Newly-crowned National Circuit Champion Scott Thwaites was first over the line at the Elite Circuit Series race at Stockton-on-Tees on Friday night only to be relegated to third place for alleged dangerous riding into the final corner.
Thwaites (Endura Racing) had been part of a three man breakaway together with Raleigh GAC duo Graham Briggs and Tobyn Horton which had gone clear in the final stages of a rain soaked race in Stockton.
Crossing the line in second place and awarded the win after a successful appeal by his Raleigh GAC team was Guernsey rider Tobyn Horton. Graham Briggs was placed second ahead of a very unhappy Scott Thwaites.
The race had started in heavy rain and the town centre circuit was treacherous and flooded in places. Given the conditions the Elite riders got off to an unbelievably fast start. Immediately a small group of riders including Raleigh men Matt Holmes, Daniel Holloway, Graham Briggs and Tobyn Horton went clear. Half a lap later they were joined by Scott Thwaites (Endura), Rico Rogers (Node4 Giordana), James McCallum and Richard Lang (Rapha Condor Sharp).
The breakaway riders were taking all sorts of risks on the wet and slippery corners, but miraculously managed to stay upright even on the cobbled sections. The riders behind were not so lucky and lots of them abandoned due to punctures and crashes.
With strength in numbers the Raleigh GAC riders continually attacked and managed to whittle the lead group down to just three. The danger man for the Raleigh boys in that final select group was Scott Thwaites. The Burley-in-Wharfedale rider had been able to take advantage of the Raleigh team leading the break, and into the final eight laps he appeared to be the freshest of the trio.
Yanto Barker and Chris Opie (Team UK Youth) had been unlucky to miss the break and led a small group of chasing riders only about 20 seconds behind the leaders.
After a front wheel puncture and a lap out, Thwaites re-joined the leaders for a final push to the line. The two best criterium riders in the country were neck and neck in the last couple of laps. It looked as though Horton would sacrifice his chances to help secure the third consecutive circuit series win for Graham Briggs.
Into the final corner and Briggs led the small group. Thwaites took his chances and dived for a gap on the inside. The race judges would later decide that Thwaites had ridden dangerously in going for that gap. Briggs collided with the barriers and his chances of victory disappeared. Thwaites continued up the finishing straight with Horton unable to challenge him for the sprint.
A furious Graham Briggs appeared at the finish line and a tense few minutes followed while the teams looked after their riders. Thwaites was taken to the Endura team vehicle and gave victory interviews, whilst the Raleigh managers spoke to commissaires Rob Finegan and Kevan Sturgeon.
With the riders appearing at the podium it was the job of Chief Judge Bob Howden to announce that Thwaites had been relegated to third place. The podium celebrations were low key after the announcement and it was a disappointing finish to what had been a very good race.
Unfortunately Tobyn Horton who is both training partner and friend of Scott Thwaites and team mate of Graham Briggs, had his win overshadowed by the controversy.
What they said
British Cycling spoke to 25-year-old Tobyn Horton after the finish and he said: “There was an altercation on the last corner involving my team mate Graham Briggs and Scott Thwaites, and after an appeal from my team the judges’ decision was to relegate Scott to third, so I got the win.
“In the final corner I was off the back of them both, I'd done my job by attacking a couple of laps to go to make it hard for Scott, then Graham hit him on the second to last straight. Graham was in the lead in the final corner and Scott pushed him off the racing line.”
"The Raleigh team worked hard tonight to get lots of riders in the initial break, we attacked from the gun, the same tactic that Graham used so effectively in Stafford, it paid dividends. Raleigh have now won all three of this series and we will continue to work hard to continue with that run.”
British Cycling spoke to Scott Thwaites before he was relegated and asked him about the allegation that he'd run Graham Briggs into the barriers.
"Briggsy was first into the final corner but braked hard into it,” he said. “I managed to close the gap on him and was already committed to go up his inside and at that point I had no choice, if I'd braked I would’ve gone down and taken him with me. We were elbow to elbow in that corner, that's bike racing, I didn't deliberately put him into the barriers, it was fair game.”
After the podium presentations when Graham Briggs had regained his composure we asked him about the final lap.
"I was leading into the final corner, Scott came up my inside took my handlebars out from under me and put me into the barriers, I was very angry and emotional after, I had a few words with him. He maintained that he'd kept to the racing line but the commissaires have made the decision that what he did was dangerous.”
"I was hoping for a hat-trick in the series and should really be celebrating that now, but Raleigh did get the win with Tobyn so we can't be too disappointed.”
Due to the severe weather conditions the photo-finish system had difficulty placing riders out of the top three. The judges were still working out the placings from soggy pieces of paper as the barrier team were dismantling the circuit.
Full result will follow as soon as we have it. Series Standings etc can be found on the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series homepage.
1 Tobyn Horton (Raleigh-GAC)
2 Graham Briggs (Raleigh-GAC)
3 Scott Thwaites (Endura Racing)
4 Daniel Holloway (Raleigh-GAC)
5 James Moss (Node 4-Giordana)
6 James McCallum (Rapha Condor-Sharp)
7 Richard Lang (Rapha Condor-Sharp)
8 James Stewart (UK Youth)
9 Marcel Six (Metaltek-Scott)
10 Liam Holohan (Raleigh-GAC)
11 Ben Grenda (Rapha Condor-Sharp)
12 Grant Ferguson (Boardman Elite)
13 Tom Barras (Metaltek-Scott)
14 Dale Appleby (Metaltek-Scott)
15 Luke Grivell-Mellor (Rapha Condor-Sharp)
16 Simon Holt (Raleigh-GAC)
17 Yanto Barker (UK Youth)
18 Joseph Kelly (100 Per Cent ME)
19 Chris Opie (UK Youth)
20 Jack Pullar (Wheelbase)
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.