The British Cycling Elite Road Series begins on Saturday 12-13 April with the Tour of the Reservoir 2-Day, the first of three Spring Cup events.
Known as the Premier Calendar since 1993, British Cycling’s foremost road series gets a new name for 2014 and with it, two distinct phases of competition.
The country’s top riders and teams will battle over nine races for individual and, new for 2014, team glory.
The Tour of the Reservoir, Cycle Wiltshire Grand Prix and the Lincoln Grand Prix form the Spring Cup, while the six-event Grand Prix series begins on 13 July with the Stockton Velo29-Altura Grand Prix and continues until 31 August with the UCS Ipswich and Coastal Grand Prix.
The 2014 Tour of the Reservoir will be the 32nd edition of the race, which successfully expanded to a two-day format in 2013. The race circumnavigates the Derwent Reservoir in Northumberland, each day consisting of multiple laps of a tough circuit.
Stage one will use the 104km course used for many years in the Blanchland Trophy, while stage two will use the same 165km circuit as the 2013 edition’s second day.
Known as a climber’s race, the Tour of the Reservoir’s grimpeur parcours is often paired with adverse early-season weather. And so it was in 2013, when Team Raleigh’s Evan Oliphant took victory in windy conditions, winning the final stage with a late solo attack to catch his rivals off guard.
Oliphant went on to win the overall 2013 Premier Calendar title and returns in 2014 with a strong Team Raleigh squad of George Atkins, Yanto Barker, Morgan Kneisky, Ian Wilkinson, Alexandre Blain, Matthieu Boulo and Joe Perrett.
The Scottish Team Raleigh rider began his season riding the Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin and Tour Méditerranéen Cycliste Professionnel UCI 2.1 events before returning to the UK to compete in the early-season Eddie Soens and Jock Wadley memorial events.
Oliphant’s nearest rival for the 2013 series was teammate Tom Stewart, who rides this year for the potent Madison Genesis team.
He is joined by former Premier Calendar winner Ian Bibby, Scott Davies, Peter Hawkins, Liam Holohan, Mike Northey, Alex Peters and Thomas Scully. Hawkins was third in last year’s race, riding for Team IG Sigma Sport.
A big threat for season honours is likely to come from the NFTO Pro Cycling squad of Dale Appleby, Adam Blythe, Russell Downing, Sam Harrison, Joshua Hunt, James Lowsley-Williams, Jon Mould and Sam Williams. Mould currently heads the elite men’s rankings after a strong winter on the track and top five finishes in the Legstretchers Memorial to Betty Pharaoh and Eddie Soens Memorial races.
Marcin Bialoblocki is also looking strong after a string of podiums through February and March and heads up a Velosure Giordana RT squad also containing the on-form Tom Bustard and Rob Partridge.
Rapha Condor JLT are an ever-present threat on the domestic scene and field a six-man team of Graham Briggs, Ed Clancy, Ed Laverack, Tom Moses, Chris Opie and Will Stephenson.
Opie was runner-up in 2013 when he rode for Team UK Youth yet, of the men in black, circuit-race specialist Briggs has had the best early season, with a great ride in the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic in early February, before finishing second at the Eddie Soens and winning the Betty Pharaoh in March.