Graham Briggs (Raleigh GAC) won the opening round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series at Brighouse on Tuesday evening.
The Doncaster rider lost his 2011 championship jersey to Scott Thwaites at Otley last week, but showed the Brighouse crowd he hasn't lost his enthusiasm for putting on a show of classy bike riding.
A break of six riders formed in the opening laps including Briggs and his Raleigh GAC team mate Liam Holohan, Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp), Jack Pullar (Wheelbase), Jake Hales (IG Sigma Sport) and Matt Cronshaw (Node4 Giordana). This small group quickly organised themselves into a tight working unit. With the whole of the Endura Racing team sitting Brighouse out the big teams were all represented in the lead group.
The reaction from the peloton was slow, with Rapha Condor Sharp rider Kristian House one of the few riders making a sustained but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bridge to the leaders.
Briggs, Cronshaw and Downing looked to be cruising along in the break, with Holohan playing a team role for Briggs. Jake Hales and Jack Pullar were working hard and contributing to the lead group catching the back of the peloton. Within 30 minutes of racing the leaders had lapped the whole field, and the commissaires ordered the lapped riders to move over and allow the break to pass through.
The six man break took up where they’d left off and continued to post fast lap times, within 20 minutes they again caught the back of the peloton. Briggs, Cronshaw and Downing again slid effortlessly to the front of the race and with only four laps remaining Briggs decided it was time to lose some of the competition. Diving into the corners he managed to distance himself off the front, Matt Cronshaw was the first to react and tried to go with him, then Dean Downing latched onto Cronshaw's wheel.
With commentator Carl Lawrenson announcing three laps to go Briggs buried himself to stretch his lead to just over seven seconds. The small punchy Raleigh rider didn’t waver and at the bell he had a 10 second lead. Rapha Condor Sharp rider Dean Downing had left something in the tank for a sprint and as he crossed the line at the bell he was closing in on Briggs.
The large crowds lining the barriers at Brighouse were banging on the advertising hoardings as Graham Briggs appeared in the darkness at the start of the finishing straight on Commercial Street, only yards behind him was Dean Downing and Matt Cronshaw, but Briggs had timed his final effort to perfection and managed to reach the line with enough time to take the victory salute.
After the podium presentations Graham Briggs told British Cycling: “I couldn’t have asked for a better race really, I was very disappointed after Otley last week when Scott Thwaites took my champions jersey, but I was beaten by a good guy so I don’t have any complaints. I wanted to make amends tonight and start this Elite Circuit Series with a good performance. In the break tonight my job was made easier by having my team mate Liam Holohan working with me”.
“Also after riding the Tour Series criteriums for the past few weeks my cornering has improved, then to have someone like Dean Downing to follow meant that we were travelling at a very fast pace. I was concerned about Dean taking the win tonight and Matt Cronshaw is a very strong rider, he got on the podium at Otley and was a danger man”.
British Cycling asked Graham why he decided to attack with four laps to go. “I was confident about winning a sprint but felt good enough to try and win solo. There was a bit of confusion with the lap board, it seemed to stay on four laps to go for two laps, so I was very relieved to hear the bell ring for the last lap. Dean was coming back up to me, I left a bit so that I could kick again if he caught me, but I’d already done enough to win”.
The Elite Circuit Series moves to Stafford for the next round on Wednesday 4 July.
1. Graham Briggs (Raleigh GAC)
2. Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp)
3. Matt Cronshaw (Node4 Giordana)
4. Jack Pullar (Wheelbase)
5. Liam Holohan (Raleigh GAC)
6. Jake Hales (IG SigmaSport)
7. Ben Grenda (Rapha Condor Sharp)
8. Rico Rogers (Node4 Giordana)
9. Tobyn Horton (Raleigh GAC)
10.Tom Murray (IG SigmaSport)