The Grand Prix Series is now comprised of 5 rounds, with the opening race of the Tour of the Reservoir sandwiched between the Spring Cup Series finale and the National Circuit Series opener. The overall win in 2017 eventually went down to the wire, with Madison Genesis’ McEvoy managing to edge out competition from Canyon Eisberg’s Gardias. As the Series runs from late June to late August, it helps contribute to qualification points for highly coveted Tour of Britain places.
Tour of the Reservoir: 23rd – 24th of June
As per usual, the Series commenced at the Tour of the Reservoir in the picturesque area of Northumberland. While the other events that comprise the Series are over one day, the Tour of the Reservoir is a two-day event – the plan to extend to three days was shut down after teams with lower budgets rightly stated they wouldn’t have been able to compete.
The Alexandra Tour of the Reservoir was the third round in the National Women’s Series, beginning just a few hours ahead of the men. After a day spent in the 3-woman breakaway, Storey (Storey Racing) powered to the win on the 105km opening stage – placing just ahead of fellow breakaway partner Bianchi Dama’s Cockcroft. Storey’s teammate Lowther tried to keep the leader’s pink jersey in the team during the 121km second stage, but Torelli-Brother’s Wright broke away from her towards the finale to claim the day, and the overall victory.
Despite crashing during the opening lap for the men, it was JLT-Condor’s Bibby who prevailed on the 127km first day, sprinting to the stage victory from the 15-rider initial breakaway, taking the yellow jersey. He was closely followed to the line by Madison Genesis’ Swift and Hayter of 100% Me. JLT-Condor asserted their dominance on the race during the 165km following and final stage, as Moses edged out One Pro Cycling’s McCormick for both the stage win, and the overall. Both riders attacked from the peloton to join the breakaway up ahead, which contained the unattached Richardson, Baylis of One Pro Cycling and Madison Genesis rider McEvoy. Catching them with less than a kilometre to go, Moses jumped ahead and powered to the line.
Bristol Grand Prix: 8th of July
The second round took place in Bristol, a new addition into the Grand Prix Series this year, with riders having to complete 18 laps of the city centre circuit. Barrier concerns and safety improvements pushed the start time back, meaning the teams resorted to holding umbrellas and eating ice creams to escape the heat. This gave Madison Genesis plenty of time to showcase their new jersey – while JLT’s Moses was leading in the Grand Prix Series standings after the Tour of the Reservoir, Swift had been crowned as the new British Road Race Champion just one week prior.
It was Canyon Eisberg’s turn to be in the driving seat, especially as the race awarded valuable points for Tour of Britain qualification. Canyon Eisberg initiated the first move; Paton and Tanfield distanced the peloton to form a 2-man break. 2 soon became 5, as teammate Pullar bridged the gap, alongside Swift and JLT’s Gibson. Tanfield detached from the leaders, leaving the quartet to challenge for the win. Paton laid down constant attacks, and he tried once more as the leading group approached the final bend to the line. Yet after 130km it would be Gibson’s day; he surged to the finish ahead of second-placed Pullar, winning on the streets of Bristol on the same day that Condor celebrated their 70th anniversary. His win also pushed JLT-Condor further up the Tour of Britain qualification table. They couldn’t be overtaken by all 4 of the closest teams for a qualification spot, and as such, earned themselves a spot on the start line at the OVO Tour of Britain with one race still to go.
Stockton Grand Prix: 15th of July
The final showdown. The last chance for Tour of Britain points. The race couldn’t be closer – JLT-Condor had already qualified on 42 points, leaving only 3 qualification spots up for grabs. Madison Genesis were in provisional second place with 37 points, as One Pro Cycling held 36 points, leaving it a tight competition between Canyon Eisberg and Wiggins, on 35 and 34 points respectively.
Stockton had also hosted the National Circuit Series just 2 days prior, in which Gibson further proved he was on stellar form, with Friday the 13th bringing no bad luck for him. Not even a week had gone by since his Bristol Grand Prix win, and the JLT-Condor rider took the win at the National Circuit Championships on Friday, beating fierce competition from defending champion Pidcock (Team Wiggins).
Coming into the Grand Prix on the Sunday, teams knew this was last-chance saloon. It proved a difficult time – an initial crash hadn’t caused too much disruption to the event, but a later 20-man incident caused the race to be neutralised for quite a lengthy time. The number of laps to complete was therefore cut, subsequently producing numerous attacks as riders attempted to break away for the win. None ever gained too much ground on the peloton, and a bunch sprint finish loomed ever closer. Gibson beat 100% Me’s Walls on the line, only adding to his impressive streak of victories so far.
After the race, I imagine a hectic countback ensued – it was a fast and packed finish, and you wouldn’t want to get the maths wrong on this. As Gibson only added to the justification of JLT Condor’s inclusion to the Tour of Britain, Madison Genesis were the next team to announce they had made it. Canyon Eisberg swiftly followed, as did One Pro Cycling. While I feel it’s unfortunate for Wiggins (alongside Vitus Pro Cycling and Holdsworth Pro Racing), this is the fairest way to establish which Continental teams get a spot in the Tour, and which have to miss out. But hey – in an ideal world, all the Continental teams would be there.
