Adam Blythe won the RideLondon-Surrey Classic with an audacious long sprint on The Mall that took his WorldTour rivals by surprise.
Blythe rounded the final corner in fifth place in a group of five and then timed his sprint to perfection to win by a bike length from Sky’s Ben Swift. When Blythe made his move he hit his rivals so fast they were left to chase for second place, rather than contest the win with him.
It was a return to form for the young British rider who rode at WorldTour level for several years before returning to the UK, leaving BMC by mutual consent before his contract had run out.
A result like this could be Blythe’s ticket back to a European team, or even WorldTour, especially as he beat his old team leader, and Monaco training partner, Philippe Gilbert in the sprint.
As per last year, a number of teams fought to place riders in the day’s main breakaway. A six-man group formed through Richmond Park, with only one British team – Node4-Velosure – represented.
Their rider Steve Lampier had Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka), Jonathan Hivert (Belkin), Steven Lammertink (Giant-Shimano), Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme Marseille) and Markus Eibegger (Synergy Baku) for company when it formed with 166 kilometres remaining.
They quickly amassed a lead of three minutes, but that quickly was reduced to 90 seconds by the time the race reached the day’s first climb at Staple Lane.
Sky set the pace through the Surrey hills, which brought the leaders to within 30 seconds of the peloton 80 kilometres from the finish and split the main group.
Niyonshuti dropped out of the breakaway, while the other five were caught passing through Dorking with 75 kilometres remaining.
The decisive split occurred with 65km to go, as 12 riders broke clear. Ben Swift (Sky), Gert Steegmans, Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Stef Clement (Belkin), Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), Kristijan Koren (Cannondale), Adam Blythe (NFTO), Sam Bennett, Zak Dempster, Scott Thwaites (NetApp-Endura), Philippe Gilbert and Loic Vliegen (BMC) escaped, and soon held a minute’s advantage.
Dempster was dropped after a Gilbert acceleration shortly after Box Hill, while Cannondale’s attempts to pull the leaders back to set up sprinter Elia Viviani for the victory proved unsuccessful.
Gilbert split the group approaching Raynes Park, dragging Swift, Blythe, Alaphilippe and Koren with him. It was soon clear that this group would contest the finish together. Gilbert attacked over Wimbledon hill, and gained a good gap as only Alaphilippe could get across to him. But the other three clawed them back and suddenly Ben Swift was looking favourite for the win.
But he was taken by surprise by Blythe’s speed on The Mall, as Blythe rode a perfectly executed finalé, biding his time before committing 100 per cent to his final flourish.
Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2014
1. Adam Blythe (GBr) NFTO 193.1km in 4:39:53
2. Ben Swift (GBr) Sky at same time
3. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Omega Pharma – Quick Step at same time
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC at same time
5. Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale +0:03
6. Sam Bennett (Ire) NetApp-Endura +0:12
7. Loic Vliegen (Bel) BMC +0:13
8. Stef Clement (Ned) Belkin +0:13
9. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale +0:31
10. Russell Downing (GBr) NFTO +0:31