Battle for Britain reaches crunch time

Pedal Heaven’s bid to race the Tour of Britain will reach crunch time at the Grand Prix of Wales on Sunday (11am).

The 113-mile battle is the focal point of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling and represents the third round of British Cycling’s Motorpoint Grand Prix Series.

It also doubles as the penultimate scoring event in the battle for a place at the eight-day Tour of Britain, which begins on Sunday, September 4.

With some of the World Tour’s biggest teams set to race, organisers SweetSpot only have room for four of the six British UCI Continental outfits.

Owain Doull’s third place in the general classification last season has earned Team Wiggins an automatic return to the event.

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That has left Pedal Heaven to fight it out with Madison Genesis, JLT Condor, NFTO and Team Raleigh for the final three spots.

The ranking events kicked off with the Chorley Grand Prix in March – the opening round of the Motorpoint Spring Cup series.

And they have included Rutland-Melton, Velothon Wales, the Pearl Izumi Tour Series and the British Road Road Championships along the way.

With consistent results throughout the campaign, Madison Genesis are expected to be confirmed as starters for the Tour of Britain.

However, Pedal Heaven remain firmly in the mix for one of the other two places. The final points are on offer at the RideLondon-Surrey Classic but Sunday’s contest will go a long way to settling the battle.

Directeur sportif Tim Elverson will name a strong squad for the Grand Prix of Wales and he insists the team are doing everything in their power to make the Tour of Britain start line in Glasgow.

He said: ‘I am happy with how everything is going right now. I would like to be in a better position for the Tour of Britain but it’s tough and we are doing the best we can.

‘We refuse to sit in and just ride to the possibilities. We want to get on and race, which is all we can do and I think a lot of people appreciate that is how we approach it.

‘It is good. It’s going well and it is all to play for. I would say we are in a battle for the second and third spots.

‘It was never going to be easy. We can only do the best we can in every race and I feel we have done that so far.

‘We missed out a little on the nationals with how well Dexter rode. He was brilliant and I thought he deserved so much more than 11th. But we are going well.’

British time trial runner-up James Gullen, Ryedale Grand Prix second Jack Pullar, record-breaking Tour of the Reservoir winner Joe Fry and Cycle Wiltshire runner-up Will Fox are pencilled in to race alongside Gardias on Sunday.

Max Stedman, who was seventh in Velothon Wales, and Chepstow Grand Prix one-two Harry Tanfield and Alex Paton complete the provisional Pedal Heaven line-up.

The Grand Prix of Wales sets out from Llanellen and includes three ascents of the 1km Grosmont climb, with its average gradient of almost eight per cent, before finishing in Abergavenny.

Tanfield toasts Chepstow triumph

Harry Tanfield thanked the Chepstow crowd after powering to his maiden British Cycling Elite Circuit Series success.

In a stunning show of strength, the 21-year-old and team-mate Alex Paton surged clear of the field to take a brilliant one-two for Pedal Heaven.

Roared on by a big crowd, Tanfield kicked things off when he took advantage of a move by Team Raleigh to break away on the second lap.

And as he saw the race splitting up behind him, the Teesside University talent was delighted to see Paton emerge from the wreckage.

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Tanfield, who finished ninth on stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire last season and third at Rutland-Melton, told British Cycling: ‘Raleigh got on the front early on and started ramming it and I got on with them. Next thing I knew they were getting blown out of the back and I was on my own.

‘I thought Liam (Stones, NFTO) was going to come with me but he got dropped on the descent so I just kept riding and hoping a group would come across.

‘I could see there was a group chasing and it was in pieces. I heard Alex behind and he told me to keep going. He got my wheel and next thing we were doing a two-up.

‘The support in Chepstow was great, fantastic noise and a good atmosphere. Now we’ve just got to get rested up for Abergavenny on Friday.’

JLT Condor’s Steve Lampier attempted in vain to bridge the gap to the tireless Paton and Tanfield at the head of the race.

Meanwhile, Max Stedman sprinted to fifth spot to complete a fine night for Pedal Heaven ahead of round six tomorrow night and the Wales Grand Prix on Sunday.

Talking to VeloUK, Paton said: ‘It was a great start to the Welsh week. There are no complaints from us, that’s for sure.

