The young riders of Vitus Pro Cycling Team saved the best until last to produce performances of real quality in the final and deciding round of the 2018 Tour Series in Salisbury.
Twelfth place from 18-year-old Liam Davies crowned a collective improvement in form. Harrison Jones briefly led the peloton in the early stages of the race, before finishing in a creditable 21st position, courtesy of a performance in which he showed a tenacity to match his obvious talent, while Andy Shackel gained another taste of racing in the world’s fastest crit series.
Davies had raced well in Wembley, two days earlier, to finish in the top 25, but raised his game still further in the final round.
“With two laps to go, I counted the riders in front of me and almost missed the apex of a corner as I was thinking: ‘I could make the top ten,’” Davies said.
“On the last lap though, more experienced riders like Andy Tennant (Canyon Eisberg) sliced by me, but I made the most of the situation and sprinted all the way from the corner into the long straight and then to the line.”
A cyclist from his earliest days, and with solid performances as a junior in a host of disciplines, he has rapidly added strength to the sheer determination he relied upon at the Tour de Yorkshire merely to stay in a race dominated by UCI WorldTour opposition.
After 12 minutes in Salisbury, he had been ‘gapped’ by a ferocious peloton riding at full pace, but after noting the quality of the riders around him, including Team Wiggins’ Robert Scott, who had contested a series-long battle for the Eisberg sprints jersey, realised he was in good company.
“Then Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis) and Harrison joined the group too and before we knew it, we had caught the lead peloton behind the break,” Davies continued. “When George Wood attacked, I followed him. It felt great to be in the mix. I have definitely made progress during the Tour Series - now bring on the Elite Circuit Series!”.
The final round in Salisbury was always going to be a brutally fast race, with several teams battling for overall victory in the Tour Series’ team competition and others racing equally hard for the individual win.
The race quickly split into groups and, courtesy of several regroupings, Davies and Jones found themselves in the front selection as the race neared its climax, ultimately sprinting for the win after an hour and five laps of a flat, twisting circuit.
Team owner Cherie Pridham said she was very pleased with her young riders, whose development has accelerated significantly beneath the demands of the Tour Series’ unrelenting schedule.
“We have come such a long way with this group of riders and watched them go from strength to strength,” she said. “We’ve had our ups and downs in this series and a lot of bad luck, but we’ve found our form, and I’m sure there is more to come from the team this season."
“We will now take a small group to the London Nocturne and see how well we have recovered from three weeks on the road. It’s great to see riders like Liam - and Adam Kenway too, who is injured - so keen to be part of the team for that event”.
Pridham’s young riders have now faced the distinct but equally gruelling demands of the GP de Lillers, the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, the Tour de Yorkshire and the Lincoln GP in the first six months of the team’s existence, as well as the unrelenting schedule of the Tour Series.
As a consequence of such a remorseless and diverse programme, many of Vitus Pro Cycling Team’s riders are stronger, wiser and better-equipped to pursue a lasting career in the sport. The value of Pridham’s management, founded in her own experience as a Grand Tour rider, cannot be overstated.