With the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix looming, the big news at Friday's E3 Harelbeke was Fabian Cancellara's return to top form as he rode away from his rivals to win the race for the third time in four years. But British fans had cause to cheer as one of the country's latest stars - 20-year-old Simon Yates, who until he won the points race at the UCI World Championships in Minsk last month wasn't even among the 75 riders with a biography on the British Cycling website (he does now) - won the Under-23 Criterium support race. What's more, 100% ME team mate Joe Kelly, from the Isle of Man, was second. Owen Rogers was on the spot to get some pictures and grab some words with the winner. Here's his report.
Fresh from gaining the rainbow jersey in the World Track Championship Points Race, Simon Yates (100% ME) took an impressive win in the Under 23 E3 Harelbeke Criterium on Friday, ably supported by team mate Joe Kelly, the eight cyclist from the Isle of Man to have been through the GB Olympic Academy programme, who managed second on a cold, windy day in Belgium.
While the professionals were tackling the cobbles and ‘hellingen’ out of town, the 20-lap race started off at a fierce pace, though Yates and Kelly managed to go clear on the second lap with one of the local riders, Dries Vannevel.
100% ME were well represented with a strong team who had planned to go with any moves, though as it was Yates, Kelly and their Belgian companion went clear on the second of the 20 lap race.
Yates eventually escaped solo on the final lap, finishing well over a minute ahead of the peloton and about 10 seconds in front of his team mate.
Besides that one-two from Yates and Kelly, 100% ME - the team is backed by UK Anti-Doping - got all three of its other riders into the top eight in the 45-strong field. Alistair Slater was fifth, while Owain Doull and Chris Latham were seventh and eighth, respectively.
“I’m ecstatic to take the win, I’m obviously carrying some form from the track,” Yates told road.cc after the race, explaining, “We planned to have the numbers up there and go with the moves and it just stuck straight away really.”
The trio quickly opened a 30 second gap and no one behind seemed willing to commit to bring it back. All the while, the remaining 100% ME riders in the peloton controlled the pace, allowing the three breakaway riders to stay clear.
The team are staying in Belgium for the next few weeks in preparation for the Nations Cup races.
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.