Scott Thwaites claimed an impressive second place for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK at the East Cleveland Klondike GP, pipping British champion Connor Swift (Madison-Genesis) on the line in an exhilarating finish to an enthralling race.
Thwaites showed all of his pedigree to join a powerful three-man move formed in the dying stages of a gruelling encounter, driving clear of a peloton controlled by his team-mates to join Swift and eventual winner Rory Townsend (Canyon-dhb, powered by Bloor Homes).
The trio left an exhausted peloton in their wake as they hurtled to the finish line, delivering a finale fit for the opening round of the HSBC National Road Series, which already looks set to be hugely competitive.
“The course is deceptively hard. Having seen that it was a bunch sprint in the first year, I was a bit put off! It’s definitely tougher than I expected, and it was raced pretty aggressively in the end. The last 50km were pretty hard. It was a tough race, but we came away with a podium, which, given the start to the season that we’ve had, we’ve got to be happy with,” Thwaites told VeloUK.
“I came up in the end in a group of three with Connor and Rory, and you see the races that they have in their legs, compared to what I’ve got in my legs, they’re on a different level. To be honest, I was just made up that I was able to put us on the podium."
The Yorkshireman joined Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK in the closed season from UCI WorldTour squad, Team Dimension Data. After an injury-hit campaign in professional cycling’s elite tier, Thwaites has faced the challenges of readjusting to domestic racing, as well as building form from the accumulation of racing miles. His performance in East Cleveland indicated that he has embraced both.
Thwaites praised his team-mates at Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK. The men in red were a constant presence at the head of the bunch, controlling an early breakaway in which Adam Kenway was the team’s sole representative.
The team’s performance in East Cleveland showed how quickly they had absorbed the lessons of their previous two engagements, where Kenway, at the Danum Trophy, and Mikey Mottram, at the Coalville Wheelers Road Race, had worked tirelessly in breakaway efforts, only to be punished for their earlier efforts at the denouement.
At the Klondiike GP, Mottram was one of the ‘engines’ driving the peloton, and part of a massed presence of red jerseys at the head of the bunch for most of the race. Formerly an elite rower, his strength on the bike played a pivotal role in a prolific campaign last season, and was placed at the service of his new team in East Cleveland.
“We knew we were going to have to reduce the gap, because we didn’t have the right selection in the break. The three of us chugged it along: me, Freddie and Chris. We put in some big, strong turns on the first couple of laps, holding the gap at around a minute, and on the third lap, we ramped it up a bit to bring it close and give the other guys a shot,” Mottram told VeloUK.
While Thwaites provided a strong finish for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK the squad’s performance at the Klondike GP was equally notable for its combined strength. A committed effort was required to bring back the break, but the tenacity of Cherie Pridham’s team ensured that the task was completed.
Points accrued from this year’s National Road Series will count towards qualification for September’s Tour of Britain, and Pridham, the team's manager and owner, can reflect with satisfaction on the team’s haul from East Cleveland. She will lead her squad to the Tour Loir et Cher on Wednesday: a five-day stage race in France.
The UCI 2.2 race will be the first of three consecutive fixtures for the team sanctioned by cycling’s world governing body. On April 28, they will race at the UCI 1.2 Rultand-Melton CiCLE Classic, and on May 4, roll out for one of the most important races of the season, the UCI 2.1 Tour de Yorkshire. After their performance in East Cleveland, the team can look ahead with confidence.
East Cleveland Klondike GP 2019 - result
1) Rory Townsend (Canyon-dhb p/b Bloor Homes)
2) Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, p/b Brother UK)
3) Connor Swift (Madison-Genesis)
4) Gabriel Cullaigh (Team Wiggins-Le Col)
5) Matt Holmes (Madison-Genesis)
6) Alex Luhrs (Ribble Pro Cycling)
7) Ian Bibby (Madison-Genesis)
8) Steve Lampier (St Piran)
9) James Shaw (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling)
10) Mark Christian (Team Wiggins-Le Col)