After 2 years of sunshine the rains finally fell on Stafford this year. But that meant perfect conditions for Graham Briggs (Team Raleigh-GAC) to take his second win of the British Cycling Elite Race Series. According to wife his Sam, the diminutive Yorkshire man thrives on the rain and may have been the only rider in the peloton to relish the dark clouds which rolled over the course just before the start.
With Endura Racing and defending champion Dean Windsor surprisingly absent from the race, the opportunities were there for other teams and riders to step up to the mark. And so it was from the gun. Briggs attacked from the start of the racing, and in the opening laps had established a breakaway with Rico Rogers (Node4-Giordana) which would eventually last the race distance. Both riders looked in their element as the rain came and went and the roads got wetter. The numerous crashes throughout the night showed both how treacherous the roads were becoming and how hard the remaining bunch were riding in pursuit of the leading pair.
The chasing work was led by last year’s dominators Rapha Condor Sharp as James McCallum, Dean Downing and Ben Grenda orchestrated the chase with team manager John Herety noticeably vocal in the pits. Team Raleigh and Node 4 kept a check on their progress, protecting their team mates up the road.
By this point the race had splintered: Briggs and Rogers had the space to ride and take the tight corners on the course, the bunch fractured under the pressure of the chase and the wet conditions. Some riders were noticeably put off by the conditions and by the half way point the crowd in the pits was beginning to grow as the retirements increased.
Despite the best efforts of the Rapha Condor Sharp team the gap to the leading pair never fell below 10 seconds. It wasn’t going to be Dean Downing’s night, illness and the efforts of his former teammate combining to rob him of the chance to finally win in Stafford.
With 5 laps to go called, the bunch could only briefly eat into the leaders advantage and despite the best efforts of commentator Hugh Porter to will a catch on the line the pair stayed in front. Briggs took the sprint and given the conditions there was no risking a victory celebration. Behind them Matt Cronshaw(Node 4) crown another strong performance taking the bunch gallop just ahead of Dan Holloway and Tobyn Horton (Team Raleigh-GAC) and Marcel Six (Metaltek-Scott).
With two straight wins, Briggs takes an emphatic lead into the next round of the British Elite Circuit Race Series in Stockton on Friday.
Winner Graham Briggs (Team Raleigh-GAC)
“I knew tonight was going to be tough so I took the race on from the front. It wasn’t the plan to go from the gun but I got a good start so I made an advantage of that while the others were caught napping a little bit, I pretty much got a gap straight away so I just decided to go for it.
“I thought it was Matt(Cronshaw) who came across to me at first but when I realised it was Rico (Rogers) I did get a little bit worried because I know how good he is in a sprint but we worked together well throughout the race. I knew I had to get the final corner first so I’d have the best chance of winning. We kept the gap pretty well but with six or seven to go I decided to put a couple of hard laps in just to get a bigger gap and keep pushing to the finish. We were able to take the corners ok with just the two of us and that’s probably where we did make a lot of time up.”
2nd Place Rico Rogers (Node4-Giordana)
“I didn’t intend to go off the front to be honest, I went to get Graham back into the bunch. I really didn’t want to be out there all night long but it worked out pretty well for us. We worked well together, we are pretty similar riders.
“It was slippery tonight so I really had to be on my toes, the corner on the bottom of the finishing straight was bad but we just took our time and made sure we got round them ok. Towards the end the gap started to come down but we had a couple of laps where we really dug hard to get the time back to 16 seconds and then we knew we could ease back a little. I hate second place but he rode well tonight so good on him with the win.”
A full set of results is now available.
(Quotes from British Cycling’s race report)