Graham Briggs (Rapha Condor-JLT) won the Wales Open Criterium in a bunch sprint finish at Chepstow on Wednesday evening, while the overall British Cycling Elite Circuit Series win went to Alex Blain (Team Raleigh) who finished safely in the bunch to cement his lead.
Briggs, 31 and from Rossington near Doncaster, edged ahead of his rivals to take victory, adding to an already impressive victory for the former National Criterium Champion, who won this year’s Colne Grand Prix in Lancashire and Milk Race in Nottingham, as well as third spot in the 2014 National Champs.
Briggs is no stranger to the Wales Open Criterium, having won it in 2012, finished second in 2011 and taken fourth last year.
Blain finished 18th and secured enough points to secure the overall British Cycling Circuit Series title, with former title rivals Dean Downing (NFTO Pro Cycling) having retired and not ridden, while Matt Cronshaw (Velosure-Giordana) did not finish the race at Chepstow.
Sixth overall heading into the final race, George Atkins (Team Raleigh) will move up the overall standings following second in Chepstow. The winner in Stockton Town Centre Races, 22-year-old Leicestershire rider Atkins was also fourth at the Colne Grand Prix earlier this month.
27-year-old Truro-based rider Chris Opie ensured Rapha Condor-JLT had two riders on the podium when he took third spot, displaying the sprinting form which gave him second in this year’s National Championship as well as third at the Otley Grand Prix.
The circuit was fast and narrow in places, and led to the bunch being strung out early in the race – but breaks were few and far between.
Alex Peters (Madison Genesis) was active throughout and putting in lots of work on the front, but never quite managed to make anything stick.
Ian Bibby (Madison Genesis) and Chris Opie (Rapha Condor-JLT) tried hard to snap the elastic after ten minutes, but the bunch were driven along hard by Team Raleigh, with Blain on the front.
After 25 minutes the high pace was already starting to take casualties with riders dropping off the back, but at the other end Blain was pushing hard and established a lead of around 15 seconds, and he was joined at the front by Briggs.
The former team-mates worked well together, but despite this they were back in the bunch before long, with Peters looking to hit the front almost as soon as they had been reeled in.
A few minutes later and there was drama near the pits, with Blain hitting the deck and losing contact with the bunch. But he was quickly back up and, dazed, fought back heroically to salvage the series and make contact with the back of the bunch.
With five laps to go it was Peters on the front again as they passed the line, and a group of five got clear as the bunch eased off. He was still driving it onwards with two laps to go, but by the bell the bunch was together, and Briggs hit the front at the right time to take a good win.
1 Graham Briggs (Rapha Condor-JLT) 1-07-13
2 George Atkins (Team Raleigh)
3 Chris Opie (Rapha Condor-JLT)
4 Alex Peters (Madison Genesis)
5 Andrew Hawdon (KTM Road and Trail) all same time
6 Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) at 3sec
7 Yanto Barker (Team Raleigh)
8 Zak May (Metaltek-Kuota)
9 Morgan Kniesky (Team Raleigh)
10 Will Bjergfelt (Metaltek-Kuota) all same time
British Cycling Elite Circuit Series (Final overall, after Chepstow):
1 Alex Blain (Team Raleigh)