Interview: Alex Blain conquers Essex challenges

VeloUK talks to Alex Blain from Nice about his win in the Maldon Dengie Tour on Sunday

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RELATED LINK: Maldon Dengie Tour race report in Pictures

After four hours on the back of a motorbike (thanks to Graham Harper), watching the moves come and go and the contenders for the victory cross swords on the farm tracks of Essex, Alex Blain was the strongest rider there. Certainly in the front group.

Alex Blain explains to soigneur from Endura Racing (Ben) where to be with wheels. It was to be useful as he punctured early on.

Both him and Ian Wilkinson were on the go at the front from start to finish and while there were many other riders whose performances stand out (Sam Harrison, Chris Opie, Evan Oliphant, Ben Grenda, Owain Doull, etc etc), the day belonged to Frenchman Alex Blain and his team Endura Racing.

Last year it was Rapha who took control of the race and made the others dance to their tune, this year, for the most part, it was Endura Racing with Rapha early on also getting in on the fun of trying to split the race up. From the word go, they and Endura Racing were at the front even if they weren’t the ones making the attacks. See VeloUK’s exclusive photo report of the race to see how who was chancing their legs early on.

Dust storm and Alex drives it on the final sectors to reduce the numbers in the group.

When the race hit the farm tracks though, Endura Racing were the ones pictured at the front trying to cause splits (which they did) on narrow exposed lanes with little wind or on the gravel. VeloUK spoke to a lot of riders after the race so a lot more to come from riders and their after race stories.

The man in the spotlight though was Alex Blain. “Hard, really tactical” was Alex ‘s response when asked by the local reporter, ‘you’ve come all the way here for this… how was it?’ Alex replied “I know that Endura Racing have a really good team. We are ranked number 1 in Europe Tour so we must prove that in the team’s homeland, we must dominate the race and I think everyone was waiting for us to do it today.”

The gravel sector on the circuit. Standing by the side of the track, you could hear tyres give out or which riders were riding on rims.  Alex leads again …

“It was hard because we had pressure on our shoulders, we must do the job. We had two in the front and Ian told me he wasn’t on a very good day (you were Ian!) and I felt really good. I ask him to work a bit more so he did that really well. I tried to force it on the sectors but sometimes it wasn’t enough so we were attacking a lot on the road and I asked Ian to cover it when the race was on fire.”

“He did a really really good job and before the last two sectors, he went away on his own and he forced the others to work behind so that was perfect for me. I sit in the wheels and wait for moment to come back to the front. Into the last sector, Wilko was maintaining a good temp and then I give it everything and then there were only five of us.”

“Then it was really tactical. I lost a race in Belgium like this in the sprint and I did not want to do that today. It is really important for Endura Racing to prove we can also win in the UK. Like last year were really strong in UCI and this year also, but sometimes in the UK when you have that pressure and a lot of good teams, it is hard to come back here and win. For the first Premier Calendar it is nice to do it.”

A race like this can be down to luck as well and Alex didn’t have it all his own way, puncturing early on but with good team support having spare wheels close by, and Rob Partridge to pace him back to help him save some energy for the finale, Alex got back which he says was easier early on.

Victory! Ben Grenda second and Matt Cronshaw third. Another of the races strong men, Simon Richardson fifth. He’d been in a break with Blain in the closing ten miles. See the picture report for the images of it

“Since the first race all the job we did for JT, (Jon Locke), for his two impressive victories, we are really motivated and close group. Everybody work for each other and when I tell them I feel very good today … I am a fan of this type of race, a bit more hard with more sectors and so it was a race for me originally so when they see I had really good legs, they help me.”

The win though was never certain for Endura Racing. At one point they were outnumbered by quality riders. UK Youth had numbers in the lead group, so did Node 4 and the GB Academy. Each sector would see riders puncture though. I watched helpless as Marcel Six was left looking for a spare when he punctured and he’s a fast sprinter.

Matt Cronshaw as well is fast but he had his teamcar there. So when it came down to the five, with the likes of the unknown Ben Grenda as well in his first British race, the win was never assured.

But Alex Blain, a seasoned professional, played it cool and calculated and came out on top. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast sprint after 160 kilometres on these roads. It is just power and energy left in your legs for the sprint. I know I am a power sprinter and train a lot for sprint in strength and so I wait for some one to lead and when the rider from Node 4 went (Matt Cronshaw), I felt it was a long way to go, so like a track sprinter, I come back and pass on strength.”

“I was a little bit cramping but I think everyone was the same but I think it was the same for everyone so I force it to the line. It was a good finish for me and after all the work by the team, there was a lot of motivation to win it.”


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