Over the past few seasons the National Circuit Series has seemed to be of secondary interest to the other of the season’s criterium race programs, namely the Tour Series.
However, with the revamping of the National Circuit Series by British Cycling and it becoming another of the qualification events for the Tour of Britain, there seemed to be renewed interest in the races and the outcome.
In addition, the live-streaming of each round enabled many more people to get engaged with the races, and not just those who were able to be there in person on the day.
For Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes, it was another opportunity for the team to engage with their supporters and to promote their sponsors to the communities in town and city centres across Britain. From the individual riders’ perspective, it was also another opportunity to compete with the best teams and criterium riders in the country.
The six towns which hosted races between the 3rd and 24th July were: Otley, Abergavenny, Newcastle, Colne, Barnsley and Sheffield.
Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes nominated a few riders to be the cornerstone of the team in the majority of the races to target the overall individual rankings, which was the basis on which the Tour of Britain qualification points would be awarded.
They were supported in each round by supplementary riders depending upon the circuit location and physical characteristics.
The core riders were Matt Bostock, Callum Macleod, Charles Page, Charlie Tanfield and Ollie Wood. Supplementary riders included Ryan Christensen, Dan Pearson, Louis Rose-Davies, Max Stedman, Tom Stewart and Andy Tennant.
The first race was over 20 laps of the relatively long 2.2km Otley circuit with a steady drag out of the town centre before returning on a largely flat road followed by a short but steep descent back into the town centre with a sharp left-hand bend into the finishing straight.
There were the usual attempted breakaways with one featuring Charlie Tanfield in the family’s traditional aero tuck, but due to the wide, open, fast-flowing circuit, the peloton was still together going into the last lap.
The field stormed down the final hill and into the left-hander where Russell Downing (Giordana) went for an ambitious line and seemed to be un-nerved as Tom Pidcock (Team Wiggins Le Col) squeezed past on the outside with Downing crashing heavily into the barriers.
After following a more controlled path through this bend, Bostock accelerated in the home straight and just pipped Pidcock in a photo-finish. Reece Wood (Zappi Racing Team) took 3rd place whilst older brother Ollie finished 10th with Macleod in 12th.
More warm sunshine greeted the riders for a town centre circuit less than a kilometre in length with one particularly sharp downhill right-hand corner which was popular with spectators for obvious reasons. Tanfield did not disappoint them as he sadly came to grief here.
The racing was fast and furious with Macleod, Stedman and Bostock in turn pushing the pace on the front. Local boy John Mould (Madison Genesis) assisted by team-mate Tom Moses made a number of stinging attacks, but these were always brought back under control and never made more than a 50 metre or so gap.
The demanding circuit and pace that it was ridden at made it a highly attritional race with only 17 finishers. Bostock took his most comfortable victory of the series ahead of Mould with Chris Latham (Vitus Pro Cycling) in 3rd place. Macleod finished 7th, Stedman 8th and Rose-Davies 12th.
This was a new venue for national series criterium racing with a circuit that included cobbles and tight turns which also turned out to be highly attritional with just 18 finishers.
Christensen was hot off the line for the first couple of laps with Jacob Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) then forcing the early break which was joined by Christensen, Bostock and young cyclo-cross rider and local boy Thomas Mein (Tartelletto-Isorex).
Mein took the lead after ten minutes and rode strongly for the next hour with Bostock on his wheel as they pulled out a minute’s advantage over the rest of the field. As the two leaders approached the finishing line, Bostock was not going to be denied and came off Mein’s wheel in the closing metres to take his third win of the series. Christensen held on for 5th, with Wood leading in what was left of the peloton in 6th and Macleod in 15th.
Colne is one of the longest-standing races in the series and has a short 840 metre, flat and fast rectangular circuit.
After three wins in the first three races, Bostock was set to celebrate his 22 birthday in style. It was an attacking race with Team Wiggins Le Col riders being particularly active with both Rob Scott and Gabriel Cullaigh pulling out sizable gaps before being caught by the pursuing peloton.
However, despite further attacks from Madison Genesis and Ribble Pro Cycling riders in particular, the peloton was all together going into the last lap.
As the peloton wound up for the sprint crescendo, it was Bostock and Wood along with Jon Mould (Madison Genesis) who pulled out a short advantage with Bostock dipping on the line for a birthday win with Mould in second and Wood in third.
