Rapha Condor Sharp rider Richard Lang snatched victory from the mighty Raleigh GAC team on Friday night in a thrilling race at Beverley.
The 23 year old Sydney-sider won the sprint from a small group of four that broke away in the latter stages of the market town centre criterium. The group had two Raleigh GAC riders in the shape of Bernie Sulzberger and Liam Holohan, but Lang and fellow breakaway companion Owain Doull (100%ME) got the better of the Raleigh boys to claim first and second spots, with Sulzberger having to accept third. Holohan was swallowed up by the chasing bunch finishing in 14th position.
The night had started well for the Raleigh team who have been so dominant in the previous five rounds of the series. Early evening drizzle lifted as the race got underway and the cobbled section along the Market Place had hundreds of race fans lining the barriers.
Flying solo without any team support Endura rider Russell Downing was one of the early attackers, but with the Rapha Condor Sharp and Raleigh teams attempting to control the race he was soon reeled back in.
The fast pace and crashes on the slippery town centre surface whittled down the 72 starters into a more manageable group of about 30 riders, and with seven Raleigh riders in that group it appeared they had the numbers and ability to control the race.
Rapha Condor Sharp rider James McCallum attacked through the finish area and was soon joined by 2011 National Circuit Champion Graham Briggs. On the next lap it was the turn of Dean Downing followed by Liam Holohan to attack on the cobbles. Raleigh and Rapha were taking it in turns to try and establish a break.
Into the closing laps and all the attacks had been brought back, it looked as though the Beverley cycling crowd would be witnessing a big bunch sprint.
When Liam Holohan tried his luck with a final bold attack he was quickly joined by team mate Bernie Sulzberger and Owain Doull (100%ME), a few seconds later Rapha rider Richard Lang jumped across to the small group. The break was on and with two Raleigh riders up the road the other five team members grouped at the front of the chasers to slow down the pace.
Holohan, Lang, Sulzberger and Doull didn't waste any opportunity in opening up a gap of over 30 seconds and with only four laps remaining it looked as though the winner would come from this small group.
Russell Downing had other ideas and made a valiant solo effort to close the gap to the Holohan group.
At the bell Holohan led the quartet along the cobbles, Raleigh had the numerical advantage, the win theirs to lose. But that's just what they did, Holohan attacked down the back straight in an attempt to lead Sulzberger out to the line. But the chasers were right behind and Sulzberger got it wrong, concerned about being caught and starting his sprint too early. Into the final 200 metres and Richard Lang and Owain Doull were able to come around the Tasmanian rider to snatch victory from Raleigh. The bunch had closed in to touching distance and Rico Rogers (Node4 Giordana) was right onto Sulzberger's wheel, but the Raleigh man managed to hold him off to salvage third for his team.
British Cycling correspondent Andrew Kennedy spoke to Richard Lang after the race and asked him if he was happy with his big £750 Beverley winners cheque?
"I was hanging on for grim death early in the race, so I didn't expect to win tonight and collect the prize money, but hey happy days. With two Raleigh riders in the break it worked in our favour because they obviously eased up behind. But with a lap to go Liam Holohan attacked and I had to cover it, I got caught out at the Tour Series when I let Bernie Sulzberger go and he won, so that wasn't going to happen tonight. I'm getting better as the season goes on, it's all about training and recovery and just let the racing take care of itself".
Raleigh GAC rider Graham Briggs scored points at Beverley by finishing 5th, he has the Elite Circuit Series sewn up and with one final round at Sheffield on Wednesday 25th July the Raleigh team will be able to celebrate their victorious run in the series.
1. Richard Lang – Rapha Condor Sharp
2. Owain Doull – 100%ME
3. Bernie Sulzberger – Raleigh GAC
4. Rico Rogers – Node4 Giordana
5. Graham Briggs – Raleigh GAC
6. Marcel Six – Metaltek Scott
7. Dean Downing – Rapha Condor Sharp
8. Russell Downing – Endura
9. Tobyn Horton – Raleigh GAC
10. Ben Grenda – Rapha Condor Sharp
11. Alistair Slater – 100%ME
12. Tom Barras – Metaltek Scott
13. Simon Yates – 100%ME
14. Liam Holohan – Raleigh GAC