Team News: Success for British team

Early season UCI success for Brother NRG DriverPlan in Morocco with a second for Jacob Tipper and five other top tens

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Team News: Success for British team

With a podium finish (2nd) and five other top-10 finishes against tough International opposition, the six UCI-1.2 road races through a hot and desolate landscape including the Sahara Desert provided a challenging opening to the 2017 season.

The team consisted of Richard Haughton, Robert Orr, Richard Jones, Jack Taylor, Robert Smail and Jacob Tipper, with backing from their Irish support team of Sean McNicholl (DS) from SMN Service Course plus Peter McBride (Mechanic).

The series of races saw transfers on military ‘Hurricane’ aeroplanes, lunches in the Sahara Desert in presence of Princes (where the team sampled the traditional Saharan dish of camel meat), and competition against a variety of teams from those that regularly compete in .HC UCI races, to national teams such as the Moroccan and Canadian national teams.

The experience of such an interesting and dynamic collection of races is priceless to the teams of six riders competing, and will be invaluable when Brother NRG DriverPlan return in April for the ten day Tour du Maroc.

Race one was the ‘GP Sakia el Hamra’, a 160km race in stifling heat and with fast and furious racing from the gun it caused instant fractures within the peloton due to the hard cross winds encountered across the baron landscape. After missing the initial split Richard Haughton sprinted in to take the bunch kick for 12th in the British Masters Road Race Champions first ever UCI race! The average speed of this stage was a rocketing 32mph!

‘GP Oued Eddahab’ was the next race and most successful of the teams campaign, with three riders in Robert Smail, Richard Haughton and Jacob Tipper all making the front selection of 15 riders after Rob Orr punched Tipper and Haughton across to front echelon at the decisive moment as the race was fragmenting due to the crosswinds.

The break fractured in the final run in with former Pro Conti rider Ivan Balykin of ‘Torku Sekerspor’ just holding off the break for the win as Jacob Tipper sprinted in for 2nd just ahead of former European Omnium champion Ahmet Orken (also of Torku Sekerspor). Tipper’s result came following a lead out from Richard Haughton and Rob Smail who finished 6th and 12th respectively.

The third race was ‘GP al Massira’ which followed a very similar pattern to the day before with both Robert Smail and Richard Haughton again making the front selection. However on the run in Rob Smail narrowly avoided crashing in the battle for position losing contact with the group as a result, and so during the closing stages this left Richard Haughton a little short handed against a strong Moroccan lead out though he still finished a superb 6th behind eventual winner Orken of ‘Torku Sekerspor’, with Smail rolling in 14th.

The teams second military plane transfer of the series of races saw them head further north from the town of Laayoune back near to Agadir and a few rest days in the ancient market town of Taroudant, which allowed ample time for the team to recover before the final three races. The ‘Challenge du Prince’ series of races all finished alongside the 2000 year old town walls, under the grandstand provided for the Prince of Morocco to attend.

Race four – ‘Trophee Princier’ – was again a hotly contested affair with the opening 20 minutes averaging 33.3 MPH! Tipper was the sole representative in the 16 man move of the day, which unfortunately left him vulnerable to the Moroccans in the move (eight in total across several teams, all effectively working as one unit). After a flurry of attacks four riders escaped including eventual winner Thomas Vaubourzeix of Nice Pro Cycling. Whilst the winning move was established ahead, the rest of the initial break was caught by by chase group with 5km to go including Robert Smail and Richard Haughton, who sprinted to 15th on the stage.

Wet and cold weather struck for the penultimate race ‘Trophee de l’Anniversaire’ which took part over an 18lap 7km circuit around the town of Taroudant. Kitted out with their new Santini Reef water repellent jerseys the lads relished the tough conditions in the opening laps, and with waves of attacks after attacks the race was ripped down to just 30 riders.

At this point the team suffered a few unfortunately timed punctures due to the debris on the road from such heavy rain; the chase back on together with the efforts of an over enthusiastic start to the race saw the lads miss the key move of the day. Fellow Brit abroad Charlie Meredith however, racing for the French Team VC Toucy, rode a fantastic and strong race resulting in a podium finish with a very creditable 3rd place – this as he starts his promising career fresh out of the junior ranks shows he is “one to watch” for the future!!

‘Trophee de la Maison Royale’ was the final day of racing and saw the first bunch kick of the year at the series of races. Jack Taylor, Richard Jones and Rob Orr continued their weeks hard work constantly following moves and protecting the teams riders throughout the stage. In the closing kilometres the team took up the race attempting a lead out for Haughton and Tipper while also trying to close down the last couple of break away riders.
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A fierce headwind combined with this being the first time the team had ridden together in this manner saw the leadout finish a little under a kilometre short of the line, leaving Tipper and Haughton needing to surf off other trains before hitting out in the sprint, finishing up 9th and 10th respectively.

The races have been a great learning curve for the team both as a whole and as individuals as the squad hopes to transform into a unit that can consistently perform at the top of UCI .2 category events, whilst also setting the riders up for the opening Elite Road Series which starts local to the teams origins in the North East of England.

All the riders would like to say a massive thanks to Sean McNicholl of SMN Service Course and Peter McBride for their hard work and terrible banter throughout the campaign, and of course thank the sponsors; Brother, NRG Cycles plus NRG Global Power, DriverPlan, HIGH5 Nutrition, Bliz Eyewear, ZyroFisher, Santini, Giro, Prime Components, KITBRIX, Grandaddy and Continental Tyres, all of whom make the racing happen!!



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