It was a jubilant Kieran Frend (Node4-Giordana) who took a fine victory in the West Midlands Regional Road Race Championships on a demanding Severn Valley circuit.
The 136-kilometre course included several undulating and slow roads which took their toll on all but the strongest riders and as expected it would be the big names that got away in the opening laps.
Matt Gee (Metaltek-Scott) jumped from the gun along with Mirmil's Ewen McDonald and set a blistering pace on the opening lap, encouraging a group of 10 to keep tabs on the two early pace setters. The main bunch were hanging in at 15 seconds behind as the race headed through the small village of Norton on the back of the circuit.
Gee and McDonald were reeled in by the chasers on the second lap and with the likes of Andy Tennent (Rapha Condor Sharp) and Liam Holohan (Team Raleigh GAC) heading up a select group the pace remained high and a gap of 41 seconds soon separated them from the main bunch.
With the lead group working well together on the steep little ascent to Bromley it seemed as though the race would be sorted from that group, but the chasing bunch were having other ideas and would work together to drag themselves up to the leaders well before the bell lap.
Small groups tried their luck on the next lap to no avail but on lap four the deciding move was made, Frend and Matt Clinton (Mike Vaughan Cycles) made the attack on a steep climb and took Jamie Morgan (RST RT) along for the ride, the three escapees worked well together to establish a useful looking break and on the Rabbit Run stole 20 seconds on a chasing six and a further 30 seconds on the main bunch which had now sucked in many of the pre race favourites.
Morgan found the going a bit too hot and left Frend and Clinton to fight out the remainder of the race between themselves. With the bell ringing in their ears the two leaders were working well together and started the final lap 90 seconds ahead of a chasing Russell Falder (Cycle Premier-Kovert) and over a minute on the main bunch.
The two former team mates knew they had the race sewn up but kept the pressure on the chasers and coming into the final 200 metres Frend kicked to take the win from an applauding Clinton. Such was the speed of the final lap, Paramount CRT's Dave Griffiths crossed the line in third spot, almost 4 minutes down.
What they said
“I'm really motivated at the minute, I've been pushing for selection for some bigger races with the team,” said winner Kieran Frend. “I was disappointed I wasn't picked for The Ras but it’s good to get a win and show everyone I'm riding well.
“The main riders went away early in the race and that was where I think the real firepower was in the race so we weren't really interested in anyone else who was behind us so when the first break went, it went with force and in my opinion we had dropped most of the race.
“I was more worried about Andy Tennant and Liam Holohan but we were in the same group so I wasn't concerned about anyone else chasing, but when they did catch us everyone started looking at each other and wondering how the remainder of the race would pan out so I just attacked when we hit a steep climb and felt really good.
“I've had Dan Lloyd helping me with my training and have been working hard in-between races so I'm in good shape. I saw Matt (Clinton) come across with another guy and looking at the gears we were riding I knew we would stay away.”
And runner-up Matt Clinton added: “I’m pleased with second place, Kieran is an old team mate and we know how each other ride so that helped. This is my first road race of the year, I haven't really been doing that much, a few hilly time trials but this is more than double anything I've ridden this year so it was pretty tough.
“When the break went towards the end Kieran went and I took another guy with me but I think his legs had gone so we hurt it all the way round. Kieran was ripping my legs off on all the climbs so I had to crawl my way back on all the flats but I knew he would get the win today, so second is good. I got sixth in last year’s race I think and I've messed up previously and DNF so it’s good to come back and get a result.”
1 Kieran Frend (Node 4-Giordana)
2 Matt Clinton (Mike Vaughan Cycles)
3 David Griffiths (Paramount CRT)
4 Russell Falder (Cycle Premier-Kovert)
5 Daniel Bill (Rapid Performance Coaching)
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.