‘It worked well. The way the pair of us would ride this circuit, being pretty big guys, is very similar and it made our progress really smooth. We rode really well together and I think that was the key.

‘It has been a bit of a slower season than I would have hoped, for myself. But it is good to be in the mix now and the team as a whole has been great.

‘We have got a real strength in depth. Every week we run different guys and every week we race hard. I’m happy for everyone in the team. It is going well.’

Tanfield is fourth in the series but has closed the gap on the leading trio, who are headed by Madison Genesis rider Felix English.

National heroes in Ryedale squad

Tim Elverson is preparing to unleash his climbers on the Ryedale Grand Prix on Sunday (2pm).

And among his eight-strong squad in Ampleforth will be James Gullen, Max Stedman and Dexter Gardias, who all starred at the British Road Championships in Stockton-on-Tees a fortnight ago.

Gullen finished second to Alex Dowsett in the national time trial after delivering what Elverson has described as a ‘world class’ performance.

Gardias was 11th in the road race, while Stedman’s 21st place translated to seventh position in the under-23 standings.

The stunning displays filled Elverson with pride and gave him huge encouragement ahead of the second round of the Motorpoint Grand Prix Series.

Pedal Heaven’s directeur sportif said: ‘We had some great results at the nationals. It was great watching it from the car, I enjoyed it a lot.

‘Dex is doing a good job and he is a clever little rider. He was up the road all race and deserved an even better result.

‘Max is a class act. The Stockton circuit didn’t suit him but he just gets on and races and gets his results.

‘In three big races – the Velothon, Beaumont Trophy and the nationals – and he has finished pretty much top 20 in each one of them.

‘I am not overly surprised. He is a really, really good rider and he is unusual because while he is very small he does go along the flat very well.

‘He has had quite a good winter, a good run through his university exams and now we will use him as much as we can.

‘Velothon was a breakthrough ride for him but I believe he has better rides to come this year. It has definitely boosted his confidence.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 19/07/2015 - Cycling - British Cycling Elite Road Series - Ryedale Grand Prix - Ampleforth, England - Cyclists ride in the grounds of Ampleforth Abbey.

‘He has always known his ability but has possibly lacked a bit of confidence in big races. But after that ride, you can tell he believes he should be up there now.’

Gullen clocked 56min 54.083sec on the 46km course. His time was only beaten by Movistar’s Dowsett, who clinched his fifth national crown in a time of 55.38.052, and almost 58sec clear of third place.

Lloyd Chapman, who grabbed a superb fifth spot in the RideStaffs Kermesse – the opening round of the Motorpoint Grand Prix Series, was seventh in 59.36.073.

Elverson added: ‘Gullen was world class. To stay within two minutes of Dowsett, you have to be a world-class tester.

‘I don’t think it was unexpected. He had to be one of the favourites based on his form this year but you still have to deliver on the day.

‘He handled the pressure really well, rode well and I think he delivered a great performance. All you can do is your best on the day and he did that, for sure.

‘There were riders behind him who were a genuine threat, so the time he put into that group was really good.

‘It continues what has been a great season for him, with the Spring Cup and Ras. I’m really happy for him and hopefully there is more to come.’

Tour of the Reservoir winner Joe Fry, who was seventh in the national under-23 time trial, is also expected to tackle tomorrow’s 151km Ryedale Grand Prix, which features two significant climbs which may prove decisive.

 

Pedal Heaven eye Grand Prix glory

Tim Elverson is targeting a Motorpoint Grand Prix Series success as Pedal Heaven aim to press their claims for a place in the Tour of Britain.

And the director sportif believes he has plenty of cards to play when the action kicks off with the RideStaffs Kermesse tomorrow (6.30pm).

Jack Pullar, who notched three top-10 finishes in the five-round Motorpoint Spring Cup, and Landmarc Cycle Wiltshire Grand Prix runner-up Will Fox are among the eight men pencilled in for the 66km battle around Shugborough Park and Milford.

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Elverson is yet to confirm his final line-up for tomorrow’s contest but he is determined to get off to a fast start in the four-round championship.

The Pedal Heaven boss said: ‘We would like to win one of these and I think we have a real chance of doing so.

