On Saturday, 20th April Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes took on the best of the Dutch UCI Continental teams in the 13th Arno Wallaard Memorial Race, a round of the Holland Cup. The Great Britain National Team and other western-European UCI Continental teams were also competing.
The event takes place in the reclaimed flatlands of the Alblasserwaard which is bordered by rivers and traversed with a lattice of dikes and canals, and is renowned for the windmills of Kinjerdijk (see image one).
The UCI 1.2 classified race consisted of two large laps of 76km and five finishing circuits of 6.5km each with many narrow and twisty roads, in all totalling 186km.
The parcours was pretty much pan-flat with the highest obstacles being bridges over the canals.
The Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team selection matched the likely race scenarios consisting of rouleurs who can sustain long breakaways and a sprint contingent including Robert Jon McCarthy and Jacob Hennessy.
Due to the calm conditions, no significant breaks were formed in the peloton in the early stages of the race with the Canyon dhb team taking a watching brief (image two).
Riders eventually managed to drift off the front in ones and twos with Stijn de Bock moving across to the three-man breakaway in tandem with a BEAT Cycling Club rider around the 110km mark.
Another 10km further up the road, Alexandar Richardson came across to the break in a group of five riders which included Gianni Marchand of Cibel, Stijn’s Belgium team of 2018. This subsequent 10-man breakaway sustained a lead hovering above one minute for the next hour (image three).
With just over 30km remaining as the breakaway reached the five finishing circuits, Richardson in his ‘puppy-paws’ aero tuck (Harry Tanfield’s tutelage no doubt!) made repeated attempts to break up the group.
With 22km to go and the rest of the peloton closing within sight, the elastic eventually snapped and Richardson got away with Marchand while de Bock effectively policed the remnants of the breakaway.
With 14km and two finishing circuits to go, the peloton had closed the gap to 30 seconds, and with one lap to go the remnants of the break had been caught and the gap was just 20 seconds.
With Richardson doing the lion’s share of the work with limited assistance from Marchand, it was looking more and more ominous that the peloton would close them down.
It was truly nail-biting stuff as the two leaders, with the bunch on their tail only three seconds adrift, swept into the 250 metre finishing straight. At the 100 metre to go mark Richardson opened up his sprint, but as he drew level with Marchard he unshipped his chain! Calmly and fortuitously, Richardson regained his chain and re-energised his sprint to take an impressive win from the hungrily descending pack. Matt Walls (Great Britain) snatched 2nd place from Marchard who gamely held onto 3rd place.
Unfortunately McCarthy crashed with two finishing circuits remaining leaving the under-the-weather Hennessy to carry the sprinter’s mantle and finish in a respectable 7th place.
“We did the Circuit des Ardennes last week and I felt bad all (this) week. I was hanging around the back for the first two hours…and then I started to feel good.
There were guys up the road and there were three guys going across and I thought ‘now we go’. I had a team-mate in there (Stijn de Bock) and we rolled round and I felt OK.
I repeatedly attacked the group then one guy came with me and we just stayed away. In the final few kilometres the alarm bells were ringing as the peloton was so close behind.
Coming into the line I dropped the chain which jumped on the cobbles so I had to sprint twice. I am really happy to deliver for the team and to deliver for Tim on the day as much as to win for myself.”
In summary, it was Richardson’s first UCI classified race win which probably makes it his most significant result ever (though he considers victory at the Omloop het Waasland Pro-kermesse in March as his best to date), and Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes first UCI race win of the year. Another impressive day for the team in blue!
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman
Image one – Manolito Jaarsma
Image two – Manolito Jaarsma
Image three – Arno Wallaard Memorial Race twitter feed (unattributed)
Image four – KontaktAlblas
Image five – Sportfoto-Jos Kafoe