The inaugural Twinings Pro-Am Tour Premier Calendar event was won by Simon Yates (100% ME) on Sunday afternoon.
The 19 year old from Bury, Manchester, claimed his first Premier Calendar as he took the line from Richard Handley (Raleigh) with Matt Cronshaw (Raleigh) crossing seconds later ahead of the remainder of the lead break to complete the podium in Wilton's market square near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
The new Premier Calendar race, devised by ex-pro Harry Lodge and Andy Cook, took the riders around four 17-mile circuits before six shorter 5.5-mile finishing circuits all centered out of Wilton's market square, giving a total race distance of 101 miles.
The race stayed together as it approached Fovant for the first time at the furthest point out on the large circuit, passing close to the 'Fovant Badges', a series of regimental insignia set in to the chalk escarpment which dominants the landscape.
As the riders tackled the first prime up the slopes of the escarpment at Fovant Down and the second prime at Windwhistle, four riders came to the fore. Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport-Specialized), Nicolas Gustavesson (UK Youth), Luke Rowe (100% ME) and Jonathan Teirnan-Locke (Rapha Condor Sharp) had eked out a gap of 39 seconds by the close of the first lap.
By the second time up Fovant Down the quartet had established a gap of around two minutes to the chasing peleton. Their advantage hovered around this mark until the fourth lap where their time gap came down to within 35 seconds as the race entered the final six shorter circuits at the 68 mile point.
Raleigh were now on the front with Dan Fleeman and Richard Handley initially leading the chase and by the close of the first small circuit the race was all back together.
There were then a few moves attempted but it was eventually Mark Christian, Simon Yates (100% ME), Evan Oliphant (Endura), Dan Craven (Rapha Condor Sharp), Johnny McEvoy (Motorpoint), Matt Cronshaw and Richard Handley (Raleigh) who made the decisive race winning break within three laps to go.
As the bell sounded the seven riders had established nearly a minutes advantage over the rest of the race. With Raleigh and 100% ME having the advantage in numbers in the move, the winner was likely to come from them and so it was.
Yates attacked in the back of the circuit and was joined by Handley with the pair holding a few seconds advantage. Yates sprinted clear in the closing metres to take an impressive win from a valiant Handley. Cronshaw brought home the remainder of the seven man break 12 seconds later with another 100% ME rider, Luke Rowe bringing home the chase for eighth spot almost a minute later.
The 100% ME squad showed well throughout the race and their form bodes well as they go in to the Tour de l'Avenir from the September 4-11.
With Rowe in the early break, and Christian and Yates in the finale, 100% ME had everything covered as Yates told Cycling Weekly afterwards. "You always want the numbers up there in the race and if you have them there the race always goes your way really. We got two in the final break that went so we used that to our advantage.
"To be honest I didn't think I had it until within 50 metres of the line because they were always there and they could get back so easily so I just kept my head down and kept going. Richard did a great job as well, he was so strong I tell you. I was just happy to get a win."
From Raleigh's perspective, Cronshaw and Handley were philosophical about just missing out on a win but happy with getting up on the podium "We missed the first spit with the four riders away and then the last time over the climb we organised a chase." Handley told Cycling Weekly.
Cronshaw then came in, "Han's not doing himself justice there. We decided to put our riders on the front, Han helping with myself and JJ (Jeroen Janssen) and we did a fantastic job, Han was probably doing the biggest turns as always. We hit the circuits and got in that move. "Han was drilling it for lap after lap. Just getting in the smash mode. Dan Craven, Oliphant and McEvoy were sat on as obviously they had guys in the overall (Premier Calendar). Han was the best for us to get away."
Handley picks up the finish were he gets close to Yates for the dash for the line. "I knew that I was the worst of the two of us for sprinting and I had been trying to help Matt out for the line really. Along the back one of the 100% guys (Yates) attacked and I followed him. Dan Craven nearly brought it back and got within touching distance and then just sat up again and it went out again." Cronshaw adds, "Dan, Oliphant and McEvoy were just looking at each other and it worked out for us. We got two on the podium, though we didn't win."
Cronshaw was complimentary about the new race on the calendar. "It's the best 'Prem' by far, definitely I think. Usually they are really hard to race but with it being a head wind on the climb today it kept it quite close. So coming in to the final circuits it must have been quite a spectacle I think having a big group of riders coming through. It was raced more like a continental race than a Premier. You had the break and everyone working together to bring it back so it was really enjoyable."
There now remains one round left in this year's Premier Calendar Series - The Richmond Grand Prix in North Yorkshire this Sunday, September 4.
Twinings Pro-Am Tour 2011
1. Simon Yates (100% ME) 160km 3:52:02
2. Richard Handley (Raleigh) st
3. Matt Cronshaw (Raleigh)
4. Johnny McEvoy (Motorpoint)
5. Evan Oliphant (Endura)
6. Mark Christian (100% ME)
7.Dan Craven (Rapha Condor Sharp)
8.Luke Rowe (100% ME)
9. Marcin Bialoblocki (Motorpoint)
10. Tobyn Horton (Motorpoint)
Early break on Fovant prime
Zak Dempster on Fovant prime
Bunch passes badges carved into the chalk hillside at Fovant
Simon Yates and Mark Christian on the closing laps
Simon Yates takes the win in Wilton
Simon Yates tops the podium with Richard Handley and Matt Cronshaw in second and third
Twinings Pro-Am Tour 2011 photo gallery by Andy Jones
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