Blythe wins battle of the Brits at RideLondon-Surrrey Classic

BB1_5504
Adam Blythe won a battle of the Brits to win the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic in central London today beating his old friend and sparring partner Ben Swift in a dramatic sprint finish on The Mall.
The two Sheffield-born cyclists were part of a five-strong group that screamed up Whitehall and under Admiralty Arch after 200 kilometres of hard racing over the wet and muddy roads of the Surrey Hills.
Team Cannondale’s Slovenian rider Kristijan Koren led them up The Mall with the finish line and Buckingham Palace in the distance. But Blythe launched his attack with 50 metres to go, surprising Swift, Team Sky’s pre-race favourite, to take a hard-earned victory for the unfancied NFTO Procycling team.
Blythe threw his arms in the air as he crossed the line, a roar of triumph breaking out from his mud-spattered face.
“It’s hard to say how much this means to me,” said Blythe afterwards. “But you could see how emotional it was as my face said it all.”
“OK, it’s not like I won the worlds or anything, but this is very big race for a British rider to win, especially in this setting in front of the Queen’s house. I hope she was watching.”
Swift was one the race favourites and appeared to be in a perfect position to show his famed finishing speed after five Sky teammates, including 2012 Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, had worked hard in the middle part of the race to get him into a breakaway group.
“It would have been nice to have won but I am really happy with second,” said Swift. “I’ve known Adam since I was seven years old and we’ve got a lot of history, so I knew he was the one to watch.”
“I knew I needed to keep an eye on him and I could see he was looking for me on the run-in. I tried to react to his move but he’s a really fast sprinter and once he got the jump on me he was away.”
Koren’s challenge faded as the two Britons raced away and Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe took third for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step ahead of Philippe Gilbert, Belgium’s former world champion from the BMC Racing Team.
Seventy kilometres earlier it was Gilbert who had made the decisive move of the race on the approach to Box Hill.
There had been a number of early attacks from the 147-man field as the riders set off under the welcome warming sun, which had moved in to replace the morning deluge.
The first significant break came in Richmond Park after 13km when six riders got away and established a gap of just over a minute, an advantage they held through the early stretches out into Surrey’s narrow country roads, many of them still smeared with rain wash.

Wiggins and teammate Ian Stannard did much of the work as Sky took control of the peloton, their intention to close the gap and get Swift into contention for any later break. The plan worked perfectly, and when Gilbert made his move, Swift was one of 10 men who leapt to his wheel.

As Sky stepped off the gas, Cannondale were forced to do the bulk of the work at the front of the chasing group as they tried to get their sprinter Elia Viviani back in touch. But with less 50km to go the leading 11 had stretched their gap to more than a minute and it began to look as if they would never be caught.
They charged down Headley Heath and into Leatherhead, Gilbert and Swift keeping the pressure on at the front. Then Gilbert attacked again between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, splitting the group and dragging five clear of the rest.
The Belgian appeared to be on a mission to win with a long run for home and another kick briefly took him and Alaphilippe away from Swift and Blythe with Koren in tow behind.
But the trio closed the gap by the time they reached Putney High Street and it was five riders who crossed Putney Bridge for the run alongside the River Thames towards Westminster.
At this point it looked like anyone’s race, though the smart money was on Swift. Blythe had other ideas, however, and he timed his final push to perfection.
“In the last kilometre I knew I had plenty in the tank,” he said afterwards. “I just wanted to make sure I got everything out and didn’t leave it too late to make my move.”
“I knew that if I was close to Swifty I’d have a chance. I hugged close to the barriers and had a go. Now I feel like I can mix it with the big boys.”
Two of the early breakaway riders won the day’s other honours. Steve Lampier of Node4 Velosure made it a great day for British cycling by claiming the King of the Mountains title, while Dutchman Steven Lammertink, Team Giant-Shimano’s stagiaire, won the sprint contest.
It was Blythe, however, who won the most important sprint of the day.

Austria’s Ablinger wins again in RideLondon HandCycle Classic

SH1_3367_1
Austria’s Ablinger wins again in Prudential RideLondon HandCycle Classic
Walter Ablinger continued a remarkable series of victories in the UK capital when he won the Prudential RideLondon HandCycle Classic on The Mall this morning 12 months after becoming the event’s first ever handcycle champion in last year’s criterium race.

The Austrian, who won Paralympic gold in London two years ago, today left the world’s best riders floundering in his wake as he sped over the 15-mile course from Kingston upon Thames to central London in less than 40 minutes.

 

Prudential RideLondon 2014

Walter Ablinger

“I’m so happy to win again because that was a tough race,” said the victorious Ablinger after crossing the line in 39 minutes 19 seconds. “After the Paralympics in London and the world championships, London seems to be a good place for me.”

“This is my third race here since the Paralympics and I’ve won them all. I wish I could race here every week. Perhaps I should emigrate here.”

A minute and a half behind the flying Austrian was Britain’s Brian Alldis, last year’s runner-up, who was forced to settle for second again when Ablinger opened an unbridgeable gap on a downhill stretch after eight miles.

