Sunshine and soaring temperatures greeted the Halfords Tour Series as it made its first ever visit to Oxford yesterday, the weather bringing out thousands of spectators to watch Endura Racing’s Scott Thwaites make it two out of three wins this year, with the Scotland-based UCI Continental outfit also taking the team win. Earlier, Annie Simpson of Matrix Fitness-Prendas RT had won the opening round of the Johnson Health Tech GP Series.
The racing took place on an out-and back Y-shaped circuit on St Giles, with fans using the steps of the city’s War Memorial at one end and the Martyrs’ Memorial at the other to gain a vantage point to watch the racing.
Many wore the jersey of the Zappi’s Cycling Club, founded by Italian ex-pro and former Giro d’Italia rider Flavio Zappi, who runs a cycling café in the city and whose Zappi’s Pro Cycling team provided the guest riders for the race.
Formula 1 is a sport with which Oxfordshire has particularly close links, and former world champion Nigel Mansell was also present to watch Team UK Youth, of which he is president, put in a strong showing with four riders in the top ten.
Endura, in the orange jerseys of series leaders, had looked to get riders into every attack and managed to get three men into a 14-strong group that got away at the halfway point, with Dean Windsor and Jonny McEvoy joining Thwaites in the group.
Hairpin bends at either end of the course – the top end, by St Giles Church, also had two other tight bends – plus two long straights tested the riders as the were forced to slow down going into the corners then accelerate out of them, and there were splits in the peloton from early on.
The first break included Marcel Six of Metaltek Scott, who took all three Boardman Bikes sprints on the evening, although it is Bernard Sulzberger of Team Raleigh-GAC who takes over the lead in that competition from Rapha Condor Sharp’s Kristian House.
Six was also in the group that contested the finale, finishing second to Thwaites, while behind them Chris Opie of Team UK Youth had his arms aloft, protesting that he had been blocked.
“We had three riders [in the leading pack] which was enough,” said Thwaites afterwards. “Sometimes when you have more people expect you to ride harder so we were comfortable with that and kept the pressure on. We wanted to make sure the pack didn’t catch up.
“Dean and Jonny were riding so hard, I was maybe struggling a bit out of the dead turns, I don’t quite have the zip I had last year but it’s coming. I think I am a lot stronger than I’ve ever been but I am lacking that top two percent. With a sprint like this, quite a long sprint and into a head-wind, my strength came through.”
Endura Racing’s performance means they are now seven points clear at the top of the team rankings, but just two points separate the next four outfits – defending champions Rapha Condor Sharp, Team Raleigh-GAC, Team UK Youth and Node4-Giordana Racing.
“It was very tough tonight because of the hairpins,” said Sulzberger, the new wearer of the Boardman Bikes sprint jersey. “I was a bit worried because Marcel got the first sprint so I had to be up there for the next few. It was very tight, I think I only managed to win it by one point.
“It’s good to get the jersey for the team. We’ve got Thursday and Friday to come so I am going to try my best and keep the jersey.”
Earlier, the rainbow jersey of UCI World Junior Road Race Champion Lucy Garner had been prominent among the 50 riders competing in the first round of the Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix Series, won by Annie Simpson.
The Matrix Fitness-Prendas RT rider had attacked from the leading group on the back straight, while behind Garner was leading the chase to try and bridge across to the riders at the head of the race. While the front group came back together coming round the final hairpin, Simpson held on for victory.
“It was all or nothing for me tonight. I thought that I was just going to go for it, my legs held in there and it’s so nice to get my arms up, it was really good,” she said afterwards.
“I’ve just finished University on Wednesday so I’ve got a full summer of cycling ahead and that gave me a bit of a lift I think today.”
Simpson, who won the Oldham round of the Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix Series
loast year, said of the event: “It’s amazing. Everyone hears about you, they know your name and it gets the team out there. That’s brilliant as they give us so much support. To give TV time to them is the best thing I can do. Without my sponsors I wouldn’t be here at all.”
