Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta made the most of home advantage in Stoke-on-Trent last night to wrest the Halfords Tour Series lead back from Rapha-Condor Sharp by placing three riders in the top seven finishers, including race winner Ian Bibby, who took his second round of the competition. With just three points separating the top three teams, the other being Endura Racing, the series is building up to what promises to be a gripping last two rounds in Chester and Woking next week.
With balmy evening sunshine in the Potteries and a tough course that included some tight corners and a sweeping climb and descent on each lap, it was a hard race with the riders setting off at a fair old clip from the very start, and the evening saw several crashes, one of which involved Kuota-road.cc’s Jon Mozley, who tweeted later that he fears his Tour Series might be over after coming down heavily on his elbow.
Eventually Bibby and Dave Clarke of Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago managed to get clear of the field, with Kristian House putting in some hard work at the front of the bunch as he tried to help Rapha-Condor-Sharp remain in the race leaders’ orange jerseys. But just as the escapees looked set to be caught, Endura’s Scott Thwaites managed to bridge the gap, giving the break renewed impetus, and by the bell, it was clear that the trio would be fighting it out with the individual win.
As it turned out, Bibby took the sprint comfortably, under the watchful gaze of the statue of local legend Sir Stanley Matthews, and his victory was celebrated enthusiastically by team-mate Jonny McEvoy, who took the bunch sprint moments later to finish fourth.
Ahead of the main event yesterday, the afternoon saw the city-centre circuit host the inaugural Horizon Fitness Women’s Grand Prix, won by National Circuit Race Champion Dani King who herself rides for Horizon fitness. Her team-mate Helen Wyman came third, with Hannah Barnes of Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta second.
Highlights of last night’s race will be shown on ITV4 at 7pm tonight, and the penultimate race in the series is in Chester on Monday night, brought forward from the usual Tuesday slot because of changes to the TV schedule brought about by England’s World Cup match against Slovenia on Wednesday.
Chester will be the final chance to win a VIP hospitality package for two, and judging by the response from previous winners, it’s a prize well worth having, putting you in the thick of the action while getting wined and dined, so look out for that competition later today here on road.cc.
In the meantime, it’s a busy weekend for the Halfords Tour Series organisers – after last night’s race, the event moves to Belfast tonight and Dublin tomorrow for a two-race Irish event, ahead of Chester’s race on Monday, making four races in five days.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.