Olympic Champion, Ed Clancy (Motorpoint Marshals) was in awesome form for the inaugural Stafford GP besting his rivals in the sprint for the victory in front of a big crowd. Clancy was one of half a dozen riders that sprinted it out for the win on a course that some competitors were calling a true crit riders circuit.
The evening started with a parade lap of a big group of young Bikeability graduates before the best town centre circuit riders in the country lined up for the third round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series. Current Series leader, Ian Wilkinson (Endura Racing), was there as was Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp), recognised as one of the finest circuit race riders in Britain. There were so many possible winners, the race was assured to be an exciting one and so it proved. The course was one of the most twisting and turning in the series and very narrow in places and the riders at home on such a course were quickly ripping it up. After a few laps to get the peloton accustomed to the course, the riders from Rapha Condor Sharp started to apply the pressure and quickly the bunch was splitting in a number of places.
Some of the favourites were caught out on the wrong side of the splits and had to use a lot of energy to jump gaps that were starting to get wider and wider. Noticeable early on too were the number of punctures from riders in the peloton. At the front of the race however, three riders went clear, Jefte de Bruin (Kuota Road CC), Dean Windsor (Rapha Condor Sharp) and Ed Clancy (Motorpoint Marshals Pasta). With former Dutch speed skater De Bruin giving it full gas to keep the break going, the trio managed to open up a gap of 10 or 15 seconds but the bunch slowly but surely started to get a chase organised led by Endura. Then, a crash for Matt Blythe on the other side of the course saw the ambulance called for as the Nemesis rider had broken his collarbone.
With the ambulance on the course, the race was neutralised for a few laps giving both the leaders and chasers a chance to catch their breath before hostilities resumed. The gap to the leaders was quickly closed and as the gap shrunk to a handful of seconds, a few riders managed to get across to the leaders; Jonny McEvoy (Motorpoint Marshals Pasta), Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp), and Ian Wilkinson (Endura Racing). The make up of the break seemed to please some teams and quickly the chase dried up and the leaders started to gain time again. Then, Aussie Dean Windsor, who seemed to be really enjoying the course, went clear on his own. This gave the Motorpoint team and Wilkinson something to chase and the rider known as ‘the Duke’ was soon brought back after half a dozen laps of freedom. The break then circulated knowing the winner was coming to come from their group but there was no-one willing to make a move to get away. That was until Matt Cronshaw (Rapha Condor Sharp) came past the pits giving it full gas on the front whilst at the back, his teammate Dean Windsor came rushing into the pits with two flat tyres and quickly got a bike change and started his chase.
There was no lap out for Windsor as the ‘4 laps to go’ board had been shown and he was giving it everything to try and regain his place at the front. This he did by the end of the last lap but it was too late to challenge for the win or help his team leader Dean Downing. The duel between three of the finest crit riders in the country was already in full swing as Dean Downing, Ian Wilkinson and Ed Clancy started their battle for victory with half a lap to go. Clancy was in the box seat as he had Jonny McEvoy leading him out but as they entered the final few corners, it was Downing and Clancy side by side. The Rapha rider, Downing, was hoping to get in front and slow the Olympic champion down but Clancy was cornering like he was on rails and the battle for the win was well and truly on.
Jefte de Bruin leads the break which also included Dean Windsor and Ed Clancy. Out of the final bend, and Clancy, part of an extraordinary group that graduated from the GB Academy in 2005 (others being Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish), was a class apart in this sprint for the finish and as they sped past the pits, he was already well clear of his two nearest rivals and had plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration.
Post race reactions
Ed Clancy: “It was such a tight technical course that you had to be near the front tonight and it helps when you get gridded on the front row. I never hung around tonight. I was in and out of the early moves and I was away with Dean Windsor and Jefte de Bruin, and he towed both me and Dean around for a good 20 minutes! Then, when we got caught, I was quite confident for the finish although I know Dean is a fast finisher so I wasn’t 100 per cent confident. In the break, there were three Rapha riders as well but Macca (Jonny McEvoy) did a great job. I could see he was feeling a bit ropey having just come back from illness and it was quite hard to keep it together.
“I kept riding on the front and trying to almost pretend I was feeling good to put people off attacking. I was on everything really quickly and neutralising every attack. When it came down to the last lap, Jonny did a nice steady leadout to keep it together and I then felt confident of doing a half decent finish up here. Around the final corners, I was trying to be first into them but Dean was coming round the outside so I put the hammer down to keep him there. I did get first into the last corner and put my head down up the hill and I thought even if I blow, I should still be able to roll it over the top. I felt real good once I let loose and had time to celebrate. I had to take some risks tonight on the corners (‘take his brain out’ he said on the podium) when trying to attack as I didn’t want to scrub off to much speed. It was a real good course if you’re feeling good but a horrible one if you were feeling bad.”
Ian Wilkinson: “I can’t ask for anything more than that. When Ed unleashed his Olympic legs on the finish straight, he smoked us both. I got around Deano and he was the closest to me in the series so that is good that I have gained points on him. Since the National RR Champs, I have had a break and have had six days off the bike. I came into the race quite relaxed and then as the race went on, the lads kept the gap to the break down and then Jack (Bauer) did some laps at the front and brought them close and I jumped across. That was it, we were gone. I felt out numbered but I thought that could also play into my favour and then Windsor punctured with two to go and that was unlucky for him and Downing was then a bit isolated. That was a real good honest crit that. I prefer them to be a little more flowing than this but at the same time, I love to get stuck in on the corners. As long as we don’t go back to Durham I don’t care!”
Dean Downing: “This circuit had a lot of corners but the finishing straight was a long one and you could put the power down. It had everything, fast and technical. I’m disappointed with third but trying to come round an Olympic record holder is not as easy as some might think. We all went into the corners pretty fast side-by-side. I wanted to get into the corner first to slow him down because if gets to sit down, he puts the power down and he flies away. He can do 1.1 kilos standing start which says a lot about how much power he has. I am though happy that after a lot of troubles in the last three weeks that I can still compete for the win. I felt good tonight. We had good numbers up there as well and it was a shame he (Dean Windsor) had that double puncture because he was flying tonight. The Duke was attacking at the right times and so was I and when he punctured, I was on my own then.”
(Originally Published by British Cycling)
1. Ed Clancy, Motorpoint Marshals Pasta
2. Ian Wilkinson, Endura Racing
3. Dean Downing, Rapha Condor Sharp
4. Matt Cronshaw, Rapha Condor CC
5. Jefte de Bruin, Kuota Road CC
6. Jonny McEvoy, Motorpoint Marshals Pasta
7. Dean Windsor, Rapha Condor Sharp
8. Jeroen Janssen, Kuota Road CC
9. Peter Williams, Motorpoint Marshals Pasta
10. James Moss, Endura Racing