Raleigh-GAC turned up the heat on Endura and Rapha-Condor-Sharp tonight with an excellent team performance to give them the team prize in Peterborough on Stage 6 of the Tour Series.
It was an historic first Tour Series team win for Raleigh, capped by Bernie Sulzberger extending his lead in the points competition and a second place finish on the night for Dan Holloway.
Dan’s second place plus Bernie Sulzberger and Graham Briggs’ sixth and seventh places put Raleigh top of the Team leaderboard on the night, moving the them up to joint third overall on 42 points, one place behind Rapha-Condor-Sharp in second.
The night started well for Raleigh as Tobyn Horton, Simon Holt and Graham Briggs put in some strong turns on the front, which caused a number of riders to be shelled out the back of the main field.
The strong early pace worked in Bernie’s favour as he was able to pick up a second and first place in the intermediate Sprint laps to extend his lead over Marcel Six to eight points.
Immediately after the final intermediate Sprint, several riders made a move off the front and quickly established a commanding lead. The breakaway contained Dan Holloway and Bernie Sulzberger for Raleigh, Scott Thwaites and Zak Demster for Endura, Matt Cronshaw for Node4 and Olympic hopeful Ed Clancy for Rapha.
The breakaway had 30 seconds on the main bunch with 10 laps to go and it became obvious that these riders would fight it out for the podium places.
As the bell rang for the final lap, Bernie made an early move to try and surprise the five other riders. He looked to have got a clear gap but was chased down by Ed Clancy with 500m to go. Dan Holloway spotted the move and battled out the sprint finish with Ed, claiming an honourable second place to the man many consider one of the fastest in the UK. Bernie brought home the breakaway in sixth place and seconds later the Raleigh-GAC colours were crossing the line again as the main field was lead home by Graham Briggs, who claimed seventh on the night.
Team manager Cherie Pridham was overjoyed at the team’s performance as it represents one of the team’s biggest wins of the season. “I asked the boys to take little steps, which they have, and I knew they would come good. I’m just so happy for the team. This has been hard work for everybody and finally our luck is starting to change. We rode as a team tonight and I couldn’t ask anymore of them. With the emotions we had before tonight and then to see them pull it all together is just fantastic. I’m so very proud of all of the lads.”
Graham Briggs felt at that he was returning to form after his recent illness. The British Crit Champion said “We have had a few rounds where it hasn’t gone our way so over the last few rounds, we’ve really wanted to turn it around and get a result. I got the bunch sprint which made the difference.”
“We had two of our fastest guys in the break so the pressure was on me to do all I could in the bunch sprint so I just did my best and hoped they played their part. I love this circuit and the crowd was great tonight.”
“I knew if I could get into the last corner first or second wheel it would be ideal. Holty (Simon Holt) did a great lead out and then I came off Wilko (Ian Wilkinson) and pipped him on the line. It was nice to have a flowing circuit with no dead turns!”
Dan Holloway explains why he thinks the team are now in a good place: “That’s what happens when you get a new team, you need time to click.
“We came together really well in Mexico [with several wins at the UCI 2.1 stage race] because we have a lot of good road racers and stage racers so that came together quickly, but putting a good crit team together takes more time. I definitely had a reality check in the UK crits with the tight circuits and the speed, it took me a few races to grasp everything.
“I’ve learnt to calm myself down and handle myself a little better going into these types of circuits and not just go into the red. The team is more controlled now. We came from Mexico a bit too confident and excited but we are controlling the storm now. We know when to spend our bullets, when to ride and when to save our energy.
“We had a plan for the race to really look after Bernie and for the most part I think we did. Tobyn and Simon to cover his wheels and make sure we got the sprint points. In these kind of races the last 20 minutes is when guys get tired and the race splits apart and that’s when the breaks go.
“Myself and Graham were there covering the moves. I was in the move with Matt Cronshaw and Scott Thwaites and Bernie covered Rapha and sat on the wheel. We knew then that would be the move and you can always trust Graham to take the bunch sprint here so we just knew we had to play our part in the front group and he would play his part.”
Tune in on ITV4 tonight at 8pm to catch all the action.
Remember, you can catch Team Raleigh-GAC in action in the Tour Series on ITV4 throughout May and June.