Elite Circuit Series: Stafford Grand Prix

The second round of the Elite Circuit Series was won by Graham Briggs (Raleigh-GAC) who out sprinted Rico Rogers (Node 4) after a race long break by the pair.

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In conditions which made the racing almost farcical on the paving stones due to how slippery the conditions were, the break for freedom from Briggs came right at the start of the race. It was a text book move by Briggs who knew that if he could get a gap, it was going to be almost impossible for the others to ride faster than him round the slippery bends to close the gap.

Graham Briggs sprints all the way to the line to  win the Stafford GP ahead of Rico Rogers.

The only rider to get up to Briggs was Rico Rogers of Node 4 who are based in nearby Stone. It took the New Zealander, more at home winning bunch kicks than race long breaks, a few laps to get across to the Raleigh rider, but once together, they were never in danger of being caught.

With two of the major teams represented up front, it was left to the team that dominated this race the year before, Rapha Condor Sharp (RCS) to chase them down.

This they did their best to do with numbers up front and the pace they were setting certainly split the field into smaller groups but a crash to Ben Grenda in the closing laps and Dean Downing having to slow with breathing difficulties, their challenge fell apart and Node 4 took full advantage. Matt Cronshaw, who is no stranger to the podium this year, getting past the Rapha riders to take third and get a second rider from Node 4 on the podium.

Try as they may, the RCS train, led here by two Aussies, Ben Grenda and Richard Lang, could not bring the duo out front back.

The battle for the victory though came down to the winner of Round 1, Graham Briggs and his breakaway companion Rico Rogers, a battle which got a bit dicy on that last lap on a circuit with a lot of hazards ready to catch a foolhardy rider out. Both riders survived that final lap though and down the finish straight, hugging the barriers, Graham Briggs sped across the line, a length or so ahead of Rogers to make it two from two and increase his lead in the series.

After the race came the usual shower of champagne on the podium

Rider Reactions:

Graham Briggs (Raleigh GAC): “When I was warming up, the cobble stones were really slippery so the best place to be is at the front. I just went hard the first lap and got a gap and then I saw some one from Node4 coming across and thought that will work well.”

“I thought it was Cronshaw at first and was a bit concerned when I saw it was Rico (Rogers). On that last lap it was about who has the biggest balls basically. The last corner had three grates coming into the corner and one on the exit so it was really sketchy that bit but I do like it when its wet.”

“The aim is to just go out and win races after not winning the nationals. I know Endura aren’t here but it’s nice to win stuff. I would have preferred the circuit we had here last year but it was still a good circuit. After having had a holiday last week, the legs were hurting a bit but I knew the best place for them to hurt was at the front so I took it on and I’m happy”.

 Graham Briggs leads Rico Rogers into one of the tight and slippery bends on the circuit that saw a number of crashes.

Oli Beckingsale (Endura Racing): I tried to gets elected for the Olympic Games in mountain biking after being injured and it was just too much too soon. I started to come into form for the qualification races in June and everything was done by May and we only have one spot for the Games for mountain biking which Liam (Killeen) took and rightly so, so I’ve had a change of tact.”

“I’m just racing now domestically for the rest of the year, not running round the world as I’m done with that now for a while. The nationals is on the flat so I’m doing something good for Endura on the weekends but also try and get some power in these stick legs. The MTB nationals are in two weeks. I’m enjoying it, doing a bit more road, bit of mountain biking, bit of cross in the winter and hopefully I’ll still be with Endura next year and carry on in the same vein.”

“I enjoyed helping out the road guys last week, it was good training but I also felt I did a decent job for the team and Endura. The effort tonight is not to dissimilar to a mountain bike race. For me this is like poor mans motor pacing! Come here and sit behind Rapha going balls out and getting some speed in the legs.”

Bernie Sulzberger of Australia (Raleigh GAC) signs on in front of the crowd at the start.