“It was a long course and there were some tricky climbs, which I hadn’t expected,” said Ablinger, who arrived in rainy London from sunny Spain just one day before the race. “Brian and I worked together well in the first half, then I lost him going down hill and tried to do the last eight miles by myself.”

“I kept my speed high to the end and am really happy to win here again. I didn’t think I could go on my own, so it was a surprise to pull away.”

Alldis had trouble with rain on his racing glasses but held on to second after a sprint finish with Switzerland’s three-times Paralympic champion Heinz Frei.

“I’m a bit disappointed, to be honest, because I was planning to be on top of the podium this year,” said Alldis, who won this year’s Para-cycling World Cup.

“But with such a strong rider I have to happy with second. It’s no wonder he’s world champion in his class. He rode away from me so easily.”

“I will definitely do it again next year and go for top spot. Let’s hope it’s third time lucky.”

Fellow Briton Karen Darke was an emotional winner of the women’s race ahead of Switzerland’s Sandra Graf just a year after being involved in a career-threatening accident with a car.

Darke pulled away from the Paralympic and world champion around the 10-mile point and cruised under the finish gantry in The Mall in 45:52, 40 seconds ahead of her chaser.

Prudential RideLondon 2014

Karen Darke

“Two months before last year’s race I was hit by a car and I limped around the course wondering if I’d ever be able to race properly again.”

“It’s so lovely to be back and to be able to win in this way. I feel very lucky.”

“I’ve not been going that well in road races,” added Darke, who won Paralympic bronze at London 2012. “But this is a really good course with a few wicked hills. I’ve got the worlds in three weeks time so it gives me great confidence for those.”

“The rain today was no trouble at all. I live in Inverness, so this is nothing.”

Another Briton, Jennifer Browning, was third, nearly seven minutes behind Graf.

 

 

 

Lancashire Hills with Lucy Martin

Lucy Martin Reaching Summit of Shayley Brow Training for 2012 Lotto-Decca Tour – © Paul Francis Cooper

 

On the first Sunday of the London Olympic Games, years of anticipation, hope and preparation came to fruition for Lucy Martin. As a member of Great Britain’s Women’s Olympic Road Race team, with Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke, she gave her all on a treacherous, rain soaked, Box Hill Circuit, delivering a well orchestrated plan to help the team’s fourth member, Lizzie Armitstead, to take silver on the Mall and Great Britain’s first medal of the Games.

 

In so doing, she became the second cycling Olympian from her hometown of Widnes, Cheshire, since John Geddes secured bronze on the Melbourne track as part of a GB team pursuit team, which included Mike Gambrill, Don Burgess and nineteen-year old Tom Simpson in the 1956 Olympics.

 

Representing her country in the home Olympics marks the highest point so far in Martin’s cycling career, which started when she was fifteen years old, her potential spotted by British Cycling’s talent identification team on a visit to her secondary school. Although she had competed as a club swimmer and school runner, she had never before been involved in cycling, and, doubting that she could meet British Cycling requirements, almost missed the vital assessment session because of a timetable clash with another subject.

 

Recruited into the junior talent development team, she joined the Olympic Development Programme after winning the National Junior Road Race Championship in 2008.

 

Now an established professional women’s road racer based in Girona, Spain, with what she describes as the dream-like experience of taking part in the home Olympics behind her, she is very aware that the time is right to focus on new athletic and career targets.

Image © Paul Francis Cooper

 

I joined her on Lancashire’s lanes whilst she was out on a training ride in preparation for last weekend’s Belgian three-day stage race, the Lotto-Decca Tour. And she told me. “My three-weeks in the Olympic village were amazing – I had to pinch myself as I rubbed shoulders with the world’s greatest, like Usain Bolt. The crowds and excitement of the road race, and Lizzie winning the medal will stay with me forever. But coming home to my family in Widnes has been a really welcome chance to calm down and plan for the future.”

 

The third stage of the Lotto-Decca Tour involves two ascents of the Kapelmur Cobble, infamous as a regular feature in the Tour of Flanders. And Lucy’s training session took in an impressively fast ascent of Billinge’s Shayley Brow, which, with its 14% maximum gradient, is also a regular lung-tester for St Helens pro-rider Jonny McEvoy (Endura Racing) and Liverpool’s Mark McNally (An Post Sean-Kelly), regular winter training partners of Lucy when the three friends are home from racing and training abroad.

 

And her work on Shayley Brow went to good use in the tough final stage of the Lotto-Decca on Monday. Chasing an early break, she pulled hard at the front of the bunch for much of the stage, providing strong support for her team’s sprinter, Holland’s Kirsten Wild, who narrowly missed a podium placing with a bravely contested, but frustrating, fourth general classification position.

 

In career terms, Lucy’s next major target is to negotiate a new professional contract, having learned recently that her current team, AA Drinks-Leontein.nl, (which also includes  Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley and GB National Road Race winner, Sharon Laws on its team-list) will lose its sponsor at the end of the season.

 

Eyeing a number of options for 2013, she is hoping for greater interest in women’s cycling and the personal opportunity to switch from her current, mainly support, position to a team role in which she will be able to chase her own podium places more regularly.

 

 

 

X