Endura Racing continued their resurgence with a close fought win at round six of the Halfords Tour Series in Oldham yesterday, Rob Partridge taking the line inches ahead of a prematurely celebrating Marcin Bialoblocki. The win, along with seventh and ninth for Ian Wilkinson and Jack Bauer, helped Endura to the team prize on the night ahead of Motorpoint Pro Cycling and series leaders Rapha Condor Sharp in third. The results saw Endura close Rapha’s lead at the top of the standings to just seven points with two rounds to go.
Moving north from round five in Stoke, the overall Tour Series team title was increasingly looking like a forgone conclusion as Rapha Condor Sharp riders had won four of the five rounds so far and the team taking the top prize at each time of asking. Rapha were so dominant, in fact, that they’d quickly built an almost unassailable nine point lead in the team standings over nearest rival Endura Racing.
Perhaps not known as a hot bed of cycling activity, Oldham acts as the Greater Manchester round in this year’s Tour and provided one of the tougher courses of the series with a hilly and part cobbled 1.1km route around the town centre. With a fairly sizeable crowd along the start/finish straight to cheer the riders on and an overly loud PA system blaring out the latest dance tunes, the atmosphere was warm as the riders set off for an hour’s criterium racing.
Despite the difficulty of the course the race was run at a frenetic pace from the start with the peloton stretched and riders being jettisoned from the back within the first few laps. Pendragon Colnago Le Col were the first to suffer with three of their riders dropping off the back within minutes of starting as the pace was kept high and riders from Willier GoSelfDrive.com and Twenty3c Orbea were also distanced early on.
The first attack to stick was actually more of a split in the peloton with 15 or so riders breaking away. From this breakaway a smaller group of four including Rapha’s Dean Downing and eventual winner Rob Partridge opened up a sizeable gap of over a minute, Liam Holohan of the local Team Raleigh putting in most of the early work. The peloton never looked liked catching the leaders and with representatives of three of the main teams in the break there was no real impetus at the front with Rapha and Endura happy to let the break build a gap, Rapha obviously confident that Dean Downing could repeat the result from round 4 and take the win.
It wasn’t to be, however, as in the last two laps Downing dangled from the back of the group, fighting to stay in touch as Motorpoint set a punishing pace. It all looked to be paying off for Motorpoint too as with 25 metres to go Marcin Bialoblocki had the race wrapped only for an early celebration to allow Rob Partridge to pip him to the line and take the win.
With the team competition decided by scoring each team’s top three placing riders, the racing didn’t stop as Partridge crossed the line; a separate race now started for the lower places. Ed Clancy, national criterium racing champion, just beat out Ian Wilkinson to sixth place with Jack Bauer taking an important ninth place to ensure that Endura came out on top. A strong fourth place for Ian Bibby, along with Marcin Bialoblocki’s second, helped Motorpoint to second in the team race, demoting Rapha to third.
With the standings as they are, the team competition is Rapha’s to lose with Endura needing to win both rounds and hope Rapha place no higher than fouth and fifth. That's unlikely because third place in Oldham is the first time Rapha have failed to win a round, although the team's strangle hold on the competition has loosened just a little.
You can catch coverage of the Oldham round of the Halfords Tour Series tonight on ITV4 at 8pm with sporadic coverage of previous rounds available on the ITV Player.
The final two rounds see the Tour Series head back down south with events in Woking and Canary Wharf on June 14 and 16.