Gordon Wiseman writes … Matt Jones, the current U23 National Criterium champion, led the Stacey Bushes based Team Corley Cycles-Blue outfit in Oxford on Tuesday evening to a great performance, one of the best by a guest team in the Tour Series.
With the cream of Britain’s racing talent taking part in the televised race, a field that included Ed Clancy and Steven Burke, two of Team GB’s potential Team Pursuit gold medallists at this summer’s London Olympic Games, Jones and his four team-mates were always going to be hard pressed to out-perform some of the Tour Series regulars – but that didn’t stop them trying.
The 1.1km ‘Y’ shaped circuit provided an amazingly fast spectacle for the huge crowd that lined the roads but one that also proved to be a difficult challenge for the riders as they faced four dead turns in every lap of the nearly 70 minute race.
As a guest team, the Corley boys had to line up at the back of the grid behind the Series regulars but the team’s distinctive red and black colours were in the thick of the action from the off as Mike Smith wasted no time in immediately mixing it with the riders at the front of the race.
Such was the speed of the fast pedalling peloton that riders at the back of the field soon found themselves drifting even further back as the elastic effect of the fast men at the front left them behind out of the dead turns. “It was probably the fastest crit I’ve ever ridden” was how Ian Knight one of Team Corley’s most experienced riders described the racing.
At the front, Smith did all he could to stay with the leading riders and was soon joined by Matt Jones as they battled to hold their position with Jones doing all he could to stay on Ed Clancy’s back wheel.
“It was a case of just giving it everything you could” was how Jones later described his effort. “Sometimes I swear I just couldn’t see where I was going such was the speed of the race”.
Moving into the last 20 minutes or so of the race, a group of just over a dozen riders pulled away and Jones was then the highest placed Corley rider as he fought for a place in the top twenty in the next group back. “That’ll do nicely” said team patron Phil Corley as Jones flashed by in the final laps.
At the bell lap Jones was clearly visible at the front of his group as they started their final circuit but 1.1kms later was unable to hold onto that position but still did himself and the team proud.
With another guest team invite to fulfil this coming Tuesday at Peterborough, a circuit more suited to Jones talents, the team hopes that perhaps another quality performance may lead them to be invited to another round of the prestigious series of races before this year’s Tour Series draws to a close in just under a month’s time.