‘I think we have a strong squad, with plenty of options to win Stafford and give ourselves a good start to the Grand Prix Series.

‘It is a good circuit, which makes for a fast race. There are one or two places where you need to be careful but, ultimately, there is a high chance it will be a large group finish.

‘We will have that covered. I will pick a team which should be able to cope with both but hopefully we can be aggressive and get a breakaway because that is far more fun.

‘A couple of years ago a break stuck but last year it was fundamentally a bunch. So a break can go, if it is the right group.

‘But with the Tour of Britain points up for grabs, I think there are going to be a lot of tactics going on. It should be an exciting race.’

The first three rounds of the Grand Prix Series carry qualifying points for the Tour of Britain, with Pedal Heaven still in with a shout of contesting the eight-stage race in September.

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com - 16/08/2015 - Cycling Leicester Castle Classic Grand Prix - Elite Road Series copyright picture - Simon Wilkinson- simon@swpix.com

After tomorrow’s kermesse comes the Ryedale Grand Prix on Sunday, July 10 and the Grand Prix of Wales on Sunday, July 17.

Those two races are likely to favour the climbers in Elverson’s squad before the Leicester Castle Classic Kermesse brings the curtain down on the competition on Sunday, August 14.

The directeur sportif added: ‘We have rotated the squad quite well, so I think we should be fresh for this. We should be all right.

‘I will almost certainly run two quite different teams – one for the kermesse at the start and kermesse at the end, the other for the two races in the middle. They are different challenges.

‘Of the team which will be riding Stafford, I would think only one of them – or maybe two – will be doing Ryedale.

 

‘I will also be resting a couple, who will be obvious, in Stafford to hopefully get a bit more out of them at Ryedale.

‘It is a game because sometimes races go in a certain way and a different style of rider goes well, so you need a bit of a balance. But things are going well at the moment.’

Follow our Twitter page @pedalheavenrt or check out the #MPGrandPrix hashtag to get live updates from tomorrow night’s race.

Tonight the team will contest the RideStaffs Grand Prix, which is the second round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series. Both events are part of the Staffordshire Cycling Festival.

Elverson’s Tip for Elite success

Tim Elverson has picked out Jacob Tipper as one to watch in the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series, which begins tonight in Otley (8.30pm).

Eight rounds make up the competition, which climaxes in Colne on Tuesday, July 26 and was won last season by Jon Mould.

The Welshman, who has since switched from ONE Pro Cycling to JLT Condor, will once again be a hot favourite to take the crown.

But while Elverson will use the series as an opportunity to shuffle his pack, he is excited about the potential of his squad in the crit races.

Tipper will be joined by David McGowan, Jack Pullar, Harry Tanfield, Ian Wilkinson and Jake Womersley in Otley tonight, with Excel Academy riders Tom Mazzone and Will Harper also on the start sheet.

And Elverson will be looking for the team to pick up where they left off in the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, in which they won two rounds, clinched the points jersey and finished third overall.IMG_1895

Pedal Heaven’s directeur sportif said: ‘July is really busy. We want to continue our Tour Series form but because the Elite Circuit Series doesn’t carry qualifying points for the Tour of Britain, I will shuffle things a little.

‘The focus is on Stafford Kermesse, Ryedale GP and Wales GP, which are the first three of the Grand Prix Series. They have to be the priority now.

‘But in between, we have these crits which are a great for publicity, great racing and we will be sending out decent squads in an attempt to win them.

‘It makes sense to give other riders chances in races which are geographically closer to them. I am running a completely northern team tonight.

‘We should do well in these races. They are different to the Tour Series. They are normally a bit more flowy, fast and are often raced a little differently, which tends to create different results.

‘I think someone like Tipper will do really well in these, while I didn’t use him that much in the Tour Series. He has been going really well and hopefully he will be all good.’

Tipper arrives in Otley in good form following victory in the TMG Horizon Trophy and his maiden time trial triumph.

Those wins have come hot on the heels of second place behind Rory Townsend in the Bristol GP – as Pedal Heaven filled the first four positions – and runner-up to another team-mate, Tanfield, in Pontefract.

Following tonight’s contest, the Elite Circuit Series continues with the RideStaffs Grand Prix on Friday and tear-ups in Skipton and Beverley next Wednesday and Friday respectively.

