Report: Halfords Tour Series – Stoke

Scott Thwaites wins in Stoke for Endura Racing in round 5 of the Halfords Tour SeriesAfter one of the most brutally fast crit races in many years, Endura Racing’s up and coming young star, Scott Thwaites,  delivered the much sought after victory Endura Racing were after whilst Rapha Condor Sharp yet again took the team prize.  Report from the organisers to come soon, live photo album below…

The Halfords Tour Series in Stoke Photo Album

Report (from Tour Series): Thwaites the winner, but Rapha Condor Sharp steamroller continues

Scott Thwaites takes the individual honours for Endura Racing, but men in black make it five from five

Scott Thwaites became the first non-Rapha Condor Sharp individual winner of the 2011 Halfords Tour Series in Stoke-on-Trent last night, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Series leaders taking their fifth team win of the season to tighten their grip on the Series.

Scott Thwaites benefits from a change of strategy in the Endura Racing team to win the sprint in Stoke and clinch a memorable victory, the first by another team in this year’s Halfords Tour Series.

Rapha Condor Sharp now have a nine point lead at the top of the standings with three events to go, in Oldham, Woking and the Grand Finale at Canary Wharf.

The Halfords Tour Series leaders placed Dean Downing second and Graham Briggs third, but Thwaites proved too strong on the run to the line, although with Dean Windsor also in the top ten, this was enough for win number five of 2011.

Although held on a tough circuit, The Halfords Tour Series’ third visit to Stoke-on-Trent was run off at a frantic pace, with several riders and Series Technical Director Mick Bennett commenting that it was the fastest ever Tour Series race they had seen.

All calm at the start but the start of this round was the most brutal in many a year.

Certainly that seemed the case from a spectators standpoint, as lap after lap the peloton would appear strung out around the 1.2 kilometre circuit, with attacks flourishing briefly, before diminishing just as rapidly.

While entertaining for the large crowd gathering at the finish area outside the Potteries Shopping Centre, it was tough for the riders, with a number of retirements including Malcolm Elliott and Marcel Six, wearing the Boardman Bikes Sprints jersey but still feeling the effects of his Colchester crash.

Numerous small attacks came and went, with Pendragon Le Col Colnago’s Cornishman Chris Opie one notable attackee, as he stayed away for some time, claiming the evening’s second Boardman Bikes Sprints competition.

The Live Photo Album

In not only his Halfords Tour Series debut, but also his first racing appearance in the UK, Paul Voss, formerly of UCI ProTour team Milram, put in a stunning performance for Endura Racing, coming close to a fairytale win.

The German rider was among a group who went clear in the closing stages of the race, then going it alone for a thrilling finale in which Voss looked set for a solo win. As Rapha Condor Sharp’s Windsor tried in vain to chase him down, Voss entered the final lap with an advantage of a few hundred metres on the main field.

Teammates Thwaites and Ian Wilkinson kept pace on the front of the chasing pack, trying not to catch their colleague but at the same time trying to maintain position for the all-important finish. The fast moving group though caught Voss on the bottom corner of the circuit, with the Endura Racing blowing up on the drag up towards the pits and the finish, eventually coming home 34th.

This left Thwaites on the front, and using his knowledge of the circuit from 2010 when he was runner-up, the Yorkshire rider jumped at the last corner, sprinting clear in the 55kph dash for the line through Hanley.

With his head down all the way up the drag, the Endura Rider just made it, as a wall of chasing riders surged between the barriers like a raging torrent looking for release.

While individual victory sweetened the evening for Endura Racing, Ian Wilkinson’s seventh and Rob Partridge’s 27th place meant the team result was disappointing, and instead of closing the gap to Rapha Condor Sharp it in fact grew.

Scott Thwaites was presented his prize by legend Les West, a local in Stoke.

Reigning Halfords Tour Series Champions Motorpoint picked up their best result of the 2011 season with second, helped by Ian Bibby’s fourth place finish. There was also an excellent result for Metaltek, who took third on the evening as Dale Appleby and Jason White placed fifth and sixth.

