Cycling blogger Robyn Davidson (gruppettosandstilettos.wordpress.com) gives her take on our debut at the Tour of Britain…
“It’s the biggest race of the year and it would leave a huge gap at the end of the season if we weren’t to ride it.
“From that side of things, it’s important, and it’s just a good race. It’s good for the riders… to have consecutive days racing” – Chris Opie
Despite World Tour teams comprising the majority of the peloton at the Tour of Britain, UCI Continental outfits had fought hard for one of the four places to promote their prowess among some of the best names in the world.
As selection was determined through points amassed from the start of the Spring Cup Series to the end of the Ryedale Grand Prix, it was imperative for BIKE Channel Canyon to make their mark in their debut season.
They certainly wasted no time in establishing themselves as a team to beat, as Rory Townsend fought hard for the overall Spring Cup Series and with Dexter Gardias leading the Grand Prix Series after Ryedale.
Tenacious performances every day at the Tour de Yorkshire also proved the riders could demonstrate their ability on a larger scene.
Combativity jerseys for Harry Tanfield and Gardias proved they had the strength not just to make it in the breakaway but the ability to help it stay away.
Meanwhile, a third place sprint finish from Chris Opie alongside Caleb Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen added another dimension to the team.
Through the East Klondike Grand Prix that marked the start of the HSBC UK Spring Cup Series to the end of the Ryedale Grand Prix, UCI Continental teams amassed points, based off their first rider’s finishing position, to qualify for the Tour of Britain.
As a result, the top four teams of BIKE Channel Canyon, JLT Condor, Madison Genesis and ONE Pro Cycling all qualified for the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, meaning they could have the opportunity to race on home ground, alongside World Tour teams.
Opie, Gardias, James Lowsley-Williams, Rob Partridge, Tanfield and Townsend would be on the start line for their maiden Tour of Britain as a team.
“[For BIKE Channel Canyon, getting into breakaways] is the important thing. They want to get the maximum out of the Tour of Britain as possible and being represented in the breakaway is really good for the sponsors” – Brian Smith
The exposure given to both the team and their sponsors, such as Le Col, Brother and Eisberg, increases when a rider seizes the opportunity to get in the breakaway.
If the break lasts, the chance for a stage win is high. If the peloton absorbs the riders before the finish, those in the break still hold the upper hand in relation to mountains and sprints jersey points gained.
Points for the Skoda king of the mountains jersey are accumulated through designated summits, while the Eisberg sprints jersey is determined through designated intermediate sprint points.
Team representation in the break is paramount to being in with a chance to win jerseys at the Tour of Britain.
Familiar with fighting to get in the breakaway and having a presence in different classifications, Gardias placed second in the mountains classification at the Tour de Yorkshire, with Opie and Tanfield eighth and 10th respectively in the points classification.
BIKE Channel Canyon were riding aggressively every day at the Tour of Britain, with the start in Edinburgh hotly contested.
Coming full circle from attacking on the first stage at his first Tour of Britain in 2004, Partridge managed to make the final move to jump clear in 2017.
Now 32, he gained points in both the sprint and KOM climbs he contested, finishing third in both.
Despite this being BIKE Channel Canyon’s first year at the Tour of Britain, it was Partridge’s 11th time competing in the race.
With a high finish of eighth overall in 2010, alongside being the best-placed Brit, he was an ideal rider to have in the breakaway for the sponsors.
Townsend matched Partridge’s third position over the summit for KOM points a day later, making sure the team did not miss any crucial chances to represent themselves during stage two.
The stage three finish in Scunthorpe looked more than ready to welcome the Tour of Britain.
The initial rainy weather didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits; in the park behind the finish were tents and stalls filled with people of all ages.
Even police officers joined in with the festivities, racing fixed bikes at one of the exhibitors stands and comparing efforts.
Although the rain fought almost as hard as the breakaway to stay, the presence of the sun soon brought a larger audience outside to witness cycling in Scunthorpe, especially as the stage grew closer to its conclusion.
Cycling has certainly increased in popularity in the past few years, with ever-increasing viewing figures for Grand Tours and larger turnouts for races on home roads.
The large screen let the public know how the race was unfolding, with Tanfield still fighting on in the break until the last 16km.
