Sunday, 28th July 2019 heralded the launch of a new event on the National Road Series program, the 156km South Coast Classic, and what a splendid event it was!
The race started and finished on the Eastbourne promenade in glorious summer weather, although accompanied by a stiff north-westerly breeze. The 5km route westwards out of the town set the scene with an almost immediate climb up to the South Downs National Park.
A scenic 11km circuit was covered 13 times and included a 2km climb averaging 4.7% but kicking up to 8.3% at the steepest section of Beachy Head Road at the top of the iconic white cliffs. For those that survived the demanding parcours and weather conditions, the event was completed with a short, fast descent back into Eastbourne.
The Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team selected for the event were Ryan Christensen, Callum Macleod, Dan Pearson, Louis Rose-Davies, Max Stedman and Tom Stewart.
They were joined by late call-up Charles Page, who had forgotten his passport when intending to travel out to the Grand Prix de la Ville de Perenchies race in France the previous day. After a couple of laps of sweat and toil up Beachy Head, no doubt Charles was ruing that omission.
The team faced the usual competition from Madison Genesis and an increasingly strong looking SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling headed by ‘on form’ riders James Shaw and Jacob Scott, both teams who had already secured places at the forthcoming Tour of Britain; and Team Wiggins Le Col and Vitus Pro Cycling facing what could turn out to be their decisive battle for the final Tour of Britain berth with Vitus looking to Scott Thwaites to keep their hope alive.
The race got off to a frantic start with Shaw (Swift) forcing a break on the first climb up Beachy Head and he had been joined by Mark Christian (Wiggins), Steve Lampier (Saint Piran) and ex-Team Sky rider making a comeback, Alex Peters, by the end of the second lap.
This group had swollen to 10 riders by the end of the third lap and included Pearson, with Christensen and Stedman leading a larger second group behind. By the mid-point the race had settled down into a holding pattern with a large lead group of now 28 riders that also included Macleod.
Over the next few laps this 28-rider group increased its lead over a larger group of riders including Tom Stewart, that was eventually black-flagged when the gap to lead group became too distant from a traffic-management perspective.
Over the closing laps what was the lead group divided into groups of various sizes which ebbed and flowed as splits were caused by the cross-winds over the climb, with other riders recovering to rejoin those ahead.
With two laps to go Christensen and Pearson were holding positions in the lead group of five along with Scott (Swift), Lampier (St Piran) and young Sam Culverwell (Team Estera) from Guernsey, with Ed Laverack (Swift), Rob Scott (Wiggins), Shaw and Stedman chasing behind.
Jacob Scott (Swift) forced ahead on the last climb up Beachy Head and flew back down into Eastbourne to take an impressive solo victory.
Twelve seconds later Rob Scott (Wiggins) stormed through from the second group to pip Christensen on the line for second place.
Pearson followed in fifth place just behind Lampier, Stedman finished 8th and Macleod 16th. Christian (Wiggins) and Thwaites (Vitus) were seven minutes adrift and the final riders of only 21 finishers which was testament to the demanding course and challenging cross-winds.
Christensen’s podium was his best performance in the National Road Series and reinforced Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes lead at the head of the Tour of Britain qualification standings with Team Wiggins Le Col securing the final place from Vitus Pro Cycling.
Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes have a commanding lead in the National Road Series team standings with Townsend 5th, Stedman 7th and Pearson 10th in the individual standings with just the Isle of Man and Rydale rounds to come.
Detailed results can be found here.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1, 4, 6 & 7 – Hugh McManus
2, 3 & 5 – Paul Stedman