The result leaves Rapha Condor Sharp and Endura Racing clear at the top, but behind a fierce battle for the final top three spot is underway as Sigma Sport – Specialized and Motorpoint remain neck-and-neck on 29 points, with positions five to nine in the table separated by just four points.

While the 2011 title looks to at last be heading to the men in black after two seasons of disappointment, there’s still all to play for in the table as The Halfords Tour Series nears the finishing stretch.

Rider Reactions

Reactions from Endura Racing including winner Scott Thwaites and director sportif Julian winn – click here

Jeroen Janssen (Raleigh) “It has been a big aim to get on the podium and last week I won the sprints but didn’t get the chance but today, I have the jersey to show the crowd so that was good. I went out there today to get some points to show that I would like this jersey and I’d really like to get it.”

“For the first sprint, I was really up for it and was fourth down at the bottom corner but it was just so fast I got swamped and didn’t get any points so it was a nice surprise to be presented with the jersey on the podium. It was the fastest race of this year tonight. I saw 44 k average on the speedo on this hard course and I think that is why a break never got away because it was flat out all the time.”

Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp) “I have just been speaking to Mick Bennett, the race director  and he said it was one of the fastest crits he has seen for years. We have the orange jerseys and have won five out of five which is awesome.”

“Everyone took it to us tonight which made for an awesome race and we had to follow everything. We guys in moves all the time and when Paul Voss (Endura Racing) attacked at the end, Jimmy Mac did some work on the front and then Magnus Backstedt took it up for his team (UK Youth).”

“Myself and Briggsy were near the front and so was Thwaitesy and Wilko and then on the last corner, it got a bit tight and I had to ease off the gas a bit on the inside of Wilko. Scott Thwaites then got the gap and he managed to hold on”.

“I had a lot better race here tonight than I did last year though. I felt terrible last year and was hanging on the back but tonight I felt pretty good so I’m happy with the team result. A pity we didn’t get a clean sweep but you can’t win then all”.

Highlights of Round Five from Stoke-on-Trent will be shown on ITV4 at 20.00 on Wednesday 8th June, with a repeat on Thursday 9th June at 11.00

Round Six of The Halfords Tour Series takes place in Oldham on Thursday 9th June, alongside the third round of the Johnson Health Tech Women’s Grand Prix Series.

With three riders in the top 10 yet again, Rapha dominated the team prize and extended their ead over second placed overall Endura Racing who were fourth on the night.

More Photos: Photos from Marc John

Link: Halfords Tour Series in Peterborough

Link: Tour Series Interviews at Colchester | Halfords Tour Series Colchester Report

1. Scott Thwaites, Endura Racing
2. Dean Downing, Rapha Condor Sharp
3. Ggaham Briggs, Rapha Condor Sharp
4. Ian Bibby, Motorpoint
5. Dale Appleby, Cycle Premier Metaltek
6. Jason White, Cycle Premier Metaltek
7. Ian Wilkinson, Endura Racing
8. Dean Windsor, Rapha Condor Sharp
9. Tom Murray, Sigma Sport Specialized
10. Jonny McEvoy, Motorpoint

1. Rapha Condor Sharp
2. Motorpoint
3. Cycle Premier Metaltek
4. Endura Racing
5. UK Youth
6. Sigma Sport Specialized
7. Twenty3C-Orbea
8. Raleigh
9. Pendragon Le Col COlango
10. Wilier Selfgodrive

Team Standings, after Round Five
1 Rapha Condor Sharp                            50pts
2 Endura Racing                                     41pts
3 Motorpoint Pro Cycling                        29pts
4 Sigma Sport – Specialized                    29pts
5 Team UK Youth                                    26pts
6 Team Raleigh                                       25pts
7 Pendragon Le Col Colnago                  23pts
8 Twenty3c Orbea                                   23pts
9 Metaltek                  22pts
10 Wilier                        7pts

Boardman Bikes Sprints standings, after Round Five
1 Kristian House             Rapha Condor Sharp                27pts
2 Marcel Six                    Twenty3c Orbea                       18pts
3 Jeroen Janssen            Team Raleigh                           14pts

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