Frenchman Alexandre Blain took Endura Racing’s first win of The Halfords Tour Series, jumping away from his breakaway companions in the final 500 metres of racing to win a fast paced Southport round of the Series.
Blain helped a determined Endura squad also take the evening’s all important team prize, Endura Racing’s first ever success in The Halfords Tour Series, as they narrowly edged out an active Rapha – Condor – Sharp, in a race that boiled, down into a tight battle between the top three teams.
Earlier rain had cleared away by seven o’clock, leaving the sun breaking through and the skies clearing above the Sefton Coast in time for racing. Every lap in the early stages seemed to bring an increase in speed, as the peloton enjoyed the long, flat straights that gave riders the chance to stretch their legs at the front of the field.
At the back it was a different story, with several riders struggling to hold the fierce pace straight from the flag dropping. Amongst the casualties was Southport resident Peter Smith, who was forced to drop out after being struck down by illness, a disappointment for him and his Raleigh team, who had been fired up to perform at their home event.
Endura Racing, Rapha-Condor-Sharp and Halfords Tour Series leaders Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta were all looking fired up too, with each sending riders up the road in probing forays as the big guns tried to get a move to stick.
Each move seemed to be in vain though, as the laps would pass with a couple of riders dangling in front of the peloton, but by the next lap the escapees would have been swallowed and another rider would take their turn to attempt to break the invisible elastic connecting them with the bunch.
When a break did eventual stay away after half-an-hour of racing, it was a high-class Anglo-Australian quartet of Rob Hayles, Ed Clancy, Dean Windsor and Casey Munro. The foursome built a 12” lead over the peloton, but that gap was gradually chipped away as Ormskirk rider James Stewart and Zak Dempster tried to cross.
Another high-class trio containing Munro and Clancy again, along with Ian Wilkinson then tried to escape, but with no Rapha-Condor-Sharp rider in the group its life was short lived.
Finally the big three teams succeeded in getting some of their riders away, with Blain, House and Ian Bibby all pulling away from the field. The trio built-up an excellent lead, and with each of the big teams represented the chase from the peloton was weakened, although post-race Blain and House seemed to suggest they had been unhappy with the amount of work done by the Motorpoint rider ‘policing’ the break.
In the closing laps four riders crossed to the leading group, with Endura Racing, Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta and Rapha-Condor-Sharp again represented through Jack Bauer, Andy Tennant and Dean Windsor, while James Stewart added the presence of home team Raleigh.
Approaching the finish, former Cofidis rider Blain jumped with about 500 metres to go approaching the final hairpin corner. With his breakaway companions slightly overcooking their chase and going deep into the turn, victory went to the Frenchman, well clear original escapees House and Bibby.
In the standings Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta’s lead has been cut to two points over Rapha-Condor-Sharp, with Endura Racing just a point behind, as the leading trio begin to pull away from the field.
Behind the battle for fourth in the standings is just as tight however, with Sigma Sport-Specialized, Pendragon Le Col Colnago and Team Raleigh separated by three points, showing the racing in The Halfords Tour Series is as close as ever.
To see all the action from Southport, tune in to ITV4 on Wednesday evening at 7pm for an hour’s highlights show. The Halfords Tour Series is back in action on Thursday in Kettering for Round Six of the 2010 Series.