We’re past the halfway point in the Grand Prix Series, and the standings are as follows: the new British Road Race Champion Swift (Madison Genesis) leads the way on 69 points, with JLT’s Gibson sitting behind on 60, and Canyon Eisberg’s Pullar in third with 57 points. Yet we’ll have to wait until the 12th of August to see if a change in the standings arises, due to the concluding rounds of the National Circuit Series occurring first. (The Sheffield Grand Prix takes place on the 18th of July, followed by Barnsley Town Centre Races on the 20th of July, and finalised with the Colne Grand Prix on the 25th – which I’ll be at).
Leicester Castle Classic: 12th of August
I travelled to the Leicester Castle Classic last year, when it was the final round of the Grand Prix Series. This year it’s swapped positions with Ryedale, which is now the decisive event.
The riders will cover 80km in Leicester, as they take on the challenging 20-lap circuit, including tight corners and cobbles outside the castle. Let’s hope there’s less of the pedestrian-crossing-drama that ensued last year – which saw a spectator hitting a chasing rider, thus ending his race.
The 2017 edition of the Leicester Castle Classic proved to be a tense finale, with five points separating the Grand Prix Series leader Gardias (previously BIKE Channel Canyon, now Canyon Eisberg), and McEvoy of Madison Genesis – who was breathing down his neck in the overall standings. Despite Canyon Eisberg consistently showing themselves towards the business-end of the race in order to protect the jersey, it wasn’t to be for them. Madison Genesis’ Swift claimed victory ahead of JLT’s Jones and Latham from Team Wiggins. McEvoy’s sprint to 4th place gave him enough points needed to win the overall Series. If all goes well at Ryedale, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the new national champion contend for the victory again in 2018 – especially as he’s leading the Grand Prix Series standings at the moment.
Ryedale Grand Prix: 26th of August
I managed to make my way to the Ryedale Grand Prix in 2017, too. Due to it being the third round at the time, the air was certainly less tense surrounding the overall standings.
Ryedale will once again be the final event in the 7-round National Women’s Series, and as of 2018, the final round of the Grand Prix Series for the men. Situated on a circuit that starts and finishes just outside the Ampleforth Abbey, the women will complete 94.1km in the morning, covering 2 laps of the longer circuit before completing 3 laps of the shorter circuit. The men will take to the start line in the afternoon with 150.6km ahead of them, racing on 3 laps of the long circuit followed by 5 laps of the shorter circuit.
Last year, a trio of riders distanced the leading group in the final uphill climb to the finish line, and the day belonged to Massey of Drops Cycling, ahead of Sharp (NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli) and Banks (Storey Racing). Due to her high placed finish, Banks claimed overall victory in the National Women’s Series. A few hours later, Moses (JLT-Condor) and Lowsley-Williams (Canyon Eisberg) established a 2-man breakaway, whose lead would grow to 5 minutes. Yet the latter would retire with painful back cramps, as Moses was caught in the final few laps. A group of 7 broke away to challenge for the win, a feat established by Wood of Team Wiggins. He edged out Holmes (Madison Genesis), with Briggs (JLT Condor) rounding off the podium.
As Ryedale is now the concluding event in the 5-round Series, I’ll have to judge the results from Leicester to determine who has the most to lose here – so keep an eye out for an update, and the other eye out for me at the race! Will Madison Genesis do enough to retain the overall Grand Prix Series jersey, or will Gibson (JLT-Condor) and Pullar (Canyon Eisberg) think differently? It’s all to play for.
A Look to… the Tour of Britain
A mass calculation occurred yesterday, as teams worked out who had amassed enough points to qualify for the Tour of Britain. The final qualification table means JLT-Condor finished the strongest on 49 points, with Madison Genesis and One Pro Cycling tied on 42 points each. Canyon Eisberg earned the last qualification spot with 39 points, meaning Wiggins (37 points) miss out this year. Vitus Pro Cycling and Holdsworth Pro Racing achieved 18 and 10 points, respectively.
While it’s a bitter pill to swallow that Wiggins were so close, at least the qualification system is fair. There were 9 events that provided points – the Chorley Grand Prix, CiCLE Classic, Klondike GP, Tour de Yorkshire, Lincoln Grand Prix, the Tour Series, Tour of the Reservoir, Bristol Grand Prix and the Stockton Grand Prix. While Wiggins could possibly have closed the gap if they competed at the Tour de Yorkshire, we can’t take away the impressive achievement the qualifying teams have displayed throughout this period. With that, let’s take a look towards the Tour of Britain….
The OVO sponsored Tour of Britain is an 8-day event, running from the 2nd to the 9th of September. Pembrey Country Park hosts the Grand Depart on the first day, before a dramatic final stage on the streets of London to decide the overall winner of the Tour. In between are tough climbs, opportunities for fast sprints, and even an uphill TTT on the fifth stage – exciting!
Lars Boom is the defending champion of the Tour of Britain with LottoNL-Jumbo. The Dutchman was handed a one-month ban after punching Van Hecke at the Tour of Norway, and missed the Tour de France as a result. He’ll be free to race again from the beginning of August – but will he back on the start line to win once more?