Andrew Kennedy reports from the Stockton Festival Road Race in Cleveland, the sixth round of the 2012 Premier Calendar series, which saw Endura's stranglehold broken by Raleigh.
A superb team performance by Team Raleigh-GAC saw Graham Briggs break Endura Racing’s stranglehold on the Premier Calendar series with victory in a bunch sprint finish to Velo29’s 100-mile Stockton Festival Road Race in Cleveland.
With five of his team-mates lining out over the final two kilometres to put him in an ideal position, 28-year-old Briggs from Doncaster edged out Endura’s Scott Thwaites – the overall series leader – to record the first Premier Calendar win of his career with Marcel Six (Metaltek-Scott) in third place.
“The boys rode their hearts out for me today and I couldn’t let them down,” said Briggs, the 2011 national circuit champion. “I just don’t believe that I’ve won – it’s brilliant".
“I’m not usually comfortable in a big bunch sprint, but after how the team rode for me today, constantly attacking and bringing the breaks back, I just had to get involved and do the best I could.”
The race was halted in the early stages following a crash in the bunch, and when restarted a large group of about twelve riders went clear on the undulating circuit north-west of Stockton. The fast pace of the peloton proved too much for the breakaways and within a lap they had been reeled back in.
George Atkins (100% ME) then made a significant move with a solo attack which saw him gain a maximum advantage of around 25 seconds as he stayed off the front for around 12 miles.
Once Atkins was reeled in, five riders – Tom Moses (100% ME), Bernie Sulzberger (Team Raleigh), Iker Camano (Endura Racing), Yanto Barker (Team UK Youth) and Richard Cumming (Rapha Condor Sharp) went away and – dropping Cumming – were still out in front moving on to the Riverside finishing circuit in Stockton on Tees where a large crowd had gathered for the finale.
The race was back together at the bell with the major teams lining up their sprinters, Endura rider Rene Mandri proved to be a strong workhorse keeping the pace high on the front of the peloton to discourage further attacks going up the road.
On the run in to the finish Chris Opie (Team UK Youth) took it up with 500 metres to go, but the Raleigh train of Matt Holmes, Bernie Sulzberger, Liam Holohan, Daniel Holloway and Evan Oliphant did a superb job of delivering Briggs to the front of the bunch, allowing him to un-leash his punchy sprint and take a well deserved win.
It completed a disappointing weekend for Thwaites and his Endura squad, who was first over the line in Friday’s Stockton Criterium but then relegated to third place behind Raleigh’s Tobyn Horton and Briggs after an incident on the final corner.
“It’s all been sorted out and Friday is now behind us,” said Scott Thwaites after the race, who continues to hold a clear lead in the Premier Calendar table. "I'm reasonably happy to get second today but it's always disappointing to get beaten when you are so close to the win".
His response when asked about Endura ending their run of Premier Calendar wins, was, "We were up against it today, Raleigh had a strong squad and more riders than us, it was always going to be difficult for us, especially when it comes down to a bunch sprint. We'd used up our guys setting the tempo and only had three left for the sprint".
"We did struggle fighting for position, but full credit to Chris Opie for going for it at 500 metres, Raleigh had to work to get him back and I managed to get onto Briggy's wheel. But today was one of those days when things just didn't go right and I had no choice other than to accept 2nd place".
The final podium spot was taken by sprinter Marcel Six riding for Metaltek-Scott. The 26 year old from St Albans, Hertfordshire has a very continental sounding bike riders name and before talking about his race we asked him about his background. "I was born in Belgium, then moved to Spain with my parents, then back to the UK, I've got dual Belgian/British passports".
Getting back to the race we asked Marcel if he knew it was going to be a big fast bunch finish at Stockton? "The first 100km was hard, there was a bit of wind and the pace was so fast it was always going to be difficult for a break to stay away. I sat in the middle of the bunch gambling a bit, hoping for a big bunch kick. After we got onto the finishing circuit it was clear that's what was going to happen".
"Into the final corner and the slight descent to the finish I was fourth wheel behind Chris Opie, Scott Thwaites and Graham Briggs. Opie began to fade, he'd jumped a bit too early, but there was no going past Briggs and Thwaites, they were in their own battle and I couldn't get past".
"This has been a great result for me and our team to get on the podium in such a big race, I'm very happy".
The organisers of the Stockton Festival of Cycling should be delighted with the crowds that had gathered at Riverside to take part in Sunday's cycling activities and watch the big race finish. The weekend which started in such appalling weather with torrential rain during the Friday night criteriums finished on a high on Sunday afternoon with a superb 'crowd pleasing' bunch sprint and a jubilant Graham Briggs and Raleigh squad.
Result: (2012 Premier Calendar Series Standings)
1 Graham Briggs Team Raleigh-GAC
2 Scott Thwaites Endura Racing
3 Marcel Six Metaltek Scott
4 Chris Opie Team UK Youth
5 Peter Hawkins IG Markets-Sigma Sport
6 Marcin Bialoblocki Node 4 – Giordana
7 Ian Bibby Endura Racing
8 Adam Duggleby Sportscover Altura RT
9 Ben Grenda Rapha Condor Sharp
10 Richard Lang Rapha Condor Sharp
11 Tom Barras Metaltek Scott
12 Matthew Jones Team Corley Cycles
13 Iker Camano Ortuzar Endura Racing
14 Daniel Holloway Team Raleigh-GAC
15 Jack Adams Zappi's Cycling Club
16 Matthew Holmes Team Raleigh-GAC
17 Rob Partridge Endura Racing
18 Owain Doull 100% ME
19 Chris Jennings Rapha Condor Sharp
20 David Clarke Node 4 – Giordana
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.
|Graham Briggs||Team Raleigh-GAC|
|Scott Thwaites||Endura Racing|
|Marcel Six||Metaltek Scott|
|Chris Opie||Team UK Youth|
|Peter Hawkins||IG Markets-Sigma Sport|
|Marcin Bialoblocki||Node 4 – Giordana|
|Ian Bibby||Endura Racing|
|Adam Duggleby||Sportscover Altura RT|
|Ben Grenda||Rapha Condor Sharp|
|Richard Lang||Rapha Condor Sharp|
|Tom Barras||Metaltek Scott|
|Matthew Jones||Team Corley Cycles|
|Iker Camano Ortuzar||Endura Racing|
|Daniel Holloway||Team Raleigh-GAC|
|Jack Adams||Zappi's Cycling Club|
|Matthew Holmes||Team Raleigh-GAC|
|Rob Partridge||Endura Racing|
|Owain Doull||100% ME|
|Chris Jennings||Rapha Condor Sharp|
|David Clarke||Node 4 – Giordana|