Ian Bibby (NFTO Pro Cycling) took a solo win in the Chorley Grand Prix after timing his attack to perfection in the opening round of the British Cycling Elite Road Series in Lancashire on Easter Saturday.
The 28-year-old from Preston gave his fellow Lancastrians something to cheer about with his second win in two races, following on from victory in the Capernwray Road Race a week earlier.
Bibby had been part of a decisive break of 18 riders which had gone clear on the third of five laps of a 23-mile course, and the group stayed together until the final big climb at Rivington.
Initially it was his NFTO team-mate Eddie Dunbar who had attacked and upped the pace to cause the group of 18 to split to just three, but it was Bibby who proved strongest, attacking in the final mile to round the last corner alone.
The first couple of laps of the race were dominated by a brave breakaway attempt by two riders, Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis) and Steve Williams (Pedal Heaven).
The young riders – Stewart is 25 and Williams only 18 – got clear on the first of the climbs at Rivington, and quickly got a workable gap on the bunch.
After an hour of racing their lead had grown to around 1-50, but as they tackled the second ascent of the Rivington climb they started to slow, with Williams suffering.
Hugo Robinson (Neon Velo) attacked off the front of the bunch as they got word that the gap was falling, and he caught the leading pair. However, it was only a trio for a few miles, as the bunch swallowed them up at the 35-mile mark with the pace hitting 60kmh.
More attacks followed as the peloton reached the end of lap two, and as they climbs Rivington for the third time Williams’ team-mate at Pedal Heaven, David McGowan, made a solo bid for freedom. But after gaining around 15 seconds at most he was also swallowed up.
As the race went over the top of the Rivington climb for the third time, a decisive break of 18 riders had gone well clear, establishing a lead of around 50 seconds.
Team Raleigh GAC and Madison Genesis both had three riders in the break, while One Pro Cycling, JLT Condor and NFTO all had two. And among the solo riders who had also made the break was Pedal Heaven’s Steve Williams, the 18-year-old first year senior who had spent the first two laps out in front.
Their lead fluctuated from a minute down to 25 seconds, but the chasers couldn’t latch on. Most notably, Team Wiggins had missed the break and were pushing hard, with Andy Tennant part of an attempted chase of eight, but nobody managed to bridge across.
The chasers upped the pace, and although they didn’t catch the leading 18 it meant they were down to 40 as the weaker riders dropped out of the back of the bunch.
By the end of the penultimate lap the leaders had 1-11 on the chasers. But that was whittled down to 42 seconds as eight riders battled on in a bid to make the 18 leaders 26-strong.
Marcin Bialoblocki and Josh Hunt from One Pro Cycling were aiming to strengthen their numbers up front and lend support to Yanto Barker and Peter Williams, while Tom Scully (Madison Genesis) and Rob Partridge (NFTO) were trying to do likewise for their team-mates.
At the bell the leaders had 40 seconds on the chasers, and the pace was being kept high. Several had little digs to test out their rivals, with many in the 18-strong lead group not fancying their chances of a big sprint finish.
As they hit the Rivington climb for the final time, the pace proved too much for Steve Williams (Pedal Heaven) who dropped off the back.
Irishman Eddie Dunbar (NFTO Pro Cycling) attacked on the final climb at Rivington, splitting the break into bits and quickly getting away.
He was joined at the front by team-mate Ian Bibby and Steve Lampier (Team Raleigh GAC), and while others tried to join them, the trio got clear and were around 45 seconds ahead of the remains of the break with just a few miles remaining.
Two miles from the finish the trio still had 48 seconds, and began preparing themselves for the sprint finish.
But from the chasing group, Morgan Kneisky, the three times World Madison champion on the track, launched himself at the leaders and made rapid progress. Ian Bibby attacked at almost the same time, establishing a gap which enabled him to take the final corner alone and take the win.
Meanwhile, Steve Lampier held on for second place with Kneisky taking third after catching the remains of the leading trio in the closing stages.
“It was just two of us in there from NFTO so we were a bit outnumbered, but Eddie goes uphill like a rocket!” said Bibby. “When we got to the bottom of the climb he asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him to hit them hard, so he went.
“Lampier chased him so I went with him, and was feeling pretty comfortable. I looked behind and saw there were only two of us so our best chance was to get across to Eddie and really commit.
“Eddie killed himself and sacrificed it for me. He’s done incredible for his first year. It’s a really good group of lads at NFTO we’ve been on a few camps and everyone’s done really well and it shows because we’re good mates now so we’re happy to work for each other.
“I only live ten minutes away so there was extra motivation to do well. My family and girlfriend have been here so it’s been great. I train round these roads and sometimes the weather can be horrible, so we’ve been lucky today to have such a good event.”
1. Ian Bibby (NFTO Pro Cycling) 4-39-14
2. Steve Lampier (Team Raleigh GAC) at 15sec
3. Morgan Kneisky (Team Raleigh GAC) at 22sec
4. Karol Domagalski (Team Raleigh GAC) same time
5. Eddie Dunbar (NFTO Pro Cycling) at 26sec
6. Adria Moreno Sala (Velosure Starley Primal)
7. Mark McNally (Madison Genesis)
8. Richard Handley (JLT Condor)
9. Wouter Sybrandy (Nuun-Sigma Sport)
10. Yanto Barker (One Pro Cycling) all same time