Team Halfords Bikehut once again underlined their strength as they won round five of the Tour Series in Blackpool last night (9 June).
The evergreen Rob Hayles exploded from the front of a small group of four riders – who had been away for most of the race – to ensure a perfect start to the scoring on a tight and fast circuit by the sea.
Conditions for the Tour Series’ first foray north were a little cooler than previous rounds, with a reasonably stiff north-easterly wind facing the teams on the home straight. However, the sizeable Blackpool galleries were soon warmed up with some incessant early attacking from the Candi TV, Halfords and Sigma squads.
After 10 minutes of the hour’s racing Dean Downing, Tom Barras, Russell Downing and Rob Hayles were in a select group of four riders that escaped the already thinning field of 50. They quickly gained 50 metres and by the time 15 minutes had elapsed this had become 20 seconds.
The game was set as the big four teams in this year’s series all had a man in the break, guaranteeing each of them at least one rider in the top four finishers.
After 30 minutes of racing, Sigma, Sport Beans and Endura tried desperately to get the head of the chase organised, but their efforts were disrupted by other members of the main protagonists' teams.
Sprint two was easily taken by Russ Downing from brother Dean, as the main field sprinted for fifth place. This intermediate gallop only served to break up any chase for the escapees and by the time 35 minutes of racing had passed the lead was almost 40 seconds – looking like a ‘first lapping of the field’ in this year’s Tour Series was on the cards.
As the race entered into the last third the Endura Racing boys decided they weren’t going to go down without a fight and Evan Oliphant came through the start/finish area with a grimace as the clock reached 40 minutes.
Next time round it was the turn of Team Corley Cycles’ Matt Higgins to drive the train as the teams of Halfords Bikehut, Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, Madison and Rapha-Condor sat and watched in a chase group of around 25 riders.
With the race now entering the finale, Russ Downing demonstrated why he is among the fastest men in the UK over 200 metres by taking the third and final sprint. With 10 minutes remaining, the field were almost 45 seconds back – it was now evident that they weren't going to be lapped, but equally the leading four riders were surely not going to be caught. It was now just a matter of which teams were going to occupy the first four places.
Three laps to go and the concerted efforts of the Endura, Sigma and the Corley boys was starting to reel in the four leading riders. However, the leaders were now settling themselves for the last lap sprint.
As the foursome rounded Casino Corner Tom Barras made a dash for home. The older heads in the group held their nerve and allowed the Madison rider to lead out. Turning the sharp right-hander into the last straight it was the oldest head of all, Rob Hayles, who hit the front and held two bike lengths to the finish ahead of Russell Downing.
However, the Tour Series is all about the team race, and the fast finishing bunch were flat across the road as the teams of the leading four riders aimed to get an additional two riders as high up the main field as possible.
That honour went to the Halfords Bikehut squad, as Ian Wilkinson ably backed up Hayles to take the team prize on the night. Led by Russell Downing and taking second place on the night, Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta cemented their overall lead as the Tour Series hits half way.
|1 Team Halfords Bikehut|
|2 Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta|
|4 Rapha - Condor|
|5 Sigma Sport Cycling Team|
|6 Sports Beans - Wilier|
|7 Endura Racing|
|8 Team Corley Cycles|
|10 BMC UK Racing Team|
|1 Rob Hayles (Team Halfords Bikehut)|
|2 Russell Downing (Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta)|
|3 Dean Downing (Team Halfords Bikehut)|
|4 Tom Barras (Madison.co.uk)|
|5 Ian Wilkinson (Team Halfords Bikehut)|
|6 Malcolm Elliot (Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta)|
|7 Tony Gibb (Madison.co.uk)|
|8 Yanto Barker (Sigma Sport Cycling Team)|
|9 Ed Clancy (Team Halfords Bikehut)|
|10 Graham Briggs (Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta)|
|Team standings after round five|
|1 Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta|
|3 Rapha - Condor|
|4 Team Halfords Bikehut|
|5 Sigma Sport Cycling Team|
|6 Sports Beans - Wilier?|
|7 Team Corley Cycles|
|8 BMC UK Racing Team|
|9 Endura Racing|
For full results, see the Tour Series website, www.tourseries.co.uk.
Tour Series dates
- Round six: 11 June, Southport
- Round seven: 16 June, Stoke-on-Trent
- Round eight: 18 June, Colchester
- Round nine: 23 June, Chester
- Round 10: 25 June, Southend-on-Sea