In the end, the British teams were left to reflect that their hesitation allowed the Irish Pezula team?s early gamble to pay off.
Although Ciaran Power didn?t say as much, he knew the chase behind would be fractious. Though there were plenty of bodies in the second group, there was never likely to be the all-out co-operation needed to bring them back.
Pezula had four men in the race-defining break of ten, and although the lead never got over three minutes, it never ducked under one either.
Rapha-Condor-Recycling?s edge was blunted by the fact they?re also fielding a team in the Tour of Brittany in France and they lost Rhys Lloyd early on here.
In the closing stages Pinarello were left with their two captains, Malcolm Elliott and Russell Downing, and the unavoidable reality that if one of them was going to win, the other would have to lay all his cards on the table in the bid help bring back the escapees.
SIS-Trek had just Ian Wilkinson, Rob Hayles was on his own, the Danish Glud & Marstrand squad and the Slovakian Dukla Merida outfit were also down to their last matches, seemingly reluctant to burn them so someone else could get warm from the flame. The Belgian Profel-Prorace team had two riders left in the front group and at one stage Plowman Craven had four, before Evan Oliphant punctured.
But as the kilometres ticked by, it was obvious they?d left it too late. The Irish had pulled off a coup.
Colin Clews, the race organiser, said last week he had a feeling the event would see its first foreign winner. And he?d warned against allowing a dangerous move to go clear on the first two laps on the main roads around Rutland Water, before they head into the lanes.
That?s what happened, though. The narrow, twisting, rutted roads gave the chasers no advantage over the lead group, despite their greater numbers. It was interesting to hear Malcolm Elliott say the gap came in when what was left of the peloton hit the rough sectors, but that they collectively eased off and started playing around on the main roads where the real damaged could have been done. A concerted chase on the 18-kilometre stretch between sector two and the final sector might have seen the weary leaders captured.
The controversy of the day was Dean Downing?s disqualification. It wasn?t for taking a bottle too early or too late in the race, it was for illegal pacing as he sought to get up to the peloton after his second puncture.
Clews explained that the commissaires even had a doubt over whether Downing had completed the full course, an accusation that serves little purpose without any proof, and one Downing denies outright.
Disqualification was undoubtedly the right result. Downing had crossed the line that marks what is the accepted practice of returning to the bunch after a mechanical problem and persistent pacing that is not be allowed.
It?s clear that luck plays a huge role in the race. Puncture at the wrong time and you?re immediately out of contention. It?s easy to talk of chasing back in the slipstream of the cars but the reality is very different back there among the dust and exhaust fumes.
Cars came to a halt on every hill or tight bend and riders had to squeeze past in the gutter or on the verge, hips passing precariously close to wing mirrors every time.
In reality, once you?ve lost contact with the bunch, you?re out of the race. Behind the bunch it is merely a battle for survival and the chance to say ?I finished?.
And that is what has made the race an epic in such a short space of time. It?s truer here than in any other British race ? the winner deserves the plaudits and the bottle of bubbly. Second and third get to stand on the podium, but after that ? for the bigger guns at least ? you may as well be 80th through trying to win and failing or suffering bad luck, than a steady eighth who sat and waited.
It may not be to everyone?s cup of tea. It may be a lottery where luck plays a huge part, but it?s a great test of strength, character, daring and tactical know-how. The East Midlands Cicle Classic is a gem and Ciaran Power was a worthy winner.
|WHAT WAS GREAT|
The route Imaginative, challenging and enough twists, turns and an all-pervading sense of deja-vu to put even the most experienced riders in a spin. Dust, potholes and some horrible little hills, it?s a demanding test. It?s unfair to keep comparing the race to the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix because really it has a style and feel all of its own. However, the spirit is unmistakable ? as if a little piece of Belgium has been transported to the East Midlands
The crowds Phenomenal, particularly at the feed zone at Burrough-on-Hill, in the village of Owston and on Somerberg. You had to keep reminding yourself this was Britain.
The organisation In four years this race has grown in stature and is now one of the jewels in the British crown. The signage was excellent and the placards counting down the rough sectors from 11 to one was a neat touch.
The weather It was great for the crowds but what happened to the rain? It?s been a motif of the spring. Rain is forecast, the sadistic bike fan rubs his hands in glee, then the sun shines.
|AND WHAT WAS NOT|
The following convoy Too many cars, some driven by people with too little experience of driving in a hectic race environment. It was far too chaotic and the traffic jam that stretched best part of a kilometre behind the bunch was good for nothing. The cars couldn?t offer service, all they could do was hinder those riders chasing back. Perhaps the organisers should consider diverting following cars away from the rough sectors and investing in more neutral service motorbikes.
The gap in class It?s fantastic to aspire to matching the big events, but does this race really need such a big field? It leads to a big gap between the strongest and the weakest.
|BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS|
Deano has been sent to bed with no tea for playing too close to the motorcars. Russell is downstairs watching telly and feeling pleased with himself.
However, fifth place does not constitute a knock-out blow in the season-long Battle of the Brothers so we?ll give Russell half a point this time, just to keep it interesting. You really have to be on the podium to warrant a full point.
This weekend it?s the Chas Messenger stage race and we?re reliably informed Dean will be allowed out to play.
Russell 2.5 Dean 1
|SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE|
The Irish and Dutch clipped off up the road and stole away with the big Cycling Weekly Super Team Challenge points, despite not being eligible for the competition on account of not saluting Her Majesty or enjoying a pint of warm ale on a summer?s evening, so Pinarello were the big winners in the East Midlands.
The Super Team Challenge is for British teams only, you see, so Malcolm Elliott was the only scorer, pinching a vital three points with third place to knock Rapha-Condor-Recycling off the top of the table for the first time this season.
1. Pinarello 29pts
2. Rapha-Condor-Recyling 27pts
3. Plowman Craven 10pts
Cycling Weekly staffer Dan Duguid was credited with 12th place in the official results released on race day.
But the Sigma Sport-Specialized rider knew there had been a mistake and contacted race director Colin Clews to correct the result.
Clews said: ?There had been some difficulty identifying the 12th rider from his race number. It was either 39, 125 or 139. We were unable to identify the rider from his jersey and we didn?t have much to go on.?
In the end, the organisers were able to award 12th place to the correct man ? Matthew Higgins of Team Corley Cycles. Duguid was given his correct position of 70th, which was outside the time limit.
How the race unfolded and what the key players said…
Results, reports and analysis