Rico Rogers (Node 4 Giordana): “Graham rode well and it was a tough sprint and tough break. I kind of just went after him to warm my legs up and I didn’t really think it was going to come to much and wasn’t all that keen on being out there all night. I’ve been training hard recently and was pretty confident I could push hard the whole time. We worked really well together which was nice.”

After Hugh Porter called Graham Briggs, ‘Dave’ on the podium at sign on, Briggs and Dean Downing share a joke about it on the start line — Dean — meet ‘Dave Briggs’

Matt Cronshaw (Node 4 Giordana): If there was an award for the most consistent rider on a podium, the Node 4 rider would be in with a shout. As Matt pointed out though, there isn’t such an award and in a way it was a win for him having a teammate up the road and he did the next best thing and that was win the kick for third. “It was hard out there. Rapha were riding hard but there isn’t the space on this circuit to work together properly. It was a bit hectic and the gap was coming down at the finish and it was difficult to know what to do as I didn’t fancy a wet sprint.”

“I tried to move up with a lap and half to go down the back and Dean (Downing) saw me coming and I went round the corner on the inside. After that, Dean rode the last lap really hard and I just managed to get in front of him on the last corner and in the end it was quite straight forward.”

Tom Murray (IG Sigma Sport) comes to grief after a rider falls in front of him on the slippery paving stones.

Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp) “the team rode fantastic tonight. It was a shame we missed the move. On tight circuits like this it goes from the gun and the corners were damp and Briggsy and Rico got a gap straight away and held it. We had them pegged at 10/15 seconds and then we brought it back so it was really close and then it started to rain hard and it went out again.”

“Everyone was catching lapped riders too and getting held up as well and then at the finish, all the riders who had been sat behind us got frisky and it was a tough sprint for third. I went into the last corner second wheel behind Matt and was 7th. I had a bit of an attack at the finish, asthma attack or something like that, not sure what is going on. It freaked me out actually but Jimmy Mac was good enough to calm me down as I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t breathe.”

“I need to see the doctor and see what was going on.”

“At the end, I knew the guys who’d been sat in were going to want to make the podium so I went into the right hander first and Matt was on my wheel and I’m not sure what happened but Ben (Grenda) crashed.”

“There is a lot at stake racing these crits for us. When the rain came down, it was really really slippery but that is the nature of circuit racing, you have to race in all weathers. It was good when we were in the line chasing them, that everybody held position and no crazy manoeuvres from other teams to get in between us. The group got whittled down though as we were going quite quick round the corners.”

Kristian House, still recovering from a fall at Otley a few weeks ago, gives his young teammate, first year senior Luke Grivell-Mellor some advice on crit racing at Stafford.

This is Oli Beckingsale’s (Endura) way of preparing for the MTB Nationals by getting a kicking on the road. 

Dean Downing was not a well boy in the crit and despite being unable to breathe at one point, still managed 7th on the night.

Result — provisional due to teams using riders not on the start list and lots of riders being lapped

1. Graham Briggs, Raleigh GAC
2. Rico Rogers, Node 4 Giordana
3. Matt Cronshaw, Node 4 Giordana @ 6 seconds
4. Daniel Holloway, Raleigh GAC
5. Tobyn Horton, Raleigh GAC
6. Marcel Six, Scott Metaltek
7. Dean Downing, Rapha Condor Sharp
8. Matt Holmes, Raleigh GAC
9. Bernie Sulzberger, Raleigh GAC
10. Oli Beckinsgale, Endura
11. James McCallum, Rapha Condor Sharp
12. Jroen Janssen, Raleigh GAC
13. Tom Barrass, Metaltek Scott
14. Dave Collins, Hope Factory Racing
15. Jake Hales, IG Sigma Sport
16. Luke Grivell-Mellor, Rapha Condor Sharp
17. Blair Windsor, Cycle Premier Kovert
18. Ben Grenda, Rapha Condor Sharp
19. Russell Falder, Cycle Premier Kovert
20.Simon Holt, Raleigh GAC

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