UK Premier Calendar leader Russell Downing secured his fifth series victory in seven races when he sprinted to victory at the end of the 140-kilometre Tour of Blackpool in Lancashire on Sunday.
Downing, the runaway leader of the blue riband series, edged ahead of breakaway companion Ian Stannard, the Belgian-based professional who rides for the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team.
Most of the top teams were represented in a big break as the pace proved too much for many in the bunch, and while one or two riders tried to attack up the road none were allowed to get away, until Downing and Stannard made their move at the start of the finishing circuit.
Plowman and Rapha chased hard to drag them back, with Rapha’s Dean Downing second in the series and Plowman’s Evan Oliphant third, but they failed to match the speed and determination of the leading riders who ploughed on through the rain-soaked lanes.
As they headed into the final 500 metres Downing jumped clear of his rival and held him off to take the win by three seconds and give himself a 276-point lead over his brother Dean, with three rounds remaining.
“I think that’s the series wrapped up now,” said Downing afterwards. “It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’m looking forward to relaxing a bit this week without the pressures of the Premier Calendar or National Criterium Series.”
Third spot in the Tour of Blackpool went to Halfords Bikehut rider Rob Hayles, the newly-crowned national road race champion from Derbyshire.
But he was happy enough to settle for the final place on the podium after having won the Blackpool Grand Prix on Friday night, part of the national elite circuit series.
Hayles pipped Downing to the line in a tight three-up sprint for glory in that event, with Rapha Condor’s super-fast sprinter Graham Briggs, from Doncaster, taking third by a narrow margin.
“It’s not been a bad week for me,” said Hayles afterwards in a superb piece of understatement. “National champion, then a criterium series win and third today – I’m happy with that.
In Oxfordshire, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Mid-Devon CC) took victory in the Charlie Caines Memorial road race at Beckley after winning a sprint finish to the 115-kilometre event.
He pipped his three breakaway rivals in the sprint, with Rapha Condor-Recycling’s Simon Holt taking second, inches ahead of KFS Special Vehicles rider Matt Clinton, while Ben Anstie (Chippenham Wheelers) just dropped off the back of the leading group in the last few hundred metres.
After heavy rain and strong winds early in the event the weather improved and the four attacked with around 20 miles remaining.
With five miles to go Holt’s team-mate Rhys Lloyd and Clinton’s team-mate Gareth Hewitt attacked from the chasing bunch and closed to within 40sec and 1min 5sec respectively, but just ran out of time to catch the leaders.
In the supporting Dave Ryan Road Race, veteran racer Robert Darby (Halesowen A&CC) won by five seconds from Anton Blackie (Oxford University CC), while Bristol RC rider Neil White took third at the end of the 90-kilometre race.