George Atkins (100% ME) rode to a superb solo win at the Stockton Velo29-Altura Town Centre Race in the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series on Friday night.
The 21-year-old rider from Kibworth in Leicestershire was part of an early break started by Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy before eventually breaking free in the latter stages to take the victory.
Clancy and his Rapha Condor JLT squad had taken advantage of the start gridding order, and with himself and round one Otley winner Felix English gridded on the front row as soon as the flag was dropped they jumped behind the TV motorbike. Clancy was in his element but it left the remainder of the field strung out and probably in oxygen debt.
Within a lap the TV bike was in the correct position but the damage had been done. Clancy stayed on the front driving the pace and by the third lap a very select group of riders had formed a break.
Clancy and English for Rapha Condor JLT, Node4 Giordana rider Dan Barry, Graham Briggs (Raleigh), George Atkins (100% ME), Tom Murray (Metaltek Knights of Old), Jack Pullar (Madison Genesis), Tobyn Horton (UK Youth) and Andrew Hawdon (Herbalife Leisure Lakes).
The early fast pace soon had Felix English dropping out of the lead group, the young Brighton rider was probably suffering fatigue from his win at Otley only two nights previously.
With most of the main teams represented in the break it was up to individual riders to try and bridge to the leaders. Evan Oliphant (Raleigh) was one of a number who tried to bridge on his own, but the likes of UK Youth and 100% ME seemed quite content that their rider in the break was capable of getting a result.
After 30 minutes of racing George Atkins decided it was time to launch an attack from the lead group. He showed a tremendous burst of speed around the tight corners and cobbled sections of Stockton town centre and quickly had a 10 second advantage.
There was a slight delay in the reaction from Clancy and the others, to his credit Atkins took full advantage. Over the next few laps he stretched out his lead to over 35 seconds and began lapping the back end of what remained of the main field.
As the gap widened Atkins became more confident that he'd made the right move and he began to float across the cobbles. Bike race crowds love a solo attack, and the Stockton spectators became more vocal as Atkins increased his lead.
With the summer evening light beginning to fade George Atkins was visible across the circuit illuminated by the headlights of the accompanying TV motorbike, capturing every second of his race as he mopped up nearly the whole field.
The race commissaires had to make the decision to leave lapped riders in the race, otherwise Atkins might have been the only finisher. Ed Clancy and the chasers had no intention of letting Atkins catch them and in the final few laps they dramatically lifted their pace.
Clancy managed to salvage second place on the night with Graham Briggs showing he's back from injury with a fine third place.