Ewan (Orica-Scott) won the sprint finish, yet Tanfield was announced the most aggressive rider with his efforts on the day.
He had managed third across the line for all three of the designated sprint points en route after an impressive effort that saw him gain red numbers for the following stage.
Experienced sprinter Opie, who moved to race under Elverson’s wing from ONE Pro this season, was caught in a crash during the first stage.
Yet after the finish line for stage three, he remained optimistic. The Cornishman said:
“If I hadn’t crashed on Sunday, there’s no reason in my mind why I wouldn’t be in the top five. I think I proved it at Yorkshire pretty well that I can sprint with some of the best riders in the world.”
Unfortunately, Opie was forced to abandon four days later. After proving himself earlier in the year alongside a similar field in Yorkshire, it would have been an exciting sprint finale to see him fighting for the win in Cardiff.
However, there’s no doubt he will recover to be a fighting force for the start of BIKE Channel Canyon’s next season.
An eventful day, stage three also saw a crash from Lowsley-Williams as the peloton headed from Normanby Hall Country Park to Scunthorpe.
Despite the setback, he fought on to cross the finish line with the main group, accompanied with a bloodied knee but looking determined to carry on as he arrived at the team van.
It was later announced that in spite of crashing heavily on stage three, he had been fighting to get in the breakaway on stage four with a broken kneecap.
Not one to abstain from hard work, he had recently been a part of the two-man break at the Ryedale Grand Prix in August.
Alongside JLT’s Tom Moses, he had a reasonable gap of five minutes over the peloton that day before painful back cramps forced him to abandon.
Regrettably, the 25-year-old did not finish his third Tour of Britain. During stage four from Mansfield, in an attempt to manoeuvre around the blocked road to reach the day’s breakaway, Lowsley-Williams and Bryan Lewis, of Cylance Pro Cycling, attacked on the pavement.
A mid-race disqualification awaited both as the BIKE Channel Canyon rider took to Twitter later that day to issue an apology to the fans and the sponsors.
Fortunately, the day improved for the team as the peloton neared the stage four finish in Newark-on-Trent.
Freelancing and momentarily on the wheel of race leader Ewan, the red numbers of Tanfield were visible from the helicopter shot of the head of the race.
Sprinting to their best-placed finish, he crossed the line in seventh – ahead of Ewan and just behind Elia Viviani, Fernando Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff.
No stranger to a high-speed finish and already well acquainted with podiums this year, Tanfield had sprinted to second in Antwerpse-Havenpijl the month prior, as the team worked towards the Tour of Britain on Belgian soil.
Furthering the recognition the Tour of Britain was bringing to the team, it was early in the day when Tanfield crossed the finish line for the fifth stage time trial in Tendring.
A monumental ride placed him in the hot seat with a time of 19min 28.36sec – despite only having one gear.
Catching Alex Blain, of Madison Genesis, on course and then Wanty Groupe Gobert’s Mark McNally on the line, Tanfield replaced Marcin Bialoblocki, of CCC, as the next leader of the day.
“I’m still blown away by the time of Harry Tanfield. Tanfield, 22 years of age, riding for a domestic team, very impressive indeed” – Matt Stephens
Not only beating overall contender Edvald Boasson Hagen but most notably – Spanish time trial champion Jonathan Castroviejo, Tanfield finished 14th as the highest-placed non-World Tour rider.
His time-trialling ability is undoubtable – also placing fifth at the British time trial championships in June.
His admirable performance alongside some of the world’s best at the Tour of Britain is certainly a cause to celebrate for the domestic team. Where would he have finished without a mechanical just before the start?
Showcasing their accessibility to fans of the sport, BIKE Channel Canyon had more than one guest in their team car over the eight-day period.
The owner of the @BCCFans Twitter account, Gray Surman, was invited for the time trial, following Opie. He said:
“I was invited to Clacton-on-Sea to join the team and get to experience the team car with DS Tim Elverson. It was an absolutely brilliant opportunity and an offer that had me bouncing around the room at home when I received it.
“Off we went, chasing Chris for 10 miles. I hopped out the car at the finish to swap the spare bikes as the closeness of the BCC guys on GC meant there wasn’t a lot of turnaround time.
“Harry was flying, fastest at the halfway mark during his effort, despite some pre-start drama when his Di2 packed-up and he was effectively left on a single-speed.
