Kristian House (Rapha Condor-JLT) sprinted to victory in the Sheffield Grand Prix, penultimate round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series, in South Yorkshire on Wednesday evening.
The 34-year-old from Cheshire took the win ahead of National Circuit Champion Adam Blythe (NFTO Pro Cycling) while Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis) took third.
The three podium riders were part of a five-man break which went clear with 22 laps to go, including Mike Northey (Madison Genesis) and Matt Cronshaw (Velosure Giordana).
With that distance remaining it would’ve taken a brave man to bet that they would stay clear of an attentive bunch, especially with Team Raleigh having missed the break and looking to preserve Alex Blain’s overall series lead.
But, crucially, local man Dean Downing – second overall, and taking part in his last ever race – had also missed the break, so Blain’s overall lead could be dented, but not toppled.
After four laps of freedom the quintet had opened up a lead of 20 seconds, and at the first intermediate sprint, Matt Cronshaw (Velosure) scooped up five valuable extra points to help move him up the rankings (eventually from fourth to third).
Their lead continued to grow with all riders working hard to stay clear, but it peaked at about 40 seconds before Team Raleigh started to push hard on the front with ten laps left.
Morgan Kniesky, and Blain himself were pushing hard on the front and almost forced another split as riders were shelled out of the back, whittling the chasing bunch down to about 20 riders.
The lead dropped to about 20 seconds with five laps left, and the fate of the race seemed to hang in the balance.
But the five responded well, powering onwards to take their lead back out to 30 seconds.
At the bell Cronshaw attacked, and while House, Blythe and Horton just about kept him in their sights Northey fell away to finish an eventual 13 seconds back, just three seconds ahead of Blain, with the bunch another five seconds off.
But unfazed by a three-up sprint against national champ Blythe and London Nocturne champ Horton, Kristian House took the win to add to his victory in this season’s Beaumont Trophy last month.
Blain finished sixth and won the first sprint, meaning that he extends his lead over Downing to ten points, with Cronshaw stepping up to third place, with Adam Blythe now fourth.
“Of all the crits this is one I would probably want to win the most,” said House afterwards. “It’s one heck of a venue and the crowds are really supportive.
“It didn’t really go to plan though, I needed to be on my own. I planned to ride for [Graham] Briggsy and Chris [Opie], but Briggs had a bad race and Chris was in the group behind. I followed Northey when he went and we established a gap, but I had to sit on because my guys were behind.
“The gap was coming down quite quickly, and I thought it might come back which was the plan. But if it didn’t I had to be there to watch the attacks from the other guys - and they started quite early with 13 laps to go.
“Northey is flying, he’s so strong so fair play to him, and Blythe is one of the smartest guys around, and Tobyn is such a strong guy too. It wasn’t a great situation to be in because all four of them can sprint better than I can, so it’s only because I played it coy and sat on and jumped on the moves that I got the win.
“Northey attacked round the back on the last lap and I got on him straight away, which was probably the only thing that saved me, how I held him off in the sprint I have no idea!”
There was a superb welcome for Dean Downing, the NFTO Pro Cycling rider for whom Sheffield was his last ever race – and a local one for the 39-year-old who lives just a few miles down the road near Rotherham.
He was presented with a bouquet before the race and led out the riders on the first lap, before racing proper got underway.
After an emotional evening, Downing said: “I’ve had a great day, a lot of messages from personal friends, old managers. It’s weird because I’m just a normal bloke from a mining village down the road!
“It’s 31 years since I got my first ever win, and a lot of things have happened since then. I feel very lucky to have done it for 14 years full time and the last ten as a profession. I’ve got a lot of great memories.
“The Lincoln Grand Prix has a special place in my heart for a lot of reasons. It was one of the races where my grandad come to watch me as an 18-year-old when it was a junior race. It was one of the last races he watched me at, so winning it as a senior was emotional.
“I’m hopefully going to have a nice holiday with my family, a bit of a rest, take it all in, then working with NFTO Pro Cycling team for the rest of the season. Next year we’ll see what happens. I’ve got a lot of meetings to have over the next month or two!”
1 Kristian House (Rapha Condor-JLT) 1-17-53
2 Adam Blythe (NFTO Pro Cycling)
3 Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis) all same time
4 Matt Cronshaw (Velosure Giordana) at 3sec
5 Mike Northey (Madison Genesis) at 13sec
6 Alex Blain (Team Raleigh) at 16sec
7 Chris Opie (Rapha Condor-JLT) at 21sec
8 Dean Downing (NFTO Pro Cycling)
9 Scott Thwaites (Netapp-Endura)
10 George Atkins (Team Raleigh)
1 Alex Blain (Team Raleigh) 5pts
2 Chris Opie (Rapha Condor-JLT) 3
3 Scott Thwaites (Netapp-Endura) 2
4 Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis) 1
1 Matt Cronshaw (Velosure Giordana) 5pts
2 Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis) 3
3 Mike Northey (Madison Genesis) 2
4 Adam Blythe (NFTO Pro Cycling) 1
British Cycling Elite Circuit Series (overall, after Sheffield GP):
1 Alex Blain (Team Raleigh) 122 pts
2 Dean Downing (NFTO Pro Cycling) 112
3 Matt Cronshaw (Velosure Giordana) 104
4 Adam Blythe (NFTO Pro Cycling) 92
5 Chris Opie (Rapha Condor-JLT) 91
6 George Atkins (Team Raleigh) 88
1 Dieter Droger (Pioneer Scott) 42-09
2 Tom Pidcock (Chevin Cycles) at 21sec
3 Harry Hardcastle (Kirklees CA) at 54sec
Women: Lauren O’Brien (RST Racing Team).