The Halfords Tour Series, Round Three, Oxford, Provisional Results Round Three Individual Result 1 Scott Thwaites, Endura Racing 2 Marcel Six, Metaltek Scott 3 Dean Windsor, Endura Racing 4 Chris Opie, Team UK Youth 5 Jonny McEvoy, Endura Racing 6 Mike Northey, Node4-Giordana Racing 7 James McCallum, Rapha Condor Sharp 8 James Stewart, Team UK Youth 9 Niklas Gustavsson, Team UK Youth 10 Bernard Sulzberger, Team Raleigh - GAC Round Three Team Result 1 Endura Racing 2 Team UK Youth 3 Rapha Condor Sharp 4 Node4 - Giordana Racing 5 Team Raleigh - GAC 6 Metaltek Scott 7 Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes 8 Team IG - Sigma Sport 9 Team Hope Factory Racing 10 Cycle Premier - Kover Overall Team Standings, post-Round Three 1 Endura Racing, 30pts 2 Rapha Condor Sharp, 23pts 3 Team UK Youth, 22pts 4 Team Raleigh - GAC, 22pts 5 Node4 - Giordana Racing 21pts 6 Team IG - Sigma Sport, 12pts 7 Cycle Premier - Kovert, 11pts 8 Metaltek Scott, 11pts 9 Team Hope Factory Racing, 7pts 10 Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes, 10pts Boardman Bikes Sprints winner Oxford: Marcel Six (Metaltek Scott) Boardman Bikes Sprints standings, post-Round Three 1 Bernard Sulzberger, Team Raleigh - GAC, 32pts 2 Marcel Six, Metaltek Scott, 25pts 3 Kristian House, Rapha Condor Sharp, 21pts Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix Series, Round One, Oxford, Provisional Results Round One Individual Result 1 Annie Simpson, Matrix Fitness - Prendas 2 Hanna Barnes, Team Ibis Cycles 3 Jo Tindley, VC St Raphael 4 Corrine Hall, Node4-Giordana Racing 5 Jo McRae, Look Mum No Hands! 6 Lucy Garner, Node4-Giordana Racing 7 Helen Wyman, Kona Factory Racing 8 Tamina Oliver, Abergavenny Road Club 9 Natalie Creswick, Mule Bar Girls 10 Sarah Reynolds, Matrix Fitness-Prendas 11 Lydia Boylan, Look Mum No Hands! 12 Adele Carter, Team Hope Factory Racing 13 Penny Rowson, Matrix Fitness-Prendas 14 Adel Tyson-Bloor, VC St Raphael 15 Amy Roberts, Scott Contessa Epic 16 Harriet Owen, Node4-Giordana Racing 17 Louise Mahe, Mule Bar Girls 18 Rachel Stokes, Zappi's Cycling Club 19 Alice Barnes, Twenty3c.co.uk-Orbea 20 Laura Massey, Vivelo Bikes / Inverse Cyclaim RT Round One Team Result 1 Matrix Fitness - Prendas, 39pts 2 Node4 - Giordana Racing, 37pts 3 Look Mum No Hands!, 26pts 4 VC St Raphael, 25pts 5 Mule Bar Girls, 16pts 6 Team Hope Factory Racing, 9pts 7 Scott Contessa Epic, 6pts 8 Zappi's Cycling Club, 3pts 9 Vivelo Bikes / Inverse Cyclaim RT, 1pt Overall Team Standings, post-Round One 1 Matrix Fitness - Prendas, 39pts 2 Node4 - Giordana Racing, 37pts 3 Look Mum No Hands!, 26pts 4 VC St Raphael, 25pts 5 Mule Bar Girls, 16pts 6 Team Hope Factory Racing, 9pts 7 Scott Contessa Epic, 6pts 8 Zappi's Cycling Club, 3pts 9 Vivelo Bikes / Inverse Cyclaim RT, 1pt Sprints winner Oxford: Annie Simpson (Matrix Fitness-Prendas) Sprints standings, post-Round One 1 Annie Simpson, Matrix Fitness - Prendas, 8pts 2 Lucy Garner, Node4 - Giordana Racing, 5pts 3 Jo Tindley, VC St Raphael, 5pts
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.