Rapha-Condor-Sharp moved back into the lead of the Halfords Tour Series after a dominant display at round 7 in Peterborough. The men in black claimed the team win, with Dean Downing adding the individual win and the Boardman Bikes Sprint Prize to the squad's haul.
Downing narrowly beat Endura’s Ian Wilkinson as a small break threatened to lap the field, coming within seconds of catching the peloton in the closing laps.
The win takes Rapha-Condor-Sharp level on points with Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta at the top of the standings, but John Herety’s team have four round wins to the two of Motorpoint, giving them the orange Halfords leader’s jersey.
Endura Racing remain close, just two points further back, ensuring the battle for the Bob Chicken Trophy and the series win is tight going into the final three rounds.
Under sunny skies and in front of large crowds, the Peterborough race got off to a flying start, with the peloton instantly strung out as they toured the 1.1km circuit. James Stewart, Chris Newton and Jack Bauer all took turns at trying to escape the pack, but to no avail.
When a break did eventually go, it was a high quality affair, with the big three teams represented by Downing, Ian Wilkinson and Malcolm Elliott. Accompanying them were Kettering escapee Simon Richardson of Sigma Sport-Specialized and Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago’s Yanto Barker.
The quintet built an impressive 30-second lead by the halfway stage, and with the leading three Halfords Tour Series teams represented, the chase from the peloton was muted. This was even more noticable when another five riders took off in pursuit after around 35 minutes of racing, with the same five teams again represented.
Portsmouth winner Ian Bibby, Kiwi champion Jack Bauer, Chris Newton, Rhys Lloyd and Wouter Sybrandy couldn’t get within 30 seconds of the leaders though, who steadily pulled away to threaten the rear of the peloton with the ignominy of being lapped.
Meanwhile the second group of five saw their advantage eroded when Raleigh’s Stewart and Pendragon’s Steve Lampier detached from the main field to try to bridge the gap. Their attempt only succeeded in speeding up the peloton – perhaps just enough to ensure they weren’t lapped by Downing’s group – and ensuring that the second group never got too far away.
Both groups were soon whittled down to four riders apiece, as Sybrandy was tailed off from the second pack, while an unfortunate pit infringement saw Barker removed from proceedings and the night's results, when a promising result had looked on for the Welsh international.
Within sight of the peloton on the long straights, a catch looked possible for Downing’s group, but they ultimately ran out of laps. Across the line with one to go Wilkinson attacked, but Downing immediately responded, ensuring it came down to a four-way finish sprint.
Just a tyre’s width separated the two riders as each went to a different side of the track and gunned for the line, with Exeter winner Downing proving the quickest– but only just.
In the second group on the road, Downing’s team-mate Newton edged Bibby to take the sprint and help push Rapha-Condor-Sharp towards the team victory, with Graham Briggs taking second in the bunch sprint (11th on the road), one place behind Rob Hayles who led the peloton home to secure victory for the men in black.
To see all the action from Peterborough, tune into ITV4 at 7pm today for an hour’s highlights show. The Halfords Tour Series is back in action tomorrow in Stoke-on-Trent for round 8. For more information, visit www.tourseries.co.uk or follow the action via Twitter.
Tomorrow also sees the Horizon Fitness Women’s Grand Prix taking place at 3pm, with a top-class field including Hannah Barnes and the Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta women’s team, track world champion Joanna Rowsell, national criterium champion Dani King and national cyclo-cross champion Helen Wyman among the participants.