This year’s Richmond Grand Prix is wide open as the North Yorkshire market town hosts the final Premier Calendar of the season with many of the top contenders racing elsewhere this weekend.

The season-long series has already been wrapped up by 2008 winner Russell Downing who will not be riding in Yorkshire, and the clash with the Tour of Ireland means no Halfords and skeleton crews from both CandiTV and Rapha. The top six finishers in the previous Premier Calendar round, the Tour of Pendle, are all away. So the likes of veteran comeback man John Tanner (Sportscover) and Sport Beans big Pole Marcin Bialoblocki will be relishing getting stuck in to the 82-mile race on  Sunday.

But looking forward to Pendle more than most is North East division champion Matt Kipling. The Kinesis rider from Bishop Auckland finished seventh at Pendle and is the local lad in this Sunday’s race.

“It’s about 20 miles from me. It’s a really tough circuit,” said Kipling. “Butter Tubs Pass on the first big loop is tough, but the finishing circuit is even worse. It has really bad side winds so there is no recovery at all. I would imagine there will be a natural split on Butter Tubs and then the race will be decided on the finishing circuit.”

Kipling’s young Kinesis team-mates have stepped up a gear in recent races. The likes of James Moss and Rab Wardell have given the squad extra impetus for the remainder of the season and there has been a bigger contribution from the whole team.
    
“We have done well the last few weeks,” explained Kipling. “We have had guys getting in the breaks and taking the pressure off the guys in the peloton, so when the race has come back together, we have managed to get  riders finishing in the top twenty or top ten. That is pretty much all we can ask for against the big teams at the moment.”

The marked improvement from the squad came from sitting down and analysing where they were getting it wrong. “There could be ten attempts at a breakaway before one of them sticks, but unless one of our guys is ready to go with every attempt, we found we were missing the moves,” said Kipling.
 
“You have only got so many efforts in you: it is a matter of when to use them. Early on this year, we were finding that if we missed the breaks, we were putting ourselves under pressure to drive the race. That is the biggest thing we have changed this  year.

“Hopefully, that will continue this weekend.”

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Steve Lampier: One of the Kinesis squad getting in the moves

PREMIER CALENDAR STANDINGS
1. Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) 773pts
2. Ian Wilkinson (Halfords Bikehut) 530
3. Marcin Bialoblocki (Sport Beans-Wilier) 345
4. Rob Partridge (Halfords Bikehut) 333
5. Mark McNally (Halfords Bikehut) 265
    Chris Newton (Rapha Condor) 265
7. Andy Tennant (Halfords Bikehut) 239
8. Malcolm Elliott (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) 196
9. Peter Williams (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) 191
10. Kristian House (Rapha Condor) 189

RICHMOND GRAND PRIX
Sunday, August 23
Distance 135km/84miles
Start: 11.30 at Richmond Market Place

RACE HISTORY
The race was founded in 1946 as part of the Richmond Cyclists’ Meet. The event became a round of the Premier Calendar in 2007 and was won by Russell Downing, then riding for HealthNet-Maxxis. Downing triumphed again in 2008, this time in the colours of CandiTV-Pinarello. The race winner will be presented with the Arthur Metcalfe trophy, honouring one of Britain’s finest riders. Metcalfe won the Milk Race in 1964, was national road race champion and winner of the BBAR in 1966 and finished 69th in the 1967 Tour de France. He died aged 64 in 2002.

LAST YEAR
1. Russell Downing (CandiTV-Pinarello) 81 miles in 3-16-38
2. Dean Downing (Rapha Condor)
3. Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven)

MY RACE…
By organiser Geoff Lloyd

“The race is without doubt the hardest course of the [Premier Calendar] series and could be very interesting and unpredictable.

“Although I estimate we have lost about 20 of the top riders we still have an almost full field, several of whom were tempted to enter because of the various absences.

“In terms of possibles for victory, Sportscover may be tempted to try one of their recent early long breaks. Matt Kipling (Kinesis) seems to be gaining some late season form with his 7th place at the Pendle and personally, with the top six in the Pendle all on Tour of Ireland duty, I hope he can repeat it and win, especially being a local rider.
 
HOW I WON…
by 2008 champion Russell Downing
“It split early on and I got away with Dean and Simon Richardson, but Dean wasn’t working – just sitting on. I was driving it a bit, but nothing crazy because I didn’t want Dean having a free ride to the finish.
“He attacked on the straight and went over the top, but thankfully I had enough left to haul him in.”

CW’S SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE
Last year’s worthy winners CandiTV have finally clawed their way to the top of the table going into the final counting events of the season, but a good score or two from Halfords would put them right back in it.
Both teams have riders away at the Tour of Ireland so will be thinly spread. The last two remaining circuit series rounds, in Warwick and Preston, will prove to be the deciders.

Latest scores
CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta 259
Halfords Bikehut 250
Rapha Condor 185
Madison.co.uk 53
Sport Beans-Wilier 30
Sportscover 22
Le Col-Colnago 18
Sigma Sport 18
100%ME 10
Pendragon-Kalas 9
Corley Cycles 6
Kinesis UK 6