Three members of Vitus Pro Cycling Team produced performances of real tenacity to cross the finish line at the Ryedale Grand Prix, the final round of the HSBC Grand Prix Series.
Cherie Pridham’s men in red battled appalling weather in North Yorkshire, but Grant Martin, Adam Kenway and Tim Torrie hung tough to finish the race on a day in which many of the most successful riders in the domestic peloton climbed off early, and several of their exhausted team-mates, too.
The race was won by Graham Briggs (JLT Condor), with Canyon Eisberg’s Max Stedman second, and British road race champion Connor Swift (Madison Genesis) third. Swift's podium finish was enough to ensure his overall victory in the series.
“They all fought hard and that’s what I asked them to do,” Pridham said. “It was clearly going to be a grim day from the outset. A lot of very good riders climbed off, but that’s what you get at the end of the season, and you’ve got to look for the positives: some riders had clearly had enough, and I’d told our guys to be aware of that situation and to try and take advantage of it.”
Martin was the first home of Vitus Pro Cycling Team’s three dogged survivors, after Liam Davies and Ben Walsh, two teenagers who had shown real courage at the Tour de Yorkshire, climbed off. Davies seemed finally to be feeling the effects of a long season, while Walsh continued the search for his best form in a campaign disrupted by exams.
Martin finished in a group led home by Tom Pidcock (Team Wiggins), the former world junior cyclo-cross and time-trial champion, some 3’09” after Briggs. Vitus Pro Cycling Team’s young Scot had ridden a strategic race to conserve energy in debilitating conditions, surviving on a hilly course not ideally suited to his strengths.
“It was literally just a case of trying to save as much energy as possible throughout the entire race,” he said. “I’m not a climber, but the way I rode, losing places on the climbs, and regaining them on the descents, helped me to save energy. That’s the way I got through it.”
Kenway, racing with his trademark aggression, launched the first attack of the day. The response caused the split in the bunch that would ultimately shape the race. Those who succeeded in breaking clear of the fractured peloton soon passed the Vitus man, however, and he was left with a frustrating afternoon in pursuit.
With four laps remaining, Kenway launched a counter move, and was joined by two riders as he attempted to bridge to the leaders. They soon fell away, however, leaving him Isolated between the leaders and a chasing group driven by Canyon Eisberg.
“It was grim out there, it really was,” Kenway said. “I was the first person to attack, as I normally am. I went up the climb and got a half-decent gap. Other riders attacked, which split the bunch, and 20 of them came across and went over the top of me. That was the group that stayed away.
“It stayed like that, with Canyon Eisberg chasing. The leaders had a minute, or a minute-and-a-half, until about four laps to go. I attacked at the top of the climb and then Tom Moses (JLT-Condor) and a Madison Genesis rider [Connor Swift] went over the top of me and I couldn’t quite get there. Then I went again, and that’s where I stayed. I just chased for the last four laps.”
Kenway uttered the phrase “gutted” as he rolled to a halt next to team-mate Martin, soon after crossing the finish line. As he began the final lap, the 31-year-old had looked strong, but the leaders remained tantalisingly ahead and, as the race neared its denouement, Kenway fell back, crossing the line some 4’20” after Briggs had punched the air in triumph.
Next month, Torrie will join team-mate Davies for the Dave Creasy Memorial Ride, a track event held at London’s historic Herne Hill Velodrome. Pridham hopes then to secure their entry to under-21 competition at the Six Days of London; a prestigious event held at the capital’s Olympic Velodrome.
Kenway will turn his attention to hill climbs, a discipline in which he has been British champion, while Pridham seeks to strengthen her squad for 2019. The transfer market requires skill and experience to navigate, but Vitus Pro Cycling Team’s manager has both in abundance.
“We’re going to make some changes,” she said. “We’re in a position now where we need to step up again. Things are looking good.”