Report: Halfords Tour Series – Durham

Dempster leads Rapha Condor Sharp to a narrow victory over Endura Racing as men in black enjoy clean sweep of honours on opening evening of The Halfords Tour Series

A day at the Tour Series — the Album

The Report.
Zak Dempster led a clean sweep of the awards for his Rapha Condor Sharp team as The Halfords Tour Series got off to a spectacular start in front of a large crowd in Durham.
Thanks to their team win the men in black are the first team to pull on the five Halfords orange jerseys as Halfords Tour Series leaders, taking a narrow win over Endura Racing by just a solitary point.

Following up Dempster for Rapha Condor Sharp was Kristian House in sixth and Andy Tennant in twelfth, with Endura Racing taking third, eighth and ninth through Scott Thwaites, Ian Wilkinson and Evan Oliphant, seeing Rapha Condor Sharp lead the scorers 20 to 19 in the unique team based series.

The tough cobbled climb at the heart of the Durham course took its toll on riders, splitting the field up and producing an entertain start to the Series, with 2011’s new teams UK Youth, Twenty3c – Orbea and Wilier impressing to finish sixth, seventh and eighth, ahead of established teams like Sigma Sport – Specialized, boding well for a highly competitive Series.

Following the early laps behind the TV motorbike the race soon began to evolve, with a strong eight rider group going clear that included House, Ian Bibby and Thwaites, who took 1-2-3 at the opening Boardman Bikes Sprint of the season.

With the pace slackening off following the sprint, the front grow grew in size as the race ebbed and flowed and riders bridged the gap, while others, including Thwaites, Liam Holohan and Wilkinson, took it in turns to attack off the front of the group.

Each attack was ultimately foiled however, setting things up for a select group to contest the sprint finish after an entertaining evening of racing. Dempster proved the strongest, exiting the final corner atop the cobbled climb well to edge Bibby and Thwaites on the line.

Despite packing the top ten with four riders, Endura Racing couldn’t take the team win, with Tennant’s twelfth place proving crucial in giving Rapha Condor Sharp the early lead in The Halfords Tour Series.

Defending Halfords Tour Series Champions Motorpoint got off to a mixed start to their title defence, and while Bibby and Jonny McEvoy were at the forefront throughout, the team could only take fourth on the night.

Highlights of Round One from Durham will be shown on ITV4 at 20.00 on Wednesday 25th May, with a repeat on Thursday 26th May at 11.00.

Thursday sees The Halfords Tour Series make its first visit to Wales for Round Two from Aberystwyth. Support races get underway on the seafront circuit from 14.00 onwards, with the Aberystwyth Seafront Criterium for Category 2 & 3 riders taking place at 17.15 as a final curtain raiser for the professional race.

Recently crowned Welsh Champion Gruff Lewis will have the chance to compete on his home town roads for Team UK Youth, as the team of Tour de France stage winner Magnus Backstedt prepare for their home round. Also at home in Aberystwyth will be Pendragon Le Col Colnago, with Carmarthen born Yanto Barker among their local riders keen to perform on home roads, particularly after the South West based team came tenth in Durham.

Zak Dempster (the Rapha Condor Sharp): After suffering two punctures in quick succession at the bottom of the climb, he could be forgiven for thinking it wasn‘t going to be his day. Despite the victory in the race, there were some long faces in the Rapha camp as they reckoned on having been beaten by Endura Racing who had four riders in the top 10. It is however the top three that count and the mood in the camp  changed quickly as they learnt they had won.

“I went from the bottom in the sprint and Bibby came up next to me and I drag raced him to the line. It was a race to the last corner and every now and then you’re going to end up in the fence but  you have to play that game of chicken don’t you?”

“It’s great also that we won the Team award. I thought we would have been second but it’s great to get the leader’s jersey early on. I think last year we were the most dominant team but then we cocked it up and run eighth one round so we have another race on Thursday and we have to concentrate on doing another good ride in that.”

“The team award is what we want for this series. Individual wins are great for the sponsor and great for individual riders but we’re a team of friends, always have a laugh at the dinner table, breakfast table, and we hang out together. We text each other, watch the same TV shows and take the piss out of each other.”

“It’s also good that the fans can follow a team and not just one rider.”

“So it’s really nice in this series that the emphasis is based  on the Team Prize and everyone can be a part of it and we all get to go up on the podium. Like at the Tesco Cicle Classic, where it was just one guy and Dean and Dan and Briggsy sacrificed themselves for me but it was me that got the accolade. Tonight, everyone put in a good ride and we all backed each other up.”

Asked what it is like on the road when you’re not thinking about an individual win but a team win, Zak explained “every time I make a move, you have to have confidence in each other that you can smash it, and know your teammates are going to be there. You also have to be aware, assess the numbers in the group and play the numbers game. It is really tactically. ”

Kristian House “That’s a good course that. Very hard and it didn’t break up like it did last year. I think everyone rode a bit defensive being the first round and everything which is normal.” The former road race champion admits that after a 2.1 stage race last week, he and the others were tired but that he and Zak felt good.

Above: Kristian is at the front for the traditional five warm up laps behind the motorbike.

“We’re happy that Zak won the individual and I won the (Boardman Bikes) Sprints but we came here for the Team and to win it is brilliant. This shows how much you have to sprint for the minor placings and they are often more important than the actual win of the bike race. We took a clean sweep of everything so we can’t complain”.

Team manager for Rapha Condor Sharp John Herety said “We put in the best team for the night tonight and got the result. We have been planning our assault on the Tour series for a long time; the boys here have just got in from France and we have another team racing at the RAS at the moment. This is the start we wanted and now we will be going out there every night to win again. We’ve seen each year how close the final overall has been so we know we have to score every opportunity. I believe we will have the best riders for that on each individual round.”

The crowds were amazing on the climb!

The Live Photo Feed

More race action …

Anyone who saw the climb will know that the place to puncture, as Zak Dempster has done here, is not here, long, cobbled and what it does to the legs one can only imagine.

The numbers game, Endura Racing’s Dave Clarke tries to reduce the rivals to his team by going full gas through the finish.

Round One, Durham, Results

Team Results
1. Rapha Condor Sharp
2. Endura Racing
3. Team Raleigh
4. Motorpoint Pro Cycling
5. Team UK Youth
6. Twenty3c – Orbea
7. Wilier
8. – Metaltek
9. Sigma Sport – Specialized
10. Pendragon Le Col Colnago

Individual Results
1. Zak Dempster Rapha Condor Sharp
2. Ian Bibby Motorpoint Pro Cycling
3. Scott Thwaites Endura Racing
4. Jonny McEvoy Motorpoint Pro Cycling
5. Liam Holohan Team Raleigh
6. Kristian House Rapha Condor Sharp
7. Marcel Six Twenty3c – Orbea
8. Ian Wilkinson Endura Racing
9. Evan Oliphant Endura Racing
10. Dave Clarke Endura Racing

Boardman Bikes Sprints winner
Kristian House Rapha Condor Sharp

Team Standings, after Round One
1. Rapha Condor Sharp 10pts
2. Endura Racing 9pts
3. Team Raleigh 8pts
4. Motorpoint Pro Cycling 7pts
5. Team UK Youth 6pts
6. Twenty3c – Orbea 5pts
7. Wilier 4pts
8. – Metaltek 3pts
9. Sigma Sport – Specialized 2pts
10. Pendragon Le Col Colnago 1pts

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NEXT ROUND: Round Two Thursday 26th May Aberystwyth

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