Chris Opie finished third in the Stockton Grand Prix after a thrilling sprint ended in victory for JLT Condor’s Brenton Jones.
It needed a photo to separate Jones from Team Wiggins fast man Chris Latham, with Opie crossing the line just half a bike length adrift of the pair following the 176km Teesside battle.
Missing out on a major victory was tempered by Rory Townsend winning the sprints competition and Harry Tanfield, who crossed the line in 16th, taking the top local rider prize, as BIKE Channel Canyon made a hat-trick of visits to the podium.
Tim Elverson’s men ensured they were prominent as the peloton rolled through the neautralised zone. And when the flag dropped, Townsend fired himself into the day’s 11-man breakaway.
The 22-year-old was joined by his former Pedal Heaven team-mates Alex Paton and Callum Ferguson, who now ride for Madison Genesis and Catford Banks respectively.
JLT Condor were represented by Ali Slater, ONE Pro Cycling duo Sam Williams and George Harper were involved, while Rhys Howells was flying the flag for the Team Wiggins outfit.
The front group, which quickly built up an advantage of four minutes as the peloton sat up, was completed by Alex Orrell-Turner, of Wheelbase Altura, George Wood, from Richardsons Trek, Spirit Tifosi’s Chris Dredge and Lawrence Carpenter, a team-mate of Ferguson’s at Catford Banks.
With the escapees settling down to their work, Townsend was third as Williams took the first of four intermediate sprints. The BIKE Channel Canyon man hit back to beat his ONE Pro rival to the line in both of the next two, though.
At this point, with around half of the 173km contest completed, the peloton had woken up and pegged the breakaway’s advantage to less than three minutes.
Wood snatched the final of the day’s intermediate sprints on the main circuit, ahead of Townsend and Williams before the main bunch really began to put the hammer down and close the gap.
And as they set sail for the finishing circuit in Stockton’s riverside area, Howells attacked out of the break as Orrell-Turner then Carpenter and Dredge were dropped. A puncture then put paid to Wood’s day up the road.
JLT were on the front of the peloton now and, after Williams set off in a bid to close the gap to Howells, Townsend and the remainder of the break were swept up by a marauding pack.
Williams’ efforts to stay clear came to nothing and, when the bunch had Howells in their sights, Brother NRG Driverplan’s Dan Bigham bridged the gap and attacked over the top of the Wiggins man.
The race was all back together on the penultimate lap and as the riders took the bell, Elverson’s BIKE Channel Canyon troops hit the front in impressive fashion and began driving the peloton.
JLT were prominent, too, with their train working for Friday’s Stockton Town Centre race victor Jones. And as they sprinted under the bridge and up to the line it was Jones who completed the double.
He had to sweat on the result, though, as a photograph was required to split him and Latham, of Team Wiggins, with Opie just half a bike length further adrift in a breathtaking finale.
Sam Lowe also finished in the front group, Jack Pullar, who had come down in an earlier crash, was just a few seconds adrift, while Dexter Gardias, Matt Nowell and George Atkins had been instrumental in getting Opie’s sprint train rolling.
After two rounds of the Grand Prix Series, Gardias now sits fifth in the individual standings – 17 points behind leader Johnny McEvoy, who was fourth in Stockton. Click here for the full Stockton Grand Prix result.