IAN Stannard of Team Sky, Team Raleigh’s Matt Jones, and a squad of 10 riders from Team Corley Cycles–Cervélo–Alpha RC will all be flying the flag for Milton Keynes at the National Road Race Championships that take place in Tyne & Wear this Sunday.
A field of nearly 150 competitors will tackle a demanding course based around the village of Stamfordham that will feature the feared climb of the Ryals on three occasions as the riders cover a full race distance of more than 120 miles.
Stannard, who won the bronze medal at the end of last year’s race, comes into this year’s Championship on the back of three major stage races, including nine days racing in the Tour of Switzerland that only ended on Sunday.
And although Team Sky will be doing all they can to make sure at least one of their riders is wearing the prestigious red, white and blue of the national champion’s jersey for the rest of the year, it will be on the day that they decide who to ride for and support. And Stannard’s recent form suggests he will again be a contender.
Team patron Phil Corley is also hoping for a performance that at least matches the 16th place finish by Team Corley’s number one rider at the 2010 championships, Richard Cartland.
“It’ll be a tough race, there’s no doubting that, but this year’s course will suit the UK riders better than last year and if someone like our Simon Gaywood or Richard can again slip into a move then another major surprise result could be on the cards.”
>> A gutsy performance by Newport Pagnell’s Jake Hales (Team Corley) and a comeback to form for Wayne Maguire (PCH UK Racing Team) were the local highlights at Saturday evening’s IG Markets London Nocturne held around the capital’s historic Smithfield Market.
Hales, 19, not only had to experience being brought down in another rider’s accident in the first ten minutes of the main race of the day but also come up against an in-form Alex Dowsett, team-mate of Castlethorpe’s Ian Stannard at Team Sky, in the evening’s main race of the day.
Hales was part of a six-man Team Corley squad for the Elite crit that featured not only the cream of the country’s riders but also a handful of top European professionals.
Cut down by 10 minutes because of the late running of the programme, the 50 minute race plus five laps was run off at a breath-taking speed but even despite the furious pace, Team Sky’s Dowsett left all the other riders in his wake, lapping the back markers within 25 minutes from the drop of the starting flag.
But by that point Hales had already been in the wars. Another rider moved across the line of the pursuing peloton, by now pedalling at more than 30mph, and brought down around a dozen other competitors including Hales and his Team Corley team-mate Matt Higgins.
With broken bits of bikes and bodies scattered all over the road, along with some other hardy souls and fuelled by the adrenaline coursing through his body, Hales picked himself up and after changing his damaged front wheel, dived back into the thick of the action.
Not giving up, Hales never missed a beat from then onwards and went on to finish in an excellent 16th place overall with another Team Corley rider, Jamie Newall, taking 25th position.
“When that happens you never think about how painful a crash has been,” Hales said. “It’s not until the next day that you feel the bruises!”
Back at the front Dowsett went on to lap all but a handful of other riders, winning the praise of all those around him. Wolverton’s Wayne Maguire and his PCH UK team-mate Dan Crawley lined up alongside nearly 70 others in the support race to the Elite crit knowing that they had to get to the front from the off to give themselves any chance of success.
It’s not been Maguire’s most successful season so far as he’s had to cope with a number of niggling illnesses but he put all that behind him on Saturday being a constant feature throughout the 40 minutes plus 5 laps support race.
Acknowledging later that he always enjoys the cut and thrust of criterium racing Maguire said: “There were a few experienced riders in my front group but knowing that keeping myself towards the front was essential, let’s just say sometimes I had to give some of the others some encouragement to get out of my way.”
Going into the last five laps Maguire was still in the front 10 to 15 competitors but later admitted that somehow he didn’t concentrate as much as he should have done as the race reached a climax and he slipped back to 20th overall at the chequered flag.
“I could kick myself for losing those final places in the last lap,” he said. “But looking back at my season overall, I’ve got to be pleased with that result and will use it as a spring board for the rest of the season to come.”