlain (Team Corley Cycles)
17 Russell Hampton (Team Raleigh)
18 Oliver Davies (Planet X)
19 Ashley Cox (Team Corley Cycles)
20 Alan Ridler (Pedal Heaven)
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.