“I left Clacton with a huge grin knowing I’d been part of something special. Being in the car with Tim was fantastic.
“He clearly knows the sport inside-out and some of the tips and tricks of the trade he elaborated on were quite something. Things I’d never even considered while riding a TT.
“It was a great opportunity and one I’m touched by, as the team didn’t have to ask me along and welcome me into their world for the day.
“But that they opened the door and treated me like a peer was touching.”
Even Ben Collins was invited to join the team the day prior as they tackled stage four, witnessing the delight from the team as Tanfield was able to sprint to seventh place.
The former Stig was riding in the team car for the 165km journey from Mansfield to Newark-on-Trent, although it must have been difficult for him to relinquish the wheel to directeur sportif Tim Elverson.
Recording live from the neutral zone, Collins was capturing the impact the Tour of Britain was having on the younger generation. Children were lining the streets to cheer on the riders, waving inflatables and handmade signs. He said:
“I’m really excited to see how the tactics work, understanding how the break works and how these guys communicate. I think it’s going to be a real eye-opener and I’m lucky to be in the hot seat with Tim to see how he controls the race.”
A high placing in the time trial just wasn’t simply enough for Tanfield, who fought hard to get into the break the following day. Gaining another third position for the team in the Eisberg sprint competition.
Tanfield rode on to finish one place higher in second at the next designated sprint point. He repeated this success for the KOM summits, finishing third then second, earning high praise from Smith, who labelled the rider as a stand out over the entire race. Smith added:
“Outstanding. He tried to get in the breakaway yet again today, he’s been in a couple of breakaways throughout the week, he’s been up there in the top 10, he had a very good time trial.”
Another stage, another rider in the break; for stage seven it was Gardias this time who broke clear off the front. Racing on home roads, he drew crowds of family and friends out to support him.
Most recently finishing second overall at the Grand Prix Series, he had spoken about the Tour of Britain after finishing the Leicester Castle Classic. He mentioned:
“We’ve certainly got the strength to do something there.”
The next day, during stage eight, Partridge was the first to try to attack as Tanfield later joined riders from the three other Continental teams to form a breakaway.
In spite of being caught by an inexorable peloton, a relentless Tanfield kept bridging to the string of counter-attacks from Kamil Gradek (ONE Pro) and then Silvan Dillier (BMC). Unfortunately, with this being the final stage, World Tour teams were unwilling to let anyone distance them as they fought for remaining jersey points and GC placings, and the riders were caught.
During the race it was announced Partridge’s 11th Tour of Britain would be his last race as a professional cyclist. The two-time Welsh road race and former British under-23 champion ended his professional career on home roads in Cardiff.
Speaking to BIKE Channel Canyon before the last stage, he reflected on his career and spoke warmly about the team. Partridge said:
“Every time we go to a race we have had a laugh and we’ve been pretty successful too. It’s been one of my most enjoyable seasons… everyone works so hard, it is quite a small team, almost a family.”
Their performances earned praise from fans, commentators and former national champions who know exactly what it is like to race the Tour of Britain.
“Going into the Tour, I was just excited that BIKE Channel Canyon were even going to be there, so I was over the moon to see them light up the race like they did.
“As a fan of Continental racing, you don’t often get the chance to see your favourites race on such a big stage, so it’s been amazing to see BIKE Channel Canyon on TV all this week, rubbing shoulders with the best” – Matilda Price @matildaprice_
“The BIKE Channel Canyon team have acquitted themselves really well in this race. They’ve been very, very active. The team management definitely got the race preparation spot on for this one” – Marty MacDonald
“[Tanfield’s time trial] was for sure an exceptional performance. Not really a surprise… he went out there and had the ride of his life” – Brian Smith
For their first Tour of Britain, BIKE Channel Canyon well represented domestic cycling.
After a successful performance at the Tour de Yorkshire, I was looking forward to seeing how they would approach this race.
They were consistently on the attack every day, making sure to have a rider either at least trying to make the breakaway, or in the definitive group that would distance the peloton.
Achieving two top-14 finishes, a combativity prize and showcasing their talent to the public, as well as having four riders complete the eight-day event, BIKE Channel Canyon can be very pleased with how they undertook their first Tour of Britain.