TEAM Corley Cycles-Blue exceeded their expectations in Tuesday evening’s Peterborough round of the Tour Series with Matt Jones taking third place in the opening sprint of the night before going on the lead team-mate Liam Stones to finish just outside the top 20 at the end of the race.
This was Team Corley’s final scheduled ‘guest’ outing in this year’s Halfords sponsored team-based competition, but their efforts at Peterborough and last week at Oxford have easily merited their inclusion in the country’s premier, televised race programme.
The four-man Corley line-up knew after Jones superb finish at the difficult Oxford circuit that the less demanding open corners around the 1.1km Peterborough course would give them a superb opportunity to shine at this race.
As guest riders, the Corley quartet lined up at the back of the field at the start and so Jones and Mike Smith had to force their way to the front in the open, frantic laps but as the race pace started to settle down Jones had found himself in a comfortable position as the opening sprint lap loomed.
Using all his skills as the U23 National Crit champion, Jones knew where he had to position himself as the leading riders chased to the line in that sprint.
“I found it quite easy to move up on the back straight,” he later explained. “And I’d previously tried to get a break going but as we turned onto the finishing straight it was just a case of keeping my speed going.”
Third place in that sprint was the best result so far this year for a Guest rider but Jones didn’t stop there. Keeping his head down he then tried to force another break but the more experienced Tour Series riders weren’t going to let him get away.
Pretty much holding his own as the laps counted down, with just two laps to the finish the Corley youngster tried once again to make a break from the fast moving peloton but again his attack was covered.
“I thought I’d give it a go. Perhaps in hindsight I should have left things until the final lap and as a guest rider I hoped I’d be allowed to get away but as the others around me were fighting for Team points and overall we were going for 7th place I guess I wasn’t surprised when they pulled me back pretty quickly.”
Even then Jones wasn’t given an inch in the sprint to the finishing line. “Let’s just say I got caught up with a much more experienced rider as we headed for the final corner. I was hoping for a tenth place finish but we swapped head butts and elbows so that held me back. I guess overall I’m a little disappointed but that’s racing.”
Those distractions aside Jones still finished in 21st place, a superb ride and a finishing position that bettered his Oxford placing that itself was, until then, the best finish so far this year by a Guest rider.
But Team Corley’s joy was added to by the 22nd place finish by Liam Stones. In only his second full year of racing, Stones has already moved up to be a 1st Cat rider, securing enough points to move up to that category courtesy of his 4th place finish at the recent Central Divs and was more than enjoying his exposure to such a high level of racing as the Tour Series.
After the race he said “For sure this is really competing with the big guys and racing with the big names. I feel in these last two races I’ve been up there and holding my own. It’s a question of experience and knowing whose wheel to hold on to and which riders to watch. Much of it is getting my head round things and getting used to the pace of things. They’re so fast!”
But with their Tour Series over for 2012 Team Corley Cycles-Blue are now looking towards British Cycling’s Elite Circuit series and both Jones and Stones are hoping to continue their form in those races.
“Racing in the Tour Series has been great,” was Stones’ comment. “It was great racing in front of such big crowds. It’d be great to get another taste of that in the Elite series.”
Jones is looking to even bigger things. “We’ll do all the Elite crits building towards the Nationals. This is something we can really go for. I really think we could get a podium finish at one of those races and I don’t think that a top ten finish at the National Crit champs is out of the question either.”