Scott Thwaites battled bravely in a reduced bunch sprint to claim second place at the Circuit of the Mendips, a second new engagement in as many races for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK as the HSBC National Road Series goes from strength-to-strength.
Rory Townsend (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) denied Cherie Pridham's UCI WorldTour signing by less than a bike length, amid torrential rain that lashed down upon the riders in the closing stages of the race.
The finishing order mirrored that of April’s East Cleveland Klondike GP, where Thwaites lost out to Townsend by the narrowest of margins. The Yorkshireman later Tweeted his satisfaction with his performance in the Mendips, following his return to racing after a short illness.
An undulating 150km course lent itself to several early attacks, including attempts to ride clear from breakaway specialist Adam Kenway, but with the peloton anxious to keep the race together, nothing stuck for long.
Mikey Mottram’s solo break represented the main assault of the day. Mottram, whose huge engine made him virtual race leader during a breakaway at the Tour de Yorkshire, soon built a lead of one minute, before he was joined by Matt Bostock (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes). The pair were eventually reeled in by the peloton with under 30km to go.
Following another unsuccessful attack, a group of 20 riders took the lead with just 2km remaining, as the race returned to the finish in Bristol. Each of the men in red had given everything in the team's cause, despite their various finishing positions.
Road captain Ali Slater produced another strong performance to finish ninth, his second top ten finish in as many races, finishing just behind the bunch sprint. By contrast, Freddie Scheske crossed the line more than nine minutes after the winner, but showed courage even to finish a race in which he was dogged by mechanical issues.
Cherie Pridham, the owner and manager of Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, later declared herself "really pleased with the result and the way the guys rode."
"We took the race head on, gave a good account of ourselves and kept plenty of numbers up front. The team works better when we ride offensively and the course suited the way we like to race," she said.
"It really was a whole team effort and the way the boys worked together deserves credit. Getting Adam and Mikey in the breaks took pressure off Scott and Ali, so they could be in the right place at the finish."
The points from Thwaites' podium position helped return Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK to a place among the top four teams vying for Tour of Britain qualification. Pridham's squad now has an equal tally with Team Wiggins-Le Col.
Next weekend the HSBC National Road Series continues with the two-day Tour of the Reservoir in Northumberland; a demanding race that has rapidly become a fixture on the calendar of elite domestic racing. While selection is far from finalised, Thwaites, who has ridden strongly in every round of the series so far, will hope to see his efforts rewarded with victory, if he is again chosen to lead the team's assault.
Circuit of the Mendips 2019 - results
1) Rory Townsend (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) 3:33:53
2) Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling Team powered by Brother UK) +st
3) Ian Bibby (Madison Genesis) +st
4) James Shaw (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) +st
5) Matthew Holmes (Madison Genesis) +st
6) Daniel Pearson (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) +st
7) Mark Christian (Team Wiggins Le Col) +st
8) Max Stedman (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) +13
9) Alistair Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling Team powered by Brother UK) +19
10) Thomas Stewart (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) +3
26) Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Vitus Pro Cycling Team powered by Brother UK) +2:06
32) Adam Kenway (Vitus Pro Cycling Team powered by Brother UK) +st
35) Michael Mottram (Vitus Pro Cycling Team powered by Brother UK) +2:35
57) Frederik Scheske (Vitus Pro Cycling Team powered by Brother UK) +9:10
Watch highlights from the race on British Cycling HERE.