A top ten finish for Ali Slater crowned a day of courageous racing for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK at the end of the 160km Lancaster Grand Prix, a gruelling new engagement for the elite HSBC National Road Series.
The Sprints win for Harrison Jones and a promising ride for Grant Martin
The season of major events for Vitus Pro Cycling began in Chorley on Sunday with the first round of the Spring Cup and with it came a podium for one of the young riders on the team, Harrison Jones.
With the team having an ethos in 2018 of giving young riders an opportunity to learn and show themselves at UCI Continental level, Harrison and others did exactly that in the race that was nothing short of brutal.
Riding the race for the team at Chorley were Julio Amores, Tim Torrie, Adam Kenway, Ben Walsh, Harrison Jones, Deins Kanepejs, Josh Hunt and Grant Martin. They would be competing with the best teams in Britain lining up on the start line in Chorley town centre, 150 plus riders in all.
Ahead of them lay 116 miles of tough, and at times, very grim roads around the Rivington reservoir outside of Chorley.
This included a climb of five exposed miles to the wind and rain. There were more hills on the 23 mile lap to be done on their Vitus Vitesse Evo bikes in a race that covered five laps. Plenty of distance ready to damage the legs of the riders over the course of four and a half hours plus.
The team, kept warm in the cold conditions by their Velotec custom clothing, began the race on the front foot, getting riders in the early move, and whilst Adam Kenway went chasing points in the King of the Mountains competition where he was to finish third, just two points shy of the joint winners; two of the young riders Harrison Jones and Grant Martin combined to dominate the sprints competition which saw the riders in the breakaway sprinting for the line each lap in Chorley.
With the leading group only having a small lead of a minute to two minutes in the race, the pattern of the race was constantly changing and as the breakaway split over the closing laps, the riders in the team found themselves caught on the wrong side of gaps and even chasing at 70kph, found the smallest of gaps were impossible to close down.
But, even then, the unexpected happened as Grant Martin surprised even himself by being second in the bunch sprint for the line to end the race in the top 15.
The team owner Cherie Pridham was pleased with the way the riders attacked the race and got stuck in at the front. “I think all the teams were nervous today as to what was going to happen and I am so pleased to see that the riders put into practice our strategy for the race on the road”.
“I am also delighted to see Grant Martin race so well and his effort throughout the day is testament to his growing maturity. Before the start; Deins, Adam, Harrison and Grant were to cover the breaks and we had all those riders in that first move.”
“I also asked them, if in position to do so, to go for the Sprints and KoM points and they did that too so with essentially what is a new team, to come away with the Sprints victory with a young rider like Harrison, I am certainly happy with the performance. It is early days for all of the team and there are things to work on, but it is a great start.”
A very tired Grant Martin, second in the Sprint competition behind his teammate Harrison Jones, told us he was pretty pleased with his ride. “I am very pleased after training hard this winter to get in the early break and then get in other moves. I was only caught by the peloton with five kilometers to go and to then get second in the bunch sprint as well, it was a big day! I’m really happy.”
“The course was definitely not one that suits me.” Grant explained adding that living up in Scotland, he’s not had the opportunity to do any of the National B events the team have done so far but his early racing has gone well and he came into the race at Chorley with confidence. “Considering I still had a really good kick in the bunch sprint after all those miles shows I am riding well”.
Adam Kenway was another of the team who got across to the break, the last rider to do so after he saw other teams with numbers in the move.
He joined the group at the foot of the climb and went straight to the front to take the points for the first King of the Mountains sprint. Adam explained how the breakaway took it steady on the climb the second time up where he was second in the KoM sprint. On the third ascent, Adam explained how the riders sprinted up the climb and he was still able to again get more points with third.
After that sprint, the make up of the riders at the front was constantly changing as Adam explained. “We got away after the sprint for the KoM and were working well but we were caught by a group who came around us and it split again and I was caught on the wrong side of it as I’d just done some work. Grant tried to bring it back and then I kicked on the other side of the circuit and just failed to get on the back of it as another group caught me and by this time the lights were going out for me.”
The team now have a week to recover and regroup before an even bigger event, the UCI ranked CiCLE Classic at Melton Mowbray.
14 Grant Martin Vitus Pro Cycling
28 Julio Alberto Amores Palacios Vitus Pro Cycling
46 Adam Kenway Vitus Pro Cycling
51 Harrison Jones Vitus Pro Cycling (Sprint Classification win)
52 Ben Walsh Vitus Pro Cycling
54 Joshua Hunt Vitus Pro Cycling
Thank you VeloUK for imagery, race report and interviews
Eddie Soens Memorial Cycle Race - 'A good start'
The Vitus Pro Cycling Team made an impressive UK debut by securing fourth place for Deins Kanpejs at the historic Eddie Soens Memorial Cycle Race
The Latvian powerhouse proved himself a force to be reckoned with in only his second race on British soil, and can consider himself unlucky to have been on the wrong side of the leading group when Jon Mould (JLT Condor) launched his race-winning attack.
Cherie Pridham’s young team played a leading role in the 57th edition of this event, held on the motor racing circuit at Aintree; a 1.6-mile course, situated within the grounds of the famous race course on which the Grand National is run.
Pridham said she was disappointed not to have placed a rider on the podium, but “very pleased” with the commitment shown by her squad, and satisfied with fourth place after a solid team effort.
“The guys committed themselves early on with some super work, and special mention must go to Andy Shackel and Leon Gledhill. We were disappointed not to reach the podium, but Deins and Julio Amores are learning the British way of racing – fast!”.
Vitus Pro Cycling Team fielded a six-man squad for this 50-mile circuit race, that included Josh Hunt and Adam Kenway, as well as the aforementioned Amores, Gledhill, Shackel and Kanpejs.
Kenway, the 2016 British hill climb champion, was instrumental in driving the early pace, and later in joining the race-defining split. Responding to a scenario that would decide the ultimate outcome, he swiftly agreed a strategy with Kanpejs.
“We had a chat and I said I'd do some work at the front, whilst he sat back and policed the moves. Unfortunately, he was just on the wrong side of the group when Mouldy [Jon Mould, race winner] went,” Kenway told Larry Hickmott.
“Deins went after him, but just couldn't close the gap, and so I spent the last two laps trying to bring the leaders back."
Kanpejs described his new British team-mates as very helpful, adding that he hadn’t known what to expect of a race whose previous winners include Steve Cummings (Team Dimension Data), the reigning British road and time-trial champion.
"It was a good race and I did not know before the start what to expect here,” Kanpejs told Hickmott. “I didn't know who was in good shape here, who was fast and so on. That was a big surprise for me when watching what the riders were doing.”
The Eddie Soens Memorial presented a very different challenge to that faced by the team a week earlier in northern France. Vitus Pro Cycling Team had made its debut in the GP de Lillers, a UCI 1.2 race, previously won by Robert Millar.
Kanpejs again impressed, this time in brutal conditions that saw the team suffer a series of punctures. Mechanical misfortune hit the Latvian in the closing stages of the race, a time when Pridham believes he was riding strongly enough for a top ten finish.
She also praised the efforts of 18-year-old Tim Torrie, whom she believes would have finished his first senior international race, were it not for a puncture. Illness prevented the talented teenager from racing at the Eddie Soens Memorial, and Pridham is mindful of the need to carefully nurture such a young talent.
The Vitus Pro Cycling Team will return to action in two weeks time, when the men in red roll out for the Coalville Wheelers road race on Sunday April 25, 2018.