Despite describing the race as “absolute purgatory”, 48-year-old Malcolm Elliott led the way to take his first ever Halfords Tour Series win at round 2 in Durham last night.
“Every possible obstacle you could have on a crit’ course, it was here. It was so hard it was almost comical,” said Elliott, whose team-mate Andy Tennant described the race as “the toughest criterium I’ve ever ridden”.
Elliott was a member of a race-long break, holding off fellow escapees Kristian House and Dave Clarke to take the win, and helping his Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta team to take the victory, moving them into second in the series standings.
On a testing course, featuring a long, cobbled climb up to the finish arena from Durham city centre, the tactics of the 10 professional teams were tested to the max.
With the peloton split into several small groups from early on in the race, teams had to pay maximum attention to the position of their leading three riders on the road in order to stay in with a chance of claiming the win.
The race boiled down to a duel between Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta and Rapha – Condor – Sharp, but when three members of the series-leading team were lapped mid-way through the race, the advantage swung firmly in the direction of Motorpoint.
The orange and black clad team of Phil Griffiths were at the fore from the start, with Elliott explaining afterwards that he knew the significance of heading into the ‘dead’ turn at the bottom of the climb as one of the first five or six riders.
Hence when Tennant attacked swiftly and strongly on lap three, Elliott was one of three riders able to go with him on the climb, the others being Rapha – Condor – Sharp duo House and Darren Lapthorne.
The four set about steadily building their advantage, with Dave Clarke and Gareth Montgomerie joining them after a quarter of an hour to make a sextet.
With Griffiths relaying news of third Motorpoint man on the road Ed Clancy to his leading two riders, the team could gauge their progress against their rivals, and when the leading group lapped the three Rapha riders, victory was all but confirmed.
Come the final lap and Elliott made his move out of the final corner, holding off House and Clarke by some distance. Crossing the line arms aloft, his victory was made all the sweeter by him helping Motorpoint to the round victory, their third ever series win.
The luck, though, wasn’t with Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta team-mate and Olympic medallist Steven Burke, whose race, like that of several other riders including Yanto Barker and round 1 winner Tony Gibb, was marred by a crash that left his Opera beyond repair.
In the Boardman Bikes Sprints Competition, Kristian House dominated for Rapha – Condor – Sharp, winning all three sprints to take the lead in the competition, five points clear of Raleigh’s Liam Holohan.
To see the riders tackle the cobbles and climbs of Durham, tune into ITV4 at 7pm today for an hour’s highlights show. Round 3 takes place in Plymouth on Tuesday. For more information and full results, visit www.tourseries.co.uk or follow the action via Twitter at www.twitter.com/TourSeries.