Adam Kenway sealed a podium finish at the Danum Trophy for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK with a characteristically aggressive performance.
The former British hill climb champion, known for his attacking style, lost out in a sprint with veteran Russell Downing (Giordana Racing), behind winner Alex Luhrs (Team Ribble) after a day of move and counter-move.
Kenway had shouldered the majority of the workload in the escape group, finding himself spent when Luhrs launched his decisive assault and with few reserves left to fight off the vastly experienced Downing.
“It was a hard race; a really hard race. I wanted to make it hard, so I was aggressive from the start. It kept breaking up and coming back together. I must have been in six or seven really good breaks where I thought, ‘This is it,’ and then it came back,” Kenway told VeloUK.
“Finally, with three or four laps to go, the race kind of split a bit and there were only about twenty of us left. Finally, there was three of us and I thought: ‘Perfect’ but I was tired. I thought that I’d keep it hard, keep riding on the front; I’d done a lot of riding on the front.
“Going into the last lap, I was on the front, riding hard with Swift Carbon. I pulled off the front and one of the Swift riders went really hard. I went around him. His team-mate had a go and Russ [Downing] went across with Alex Luhrs and that was it. I wasn’t really the man who should have been riding across, but never mind! I had no legs at that point!”
Despite his disappointment with the result (“I’d like to win, to be fair, but it’s a podium”), Kenway declared himself satisfied with his performance, and with the team’s. The men in red became an increasingly effective force as the race wore on, hinting at their readiness for the more demanding fixtures to come.
“My numbers are really good. I was happy with all the moves I went with. It’s another third place, but we’ll be aiming for two spots higher next week [at the East Cleveland Klondike GP]. I think the harder the race and the longer it is [the stronger we get]. The last part of that race, especially the last lap, we were all over it. That just proves what we’ve got in the kitty.”
Scott Thwaites was the next man home for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK. Fourth place provided further evidence of his adjustment to the from-the-gun style of domestic racing, after six years competing in European cycling’s elite races.
The Yorkshireman said the team’s performance was an improvement on their previous showing at the Coalville Wheelers Road Race, even if he required more races to build on his emerging form.
“We’re slowly getting there. We’ll see when the form starts to come. Personally, I’m a long way off where I need to be, but hopefully over the next few races, I’ll start to feel better and better. Once I get some hard, proper races in the legs, I’ll hopefully be firing,” Thwaites told VeloUK.
“It’s just learning a new style of racing. I’m used to races rolling out, a breakaway going and having a bit of time to find my legs. I’ve done six years of that, so you do adapt to it, a little bit. It does take time to go back to racing flat out from the gun. It’s definitely a shock to the system.”
Thwaites began his road racing career with Cherie Pridham, team owner and manager of Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK in a development squad called Merlin Racing.
His rapid rise saw him win many of the biggest races on the domestic calendar with Endura Racing, including the Lincoln GP, before graduating to Pro Continental level when the team became NetApp-Endura and later Bora-Argon18. In 2017, he joined the UCI WorldTour squad, Team Dimension Data.
Speaking after the Danum Trophy, Thwaites reflected on the more controlled affairs of the top tier, compared to the stop-start nature of racing in the UK, and concluded that the domestic scene offered its own challenges.
“The main thing with the WorldTour is that there are a lot of periods that aren’t that hard, but when it goes it really goes, and stays going! Whereas here, someone will put in a big dig, it will split, no one will ride, and it will all come back together. It’s more stop-start. It’s just a really different style. This style of racing is hard, because there are so many high intensity efforts.”
Thwaites is expected to feature in the line-up for next week’s East Cleveland Klondike GP, the opening round of the HSBC National Road Series. A rider of unquestioned pedigree, who has ridden at the sharp end in Monument Classics, Pridham’s UCI WorldTour recruit will seek to build on his returning form.
Danum Trophy 2019 - results
1) Alex Luhrs (Ribble Pro Cycling)
2) Russell Downing (Giordana Racing)
3) Adam Kenway (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
4) Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
5) George Wood (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling)
6) Ali Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
7) Damian Clayton (Andy Moore Autocentres Racing)
8) Samuel Watson (Fensham Howes - MAS Design)
9) David Holland (Velo Schils - Interbike RT)
10) Oliver Maxwell (St Piran)