Page recorded his best result of the series in 10th place, whilst Tennant marked his return to racing following his hand injury after crashing at the Aberdeen Tour Series round, finishing in 31st place.
The course is centred on the splendid Town Hall building and is a highly technical course with twists and turns through narrow cobbled streets and the paved shopping area. Just to spice things up, it had rained for most of the afternoon as well.
Once the riders had got a feel for the slippery conditions, a break of five riders established a gap and were not headed again for the remainder of the race.
The breakaway inevitably included Bostock, with Christensen joining him from Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes, along with Rob Scott (Team Wiggins Le Col), Ali Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling) and making a now rare UK appearance, Connor Swift (Team Arkea-Samsic).
Unfortunately Christensen slid out on a damp corner and although able to remount, he was out of contention. This left four riders to dice out the last lap and with Scott being gapped before the finishing straight, Bostock powered past Slater and Swift to take his fifth consecutive win of the series which also gave him a decisive lead the National Circuit Series individual standings.
Macleod delivered another impressive performance finishing 7th, with Wood 9th and Christensen recovering to 17th.
National Circuit Championships, Rochester:
The National Championships were scheduled between the Barnsley and Sheffield rounds of the National Circuit Series on the particularly technical circuit at Rochester, with a sharp turn into a cobbled climb only a short distance after the start/finish line.
Although this race did not count towards the Tour of Britain qualification standings, it was considered to be the most prestigious criterium of the season with the victor being awarded the red, white and blue-striped National Champion’s jersey which would be worn by the winner in criterium races over the following twelve months.
Under-rated rider Isaac Mundy (Richardsons Trek), who took second place to Rory Townsend in the recent Guildford Town Centre race, took an early lead and as he established an advantage over the following laps, only Joey Walker (Madison Genesis) was able to bridge across to him.
With Matt Bostock being the clear pre-race favourite after five consecutive wins in the National Circuit Series and having such a strong and proven finishing sprint, team-mates Macleod and Wood worked particularly hard for him to close the gap to the leaders.
However Mundy and Walker maintained their lead with Mundy taking the initiative on the last lap, but as he led down the home straight he unfortunately pulled his foot out of the quick-release pedal mechanism and was helpless as Walker sped past for a close-fought win.
Bostock reminded the spectators of what might have been as he led in the group of following riders 13 seconds down to snatch 3rd place from Gabriel Cullaigh (Team Wiggins Le Col) and a podium place on the night.
As a reflection of the challenging nature of the circuit, there were only 16th finishers with Ollie Wood in 13th and Alexandar Richardson in 14th.
The 1.4km circuit with a long back-straight, hair-pin bend and a smattering of cobbles is another familiar criterium venue.
With the National Circuit Series individual title already secured, Bostock was able to let his team-mates make the running for the evening. A group of four including Tanfield and Wood from Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes along with Frederik Scheske (Vitus Pro Cycling) and Rob Scott (Team Wiggins Le Col) made the first meaningful break after ten minutes and remained out front for the rest of the race.
Tanfield made some powerful breaks forcing Scheske and Scott to chase, but the quartet remained together until the last lap. With two corners to go, Scheske ‘dived-bombed’ up the inside but lost control and somersaulted spectacularly but worryingly onto the tarmac.
Wood and Tanfield avoided the melee but Scott had to squeeze between Scheske’s bike and the barriers and had a fortunate escape. With Wood away and clear to take a well-deserved win, Scott recovered to sprint past Tanfield to take second place.
Just over a minute later, Bostock led in the relatively large remaining peloton, just pipping Gabriel Cullaigh (Team Wiggins Le Col) on the line for the second time in the space of a few days for 4th place with Macleod in 14th, Christensen 19th, Pearson in his only criterium of the year in 22nd and Page 25th.
Bottom Line: Bostock’s stellar string of performances with five wins and a fourth place ensured that he comprehensively won the National Circuit Series individual title with Wood finishing in runners-up spot after his victory in the final race. Macleod also deserves credit for his sequence of dedicated team support rides which resulted in 7th place overall.
Needless to say, Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes secured a convincing National Circuit Series overall team win.
The 10 points that Bostock helped secure in the Tour of Britain qualification standings meant Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes lead in that competition became unassailable.
With the team’s overall Tour Series win earlier in the season, that just leaves the National Road Series individual and team classifications up for grabs on the domestic front. The team just seems to go from strength to strength as the season progresses!
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1 – TRAXPHOTOS
2-7 – British Cycling