After a successful Tour de Yorkshire, Vitus Pro Cycling Team travelled with five riders and a reserve to the Worcestershire town of Redditch last Thursday (May 10) for the opening round of the 2018 OVO Energy Tour Series.
Adam Kenway, Harrison Jones, Grant Martin, Julio Alberto Amores and Bertie Newie rolled out in red for team manager and owner Cherie Pridham, who wisely chose to rest Liam Davies, after his heroic efforts last week in Yorkshire. Davies accompanied the squad in Redditch as a reserve.
Rounds of the Tour Series – fast and furious 60-minute efforts on city centre streets – place intense physical and mental demands upon the riders, who must balance the almost constant accelerations intrinsic to this hour-long game of attack and counterattack with the unblinking concentration demanded by wheel-to-wheel racing.
It’s little wonder that SweetSpot’s long-running series of televised ‘crits’ contains rounds that are considered among the toughest circuit races in the world; notably in Durham, with its cobbled ascent of South Street, which the riders will visit on May 22. Gabz Cullaigh (WIGGINS), the eventual winner of this opening round in Redditch, admits that, as a junior, he failed to finish a single round of the Tour Series, which shows how tough these events can be.
Vitus Pro Cycling Team’s Adam Kenway continued to exhibit the good form he had previously shown in National Road Series events and the Tour de Yorkshire. He rode strongly to bridge to a dangerous looking breakaway, and eventually finished sixth in a race packed with the best circuit riders in the business – a fine effort on alien terrain for a former national hill climb champion, who excelled in Yorkshire on the brutal ramps of the Cow and Calf climb.
Pridham was full of praise for Kenway, describing his performance as “an incredible ride”, but her post-race comments were focussed primarily on her younger riders, whom she said had faced “a huge reality check.”
“They have told me this is what they want to do and they now know the challenge they face. Tonight was a big learning curve for the young riders, and we had some bad luck as well for Julio Amores, who punctured very early on and had a bike change. He had to use a ‘bullet’ or two to get back into the race, and anyone who races these Tour Series events knows you have done a ride simply to get back into the race after a mechanical."
Kenway, described by the race commentator as “the happiest rider in the race,” said he was pleased with his ride.
“I knew when I saw that move [an acceleration that preceded the decisive attack] that I had to bridge across. We were then caught by another group with seven or eight riders. At that point, I was panicking a little bit, as every other team in the move had two riders in it.
“They were attacking each other and I was thinking, ‘I can’t keep following them,’ so I attacked at the bottom corner and Gabz [Cullaigh] came with me, and that was what made the last break. That makes me happy.”
Kenway explained how, only a few days after finishing the Tour de Yorkshire, his legs had felt unexpectedly good and improved as the race wore on.
Vitus Pro Cycling Team will return to action at the Lincoln Grand Prix on Sunday (May 13), arguably the most prestigious one-day race on the domestic calendar: a gruelling, 103-mile test, with 13 ascents of the cobbled Michaelgate climb, in the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral.
Pridham’s young squad will face a further, unflinching examination of their desire in a race that will require each rider to show again the grit and determination that served them so well in Yorkshire. They need look no further than their manager, a former Grand Tour rider, for inspiration.