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Race Report | The Tour Series (Salisbury)

Race Report | The Tour Series (Salisbury)

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.

Race Report | The Tour Series (Wembley Park)

Race Report | The Tour Series (Wembley Park)

Vitus Pro Cycling Team travelled south to London to contest the penultimate round of the 2018 Tour Series on a demanding circuit in the shadow of Wembley Stadium.

Despite racing again after only one day of complete rest following the seventh and eighth rounds in Stevenage, team owner and manager Cherie Pridham had intended to start with the same five riders.

Andy Shackel, however, was unable to ride in Wembley and so the team’s capital line-up was comprised of Julio Amores, Liam Davies, Harrison Jones and Grant Martin. Shackel is expected to return for the final round in Salisbury on Thursday May 31.

Pridham, who finished multiple Grand Tours during a decorated career as a world class rider, said she was pleased with the efforts her young team.  

“We went into the race with confidence, despite nerves about what the course was going to be like after the rain. I told them not to fear anything and get stuck in and that is what they did. It was a good effort from the lads.”

With Schwalbe 25mm Pro One tubulars on their Prime wheels, the riders lined up on a circuit that riders from the women’s race, which opened the evening’s entertainment, had described as a skating rink.

A drying circuit, still wet in places, inspired a cautious approach and the riders went out on to a circuit of mixed surfaces (tarmac, concrete and paving stone) with just 50 to 60psi in their Schwalbe tubulars, commenting afterwards they were pleased with the grip their rubber had given them in such slippery conditions. 

The race very quickly split, as double world junior champion Tom Pidcock (WIGGINS) went off the front, while Amores, Davies and Jones flew the Vitus Pro Cycling Team colours in the lead group.

Amores later had the misfortune to find himself stuck behind a crash and relegated to the next group, despite giving his customary 100 per cent effort. Behind him, Martin fought hard to regain some of the form he had shown in an encouraging start to the season. An enforced absence had left him lacking the sharpness that served him so well in races like the Chorley GP and Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic.

Davies produced the performance of the night to finish in 16th place in among the ‘names’ of the Tour Series, while Jones crossed the line just a few places back in 18th place, despite crashing and then being hit by another rider in Stevenage, was a remarkable achievement. 

“Liam crashed but was back into the group within a few laps and was our leading rider. The riders are gaining in confidence despite some bad luck in the Tour Series and looking forward to the final round in Salisbury.”

 

Race Report | The Tour Series (Aberystwyth)

Race Report | The Tour Series (Aberystwyth)

Five members of Vitus Pro Cycling Team, together with team owner Cherie Pridham and mechanic Pete Mooney, traveled to the West Wales town of Aberystwyth for the fifth round of the OVO Energy Tour Series on Saturday (May 26, 2018).  

The race saw the return of Adam Kenway after illness. Andy Shackel was another keen to return to the challenge of Tour Series racing, after recovering from a back injury. Spanish track star Julio Amores, young fighter Liam Davies, and Bertie Newey completed the line-up. 

The circuit in the Welsh seaside town was technical in places and fast in others. Warm conditions added to the challenge, but the team stayed well hydrated, courtesy of nutrition sponsor Tribe.

The peloton split after only two laps, with a very powerful front group escaping, pursued by an equally powerful chasing pack, where the team had representation. As the race went on, riders were dropped from both groups, and some Vitus Pro Cycling Team riders began to find the going tough. Worse was to come when a lapped rider brought down Kenway.

The team’s most aggressive rider was left with a broken jaw and scaphoid. It was another example of how luck plays a major part in these races. Cherie Pridham’s squad could do with some good fortune to help their cause in such a demanding series. 

Pridham said Kenway had retained his usual good humour and determination to ride, despite his crash, but she had overruled his request to roll out for Monday’s sixth round in Stevenage, insisting that he take time to recover from his injuries and a recent bout of illness.

“As we manage to move five steps forward, we seem to get knocked back to square one,” she said. “Tonight, Adam came down heavily when he was taken out by a lapped rider. He’s in surprisingly good spirits, considering how heavily he crashed and the severity of his injuries, but that’s Adam. 

“Bertie is coming back from his crashes and still recovering, and there was another good ride by Liam Davies; all credit to him. Until halfway, we seemed to have good numbers in the front half of the race and then it went wrong, but the riders are still fighting and it’s onto Stevenage now to see what we can do there.”  

Davies, the team’s highest-placed finisher in 24th position, said he was pleased with his performance, but, like every competitive cyclist, wanted more from himself and had hoped to finish higher up the classification.

Davies had suffered the indignity of a crash that brought the race to a halt in the opening 200m in Durham, but had taken the restart, showing more of the courage that had served him so well at the Tour de Yorkshire. In Aberystwyth, he buried any memories of Durham with a solid ride.

“This result is great for morale," he said. "The day after the crash at Durham, my head was all over the place. I cracked on with hard training and, coming here, it feels like that work is paying off. It is great to be up there with riders I want to be racing. I would like to have made top 20, but at least I was up there.

“Towards the end of the second lap, there was a split and I think I was one of the first riders not to make it in there. I was trying my hardest, but I knew that even if I got there, I’d be ‘spat’ after half-a-lap, so I sat in the chase group with Andy Tennant (Canyon Eisberg) and thought: ‘I’m happy being in a group with these guys.’ It was a great experience.”