The best of British domestic racing head to Lancashire for the Tour of Pendle this Sunday (August 9), as the Premier Calendar series enters its final throws.
An attritional course awaits the peloton, as they head from Nelson onto an undulating circuit in the Pendle hills. The long climb of Blacko is the major difficulty, before the riders head back into town for a devillish finishing circuit.
Perhaps no rider wants to win the race more than Ian Wilkinson. Rightly so, as perhaps no rider is more local than the Halfords Bikehut powerhouse, who was born and bred in Barnoldswick, a stone’s throw from the route, and the race finish as recently as 2006.
After taking time out from his building company, Wilkinson has enjoyed a fine first year as a full-time road pro, taking a prestigious win the Rutland Cicle Classic, the Peterborough round of the Tour Series and wearing the leader’s jersey in the Irish Ras. His current second-place position in the Premier Calendar standings also speaks volume for the Lancashire man’s consistency.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly, the 30 year-old emphasised the circuit’s hidden difficulties: “It’s probably the hardest circuit but looks the easiest – there’s a lot of flat and big, open roads, but it wears you down. Hopefully it’ll be a good test and I can get a good result. It should set me up for the Tour of Ireland and Tour of Britain.”
Wilkinson also underlined that defending champion Rob Hayles and youngster Mark McNally could have cards to play for Halfords Bikehut. “Everyone’s going well; it could be any one of us,” he promised.
Russell Downing’s second Premier Calendar title may be mathematically assured, but the talented Yorkshireman will still be keen to hit home his dominance and continue CandiTV’s strong recent form with a win here.
Older brother Dean can never be discounted, alongside on-form Rapha team-mates Matt Cronshaw and national champion Kristian House.
In recent months, Sportscover riders Kevin Dawson and five-time Premier Calendar winner John Tanner have enjoyed a resurgence in form, recalling their 1990s heydays. With good condition coupled with their experienced racing heads, the wily veterans could be in the mix again in this penultimate round of the Premier Calendar series.
Marcin Bialoblocki (Sports Beans-Wilier), Yanto Barker (Lecol-Colnago), East Yorkshire Classic winner Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport), continental-based Alex Coutts (Heraklion) and Evan Oliphant (Endura Racing) are among the other men hoping to challenge the “Big Three” of Halfords, Rapha and CandiTV.
Premier Calendar standings
1. Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) 673 points
2. Ian Wilkinson (Team Halfords-Bikehut) 464
3. Marcin Bialoblocki (Sports Beans-Wilier) 306
4. Rob Partridge (Team Halfords-Bikehut) 258
5. Andy Tennant (Team Halfords-Bikehut) 239
6. Mark McNally (Team Halfords-Bikehut) 214
7. Peter Williams (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) 191
8. Kristian House (Rapha Condor) 189
9. Simon Gaywood (Team Corley Cycles) 182
10. Chris Newton (Rapha Condor) 180
TOUR OF PENDLE
Sunday, August 9
140km, 87 miles
Start: Nelson town centre, 9.30am
Finish: Nelson Town Hall, c. 1.07pm
2008 Rob Hayles
2007 Gordon McCauley
2006 Kristian House
2005 Duncan Urquhart
By organiser Ivor Armstrong
“The King of the Mountains prime up Blacko is quite tough, and things tend to split up over there.
“Then, the run on the A59 may seem quite rolling, but it’s extremely hard on there, with some long drags. Staying within the five-minute cut off could be an issue.
“On the finishing circuit around Nelson, there’s the half-mile climb of Cuckstool Lane, after the race goes over the M65 motorway. It’s tough and very steep. That usually manages to finish them off: only the brave come over the top looking good.
“With one kilometre to go, it drops down very steeply and goes straight up again.”
Armstrong tipped former winner and national champion Kristian House, the Downing brothers, Hayles and Matt Cronshaw as contenders but reserved his most effusive praise for Ian Wilkinson: “He’s always good here; he’s won the King of the Mountains twice.”
1. Rob Hayles (Halfords Bikehut)
2. Russell Downing (Pinarello RT)
3. Ben Greenwood (Rapha-Condor)
HOW I WON…
By 2008 winner Rob Hayles
“The final move was on a descent. I went across to the break, it was quite steady. Then I jumped away with a lap and a bit to go, before the finishing circuit.”
“When I heard that Russell was coming up I decided I needed to do something, but I needed a run at it otherwise someone might have got on my wheel. So, I dropped back a bit and caught a lot of them out.”
CW’S SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE
Russell Downing’s Premier Calendar crown may be assured for another year, but the battle for the competition that really matters – the CW Super Team Challenge – is still raging, undecided.
After a string of high finishes in the last month, CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta have leapfrogged Halfords Bikehut at the top of the leaderboard. With just five points between the two, it’s all to play for in the last two rounds of the Premier Calendar to decide the 2009 victor.
CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta 241
Halfords Bikehut 236
Sports Beans-Wilier 30
Le Col-Colnago 18
Sigma Sport 18
100% ME 10
Corley Cycles 6
Kinesis UK 6