Russell Hampton and Graham Briggs (Raleigh GAC) were in a class of their own at Colne on Wednesday evening.
They broke away from the main field with Wheelbase rider Lewis Craven and set about attempting to lap the peloton. Unable to live with the fast pace set by the Raleigh duo Craven dropped back to a small chasing group whilst the Raleigh boys continued to motor around the circuit. Briggs sat up in the finishing straight gifting the win to his Raleigh team mate.
The race had begun with a series of attacks from the young Rapha Condor riders who were determined to get into the early breaks. Rapha rider Felix English started a move with Matt Higgins (Node4 Giordana) and Jeroen Janssen (Raleigh GAC) which went clear and opened up a gap of about 20 seconds. The local team of Hope Factory Racing had missed the break and sent powerful Dave Collins onto the front to chase it down.
The Colne circuit is a perfect town centre oval about 1km in distance. The corners are fast and sweeping with a slight descent to the finish making for a spectator friendly course. The crowds were out enjoying the summer sunshine, the pubs, cafe's and takeaways all doing a brisk trade.
With Collins and his team mates successfully bringing back the leaders it was the turn of Russell Hampton to stretch out the race. The tall Essex rider who claims he doesn't like crits looked very comfortable as he created a gap off the front. Within half a lap he was joined by team mate Graham Briggs, then Wheelbase rider Lewis Craven. The main bunch of riders began to fragment, with a small chasing group forming just off the front of the main field.
Briggs, Hampton and Collins were in the groove and working well to stretch out their lead. Although Craven did look as though he was approaching his limit. About 15 seconds behind Dean Downing led the small band of chasers that included Peter Williams (Node4 Giordana) and Adam Duggleby (Sportscover Altura). A further 10 seconds behind desperately trying to bridge to the Downing group was Matt Jones (Corley Cycles).
Briggs and Hampton were flying and it looked as though they were attempting to catch the back of the main field. Unfortunately for Lewis Craven they were just too fast and he decided to drop back to the relative comfort of the chasing group, which had now gained Matt Jones.
The Raleigh duo were now just off the back of the main group and looked as though they had decided not to race through. With only two laps remaining it would be tidier and much safer to contest the finish alone. The Downing group was about 40 seconds behind so Briggs and Hampton had to watch they didn't close in.
Into the finishing straight and the Raleigh boys had the race sewn up. Elite Circuit Series leader Graham Briggs sat up allowing his team mate to take the win. The crowd were hungry for a sprint and they got that a few seconds later when Dean Downing and Matt Jones battled to the line for Downing to claim third spot and his place on the podium.
The packed event schedule at Colne also featured the popular Le Mans style chopper race and a support race won by Sportscover rider Oliver Wood.
British Cycling road correspondent Andrew Kennedy spoke to the podium riders at the finish.
Russell Hampton, "Colne is one of the few crits that suit me, I can get down the power in the straights and the circuit isn't too technical. I was up for it tonight, but arrived a bit tired from a big block of training I'm doing in preparation for the Tour of Britain".
"First and foremost I'm here to support the team and do the best ride I can, we were trying to get the win and help Brigga wrap up the series, so we've done that tonight, it was a big bonus that we rode everyone off our wheels".
"We could have caught the bunch with 10 laps to go, but it would have been messy in the sprint so we held off, then had to monitor the gap back to the chasers, we knew we could manage that so the final few laps were just a pleasure".
Graham Briggs, "That's pretty much the series sewn up now, we'll take it to the next round and see if we can get another team win. Tonight we tried to get as many guys up the front as possible. Russell got a gap and I jumped across to him, Lewis Craven came across to us and we were working well together managing to get a good 15 second lead".
"I'm pleased that Russ won tonight, he's helped me so much this year, especially in the Premier Calendar races and the National Road Race".
"Raleigh are doing well at the moment, we have the confidence and taking that to each race, we are jelling well as a team, you can't stop us at the moment".
Dean Downing, "I love this race, it's a great crowd, well organised, I'm well happy with tonight".
"It was a tough race, I was on the limit, but our guys rode very well tonight, young Felix English got in that early break and rode really well. I was lucky to get across to the winning move, but the Raleigh guys just rode away, they were very impressive. Into the finish and I had to work to close in on Matt Jones and just pipped him at the finish".
I've been ill recently and just getting back some form, I think the bad weather we've had recently hasn't helped, I don't like the wet, when it clears up and the sun comes out I enjoy riding my bike and obviously that helps me race better".
Graham Briggs continues to lead the season long Elite Circuit Series with 170 points lead over his nearest rivals, Dean Downing and team mate Tobyn Horton. The series moves to Beverley, East Yorkshire on Friday evening for the penultimate race before the final round at Sheffield on Wednesday 25th July.
1. Russell Hampton – Raleigh GAC
2. Graham Briggs – Raleigh GAC
3. Dean Downing – Rapha Condor
4. Matthew Jones – Corley Cycles
5. Peter Williams – Node4 Giordana
6. Adam Duggleby – Sportscover
7. Lewis Craven – Wheelbase
8. Rico Rogers – Node4 Giordana
9. Tobyn Horton – Raleigh GAC
10. Dale Appleby – Metaltek Scott