On Sunday 28th April the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team took on the 200km UCI 1.2 CiCLE Classic around the lanes and farm tracks of Rutland finishing in Melton Mowbray – probably best renowned for being the home of the pork pie. As well as being a prestigious UCI International race with competing teams from continental Europe and the USA, the CiCLE Classic had the additional importance of being the second qualification race for September’s OVO Energy Tour of Britain.
The 2018 edition of this race had been a bit of a disaster for the Canyon Eisberg team with a multitude of crashes and punctures scuppering the team’s chances of a good finishing position. To add insult to injury, even the team’s support car experienced a double blow-out! This put the team on the back-foot in terms of Tour of Britain qualification and something they clearly wanted to avoid this year.
Five (Alex Paton, Tom Stewart, Andy Tennant, Rory Townsend and Ollie Wood) of the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team of six riders for this race had ridden in the previous Monday’s Tro-Bro Leon race in Brittany, a race with very similar off-road characteristics, so were well prepared for day’s challenges ahead. Jacob Hennessy was the additional rider to be reacquainted with the rough and tumble of the dirt roads.
An early break of three including ex-Canyon Eisberg rider Matt Nowell (now Saint Piran), went off up the road and for the next 150km established a lead that approached 8 minutes at one point. Coincidently it was Nowell who was Canyon Eisberg’s best finisher in 28th place in the 2018 race.
For a long period all the competing teams seemed content with gradually cutting back the breakaway’s lead, but with no real concerted effort to force a split in the peloton and gap the less strong riders.
As the race entered the final third it was the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team on the front, particularly on the off-road sectors, driving the chase with the size of the peloton slowly being whittled away.
However despite a bold attempt by British road race champion Connor Swift (Madison Genesis) to get away, the race looked destined for a surprisingly large bunch sprint of around 40 riders.
With about 800 metres to go Paton had a dig off the front but was soon reeled in as the sprinters teams accelerated towards the finish.
Gabriel Cullaigh (Team Wiggins) flew towards the line on the back of a strong lead-out from Rob Scott and Tom Pidcock but blew his chances of the win by beginning his celebrations prematurely and was pipped by American Pro Continental team rider Colin Joyce (Rally UHC Cycling) with a fast-closing Townsend coming in less than half a wheel behind in 3rd place.
All Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes riders were given finishing times within 3 seconds of the winner with only a late mechanical leaving Tennant just under a minute down.
In a post-race interview with Larry Hickmott of British Cycle Sport, Townsend reflected:
“I was feeling good in the race to be fair. We had six guys who could have won it today but in the end, Hennessy had bike problems, we lost Tennant just before the end as well so we were short a few at the end but until then we’d ridden the sectors at the front. We really made the race in my opinion. It wasn’t quite the result we wanted though.”
So a very strong showing by all the team riders, another podium on the day for Rory Townsend and an enviable position for the team in the contest for a place in the Tour of Britain.
Bring on the Tour de Yorkshire…
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman
Images: Hugh McManus