Location: Middlesbrough Cycle Circuit
Event: 18 May 2012
Richard Meadows (Velo 29), the Eston ex Pezula professional cyclist, was on top of his game of guile, cunning and ferocious pedalling to earn the title of North East Criterium Champion 2012. Silver was a fight between Tommy Bustard (Herbal Life – Leisure Bikes) and the Velo 29 duo of Jack Rees and 2011 TLI National Masters Category 1 Champion, Dan Smith.
The title fight was held on the Prissick battle ground in Middlesbrough on the Friday evening of May 18. The main protagonists with their eyes on the prize clipped in on the start line included: the numerically strong Velo 29 Team, the first cat Herbal Life pairing of Simon Baxter and Bustard, Will Brown for the Black Hawks, James King (Mountivation), David Johnson (Adept Precision), unattached Richard Kipling and yesteryear prolific criterium winner Kev Byers (Fietsen Tempo).
As strong and bold as he is, Bustard alone was no match for the numerical strength and cohesion of Velo 29 and finding himself in the four man break with three of the on-form Velo 29ers, for many, it was a hope too far to see Bustard smiling on the top step of the podium, flowers in hand waving to the crowds.
A man with more sense than brawn may have weighed up the situation in hand. He may have concluded that the odds to the untrained eye of 3:1 would be far worse when the numerical might of the 29ers pooled their collective talent and launched a full onslaught against the uninvited guest. A better plan may have been to sit in the wheels and actively slow down the Velo escape train and wait hopefully for more favourable backup to arrive, or at least give his legs a better chance for the finale.
But Bustard felt strong; he had good form to fire up his heart and with two stage race victories fresh in his mind, his brutish legs took care of the thinking. With the four strong escapees contributing to the riding, the bunch behind stood little chance of bridging the gap. Many tried, but all in vain, but mention should be given to the persistent attacking of Brown, who managed to lay siege to the peleton over the last few laps, ably assisted by Tom Timothy (Velo 29) and David Johnson (Adept Precision).
With six of the one kilometre laps remaining, there must have been underhand talk and conspiracy between the 29ers, for the mayhem was about to kick in. With Bustard tucked safely in line, Meadows launched a heavy attack down the home straight. The former National Junior 10 mile Champion put his head down and moved swiftly away from the trailing trio. Smith and Rees stayed put, happy to see their team mate riding away for the flowers. Bustard, still up for the win, had no choice but to set in motion the first of his pursuits.
More than a match for Meadows, within a couple of laps the status quo was returned, but only momentarily as first Rees, then Smith took their turn in the mischief. The win could have been taken by any of the 29ers, but maybe Meadows had more hunger and more staying power. On the last lap, he was away again, chased again by the now flagging Bustard. The gap was a measily ten yards, but this time Bustard couldn’t close it down and at the end of the back straight the deficit had grown Bustard had cooked his goose.
Into the home straight, the win was in the bag for Meadows and all that remained was for Rees and then Smith to hammer the final nails into the Bustard coffin with a swift one-two volley of attacks. The jubilant Velo 29 took a clean sweep of medals and the disappointed Bustard took a hard lesson in tactical race craft.
Behind, to rub more salt into the North East peleton, Timothy took the sprint from Brown and Johnson to give more smiles to the 29 camp.
KING JUNIOR CHAMP
James King (Mountivation) took full advantage of a bizarre freak accident felling pre-race favourite Harry Tanfield (Wallis Cycles) to take the Junior Criterium title. Competition for silver was a tight fight between Velo 29 Development riders Alex Hopper and Taylor Cardus. Hopper has grown in stature through the season, taking a third at Croft and also at Hetton and beating Simon Baxter in the Highfield Kitchens final round sprint. But the big legs of Cardus were on their favoured turf and were too big and too fast for the Hopper challenge, who settled for bronze.
Chris Bush (VC St Raphael), the first category Newcastle track rider, used his experience and track speed to overcome the challenge from Russel Bayliss (GS Metro) and Mike Rennison (Cleveland Wheelers). Pre-race hopeful Mike Bell (Fietsen Tempo) lost out with a fourth place.
Karen Poole (Squadra Donne) scored her first North East Championship gold medal, being too strong for Junior female rider Alice Grieve (Stockton Wheelers).
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.