Former champion Chris Opie fancies another fast finish on his return to the Stockton Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Cornish sprinter won the 173km contest – which doubles as round two of the British Cycling Grand Prix Series – in the colours of ONE Pro Cycling in 2015.
And he is convinced Tim Elverson’s squad have the necessary firepower to repeat the feat and clinch victory on Teesside this weekend.
The Stockton Grand Prix is the blue-riband event of the Stockton Cycling Festival and rolls out from the town’s riverside area at midday.
Opie is a big fan of the event and, while he appreciates genuine bunch sprints are rare in the UK, he is relishing the prospect of a proper tear-up.
And he reckons Sam Lowe, who was third in 2015, Rory Townsend and local hero Harry Tanfield could all be threats if it does come down to a battle between the fast men. Opie said:
“This is definitely a race I have been looking forward to. It is a really good circuit – because you can race, as opposed to it becoming a slogfest. It is a proper race.
“And it’s about time one of these ended in a sprint! Although, I don’t think any race in this country ends in a true bunch sprint.
“As much as the standard is getting better and better, I don’t think the depth is quite there. It generally ends up with a large group, maybe 20-plus.
“In 2015, my team rode the entire day for a sprint. The course is very similar this time, if not exactly the same as it was back then.
“And assuming the race pans out to plan, we have three or four fast guys – myself, Sam, Rory and Harry – who could be dangerous at the finish.”
The circuit was used for the national road championships last season, with Adam Blythe beating Mark Cavendish to glory from a very select group.
Opie appreciates a similarly selective race is possible. But either way, he knows how important teamwork is going to be in the final reckoning.
“It has been known to break up a bit. It did in the nationals last year and that could happen again.
“We will need to make sure someone covers the break and, if there is anyone we are riding for at the finish, we have to keep them protected.
“Then it is a case of riding as a unit and staying alert. They will be the major factors in this race.
“I would say we have worked really well as a unit so far, particularly when you consider we are the only team not to have had a training camp of any kind.
“Although lots of us knew each other before this season, we were new to working together. And when you take those things into consideration, you can only be happy with our progress.”
Opie had a few days off this week and swerved Friday’s Stockton Town Centre Race, where Tanfield finished third, as a precaution.
But he is confident he has avoided any lasting illness and has declared himself 100-per-cent fit for Sunday’s contest, where Jack Pullar, George Atkins, Dexter Gardias and Matt Nowell will complete the line-up.
Click here to follow live updates from the Stockton Grand Prix via the British Cycling website. Look out for our race report here – or via Twitter and Facebook – on Sunday evening.