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Race report | The Tour Series (Stevenage)

Race report | The Tour Series (Stevenage)

Cherie Pridham’s young Vitus Pro Cycling Team gave a further glimpse of its ultimate potential with strong performances in both events at the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2018 OVO Tour Series in Stevenage.

The young men in red - Andy Shackel, Grant Martin, Liam Davies, Harrison Jones, and Julio Amores – acquitted themselves well, both in the team time-trial and the circuit race that followed.

Pridham, the team’s owner and manager, and a former rider who raced in professional cycling’s top tier during a pioneering age for the women’s sport, was pleased with her young team’s performance.

“The whole Stevenage event was a positive one for us because we had five rookies at the team time-trial, and they rode a very positive race,” she said.

“We had the option of finishing with four of the five riders in the team time-trial, as only the times of the first four finishers counts towards the team’s result, but we decided to finish with five just in case. They rode a very tight formation and looked great. Importantly, they were happy with their ride, too.”

The team time-trial is arguably the sport’s most beautiful discipline, driven by a smooth interchange of positions among the riders, but a truly synchronised performance cannot be achieved overnight. The coordinated performance of Vitus Pro Cycling Team in its first competitive outing in the discipline, offered a window on how much they had learned during a pre-season training camp in Spain.

Confidence was high among the same quintet as the started the ‘crit’ race later they same evening. Racing on a deliciously warm evening that delivered almost perfect conditions, the team rode with without fear against its more experienced rivals.

“We went into the Stevenage crit feeling really positive and we saw Harrison, Liam and Julio in the main group,” Pridham said. “It was only being taken out by a lapped rider that prevented Harrison from finishing off a good ride with a great result." 

Jones’ misfortune echoed that suffered by team-mate Adam Kenway in the previous round. Kenway, a breakaway specialist with a huge ‘engine’, and a useful time-trialist to boot, would have been a significant asset in Stevenage, but was left with a broken jaw and scaphoid after being brought down by a back marker in Aberystwyth.

In Stevenage, Vitus Pro Cycling Team gave further signs of a young squad growing accustomed to the demands of the Tour Series, justifiably regarded as the world’s most competitive circuit racing series. 

“It was a very positive start to the two days of racing, and in the circuit race that followed, the riders again acquitted themselves well with three of the five in the main group, until a lapped rider took out Harrison Jones, who crashed.”

Vitus Pro Cycling Team will race again at the Wembley Park round of the Tour Series on Tuesday May 29, where Jones is expected to return to action.  

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.”