The second phase of the British Cycling Elite Road Series begins on 13 July with the Stockton Velo29-Altura Grand Prix, the first of six British Cycling Grand Prix Series rounds.
With three rounds of the Spring Cup completed with the Lincoln Grand Prix in May, competition is fierce both in the individual and team rankings, the latter a new feature of the 2014 series.
Team Raleigh’s Yanto Barker holds a slim lead at the top of the standings with 99 points; four points ahead of Velosure-Giordana RT’s Marcin Bialoblocki.
Barker took third place in the opening round, the Tour of the Reservoir and followed it up with fifth at the Cycle Wiltshire Grand Prix and a fine win at the Lincoln Grand Prix, giving the 34-year-old Londoner victory in the Spring Cup.
Barker’s performances have helped his Team Raleigh squad to the top spot in the team standings with 28 points. But below them the scrap for second to fourth places is tight, with Madison Genesis on 25 points, while Velosure-Giordana RT and NFTO Pro Cycling are tied on 24 points.
Series leader Barker will be joined by seven Team Raleigh squad-mates, including 2013 winner Ian Wilkinson and 2013 Tour of the Reservoir winner Evan Oliphant.
Rival Bialoblocki is also on the start list, keeping the pressure on Barker, as are team rivals Madison Genesis, who bring British under-23 time-trial champion Scott Davies and the on-form Thomas Stewart, fresh from two Tour Series wins and top ten finishes at the national road championships and the Otley GP.
The 140 riders on the start list will face four hours of racing, ten laps of the 13-kilometre main circuit through Thorpe Thewles, Carlton, Redmarshall, Whitton and Thorpe Leazes, followed by five laps of the Riverside finishing circuit.
With more than a vertical mile of climbing over its rolling 104-mile length, the Stockton Grand Prix is a tough race that in the past two years has thrown-up two very different outcomes.
In 2012, Team Raleigh kept control of the pace, reigning in a breakaway and giving their sprinter Graham Briggs the perfect launch-pad for victory. In 2013 a nine-man break prospered, with Ian Wilkinson, then of Team UK Youth, taking the win.
The Stockton Grand Prix is the culmination of three-days of competitive and non-competitive events that form the Stockton Festival, with the town centre races and round two of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series on Friday 11 July, the Endeavour Sportive on Saturday followed by the Riverside Races and the Stockton Grand Prix on Sunday.
After Stockton, the British Cycling Grand Prix Series moves onto the Ryedale Grand Prix the following weekend, followed by the Circuit of the Fens the weekend after on 2 August.
Following a two-week break, the series returns on 17 August with the Leicester Kermesse, with the finale scheduled for 31 August in Ipswich.