The Chepstow Grand Prix takes place on Wednesday, July 13 before the Wales Open two days later and the penultimate contest in Sheffield on Wednesday, July 20.

Gullen confident of passing Ras exam

James Gullen has been doing his homework ahead of the An Post Ras.

But the 27-year-old, from Kippax in Yorkshire, has admitted a raft of unfamiliar rivals will pose some fresh questions during the eight-day battle for glory.

The 64th edition of the prestigious race gets under way with a 144.6km stage from Dublin Castle to Multyfarnham on Sunday.

Gullen, who finished 48th on general classification on his maiden visit to the race in 2012, has already been studying the route for this year’s scrap.

And he reckons it should suit the five-man Pedal Heaven team, which also features Tour of the Reservoir winner Joe Fry, Dexter Gardias, Lloyd Chapman and Harrison Jones.

However, he admits they know little of what to expect from their opponents from teams based in continental Europe.

Gullen, who finished second in the Motorpoint Spring Cup, said: ‘We have a really strong team going over and any one of us could do well in the overall.

‘I have had a good look at the route. Year on year it changes but this one does seem to be quite hilly, which should suit us.

‘I did it in 2012. It was quite a hilly route back then, too. Looking at the route profiles this season, we go over some pretty big passes and the last three or four days look really tough.

‘You obviously get the British UCI teams going over. But then you have teams from Germany, the Netherlands and the like, on top of all the county teams from Ireland.

‘When you enter a domestic race, you know so-and-so from Madison, or someone from JLT is going well and you look out for them.

‘But some of these German UCI teams could have riders just as good as us but you don’t know who they are.

‘That makes it harder to know what move to follow or who to mark. You could be on the best day ever but miss out on the key move because you don’t know the riders.CiA4ecVWUAALG3T

‘Then there are the local county teams. They race each day like it is just a national road race, they all want to be in the break, especially if it is going through their town or their county.

‘So they are just attacking all day, almost riding a different race to the teams who are going for the overall.

‘And because they have their own agenda, you can’t worry if three or four Irish guys are going full gas in the first 15km.

‘But you don’t want someone getting up the road with them who is dangerous in the overall because you won’t see them again.’

With 1,235km covered and 25 categorised climbs tackled in eight stages, the team’s powers of recovery will be tested to the limit.

But Gullen is confident his body will withstand the challenges the gruelling contest presents as he relishes his return to Ireland.

He added: ‘There are those people who may be good one day but three or four days in they are not the same rider.

‘Recovery is a big thing and that makes it a fascinating race. I’m sure I can last the pace for the whole eight days.

‘Everyone will tire. You can’t race like it is a Premier Calendar each day. But as long as you don’t tire any more as other people, that is the goal.’

Dexter proves quality ahead of Irish raid

He bounced back from disappointment in the Landmarc Cycle Wiltshire Grand Prix to notch a stunning fifth place in the Lincoln Grand Prix last weekend.

His performance on the Michaelgate cobbles capped a brilliant Motorpoint Spring Cup series, which included third spot in the Chorley Grand Prix and eighth overall in the Tour of the Reservoir.

Now Dexter Gardias is preparing to launch an Irish raid as he targets glory in the eight-stage An Post Ras, which begins in Dublin on Sunday.

And Pedal Heaven are confident he will show his class on the Emerald Isle, as the former ONE Pro Cycling man continues to flourish in his new surroundings.

Close pal and team-mate Will Fox said: ‘Dexter is proving how good he is. I just don’t understand why ONE Pro did not stick with him this season.

Manx GP - Credit Larry Hickmot

Manx GP – Credit Larry Hickmot

‘He has got loads of gas at the moment and his results have been a great response after leaving them.

‘For him, it just seems like now is the right time. He has been so good for so long, he has just had bad luck.

‘His quality has always been there. It was just a matter of when it was going to come through. You can’t hold him back for long.

‘He live half an hour down the road from me and it is just great to see him getting the results now. It is great for Pedal Heaven, too.’

The only blemish on Gardias’ record since joining Pedal Heaven was the Landmarc Cycle Wiltshire Grand Prix when he was forced to climb off because of illness.

Aside from that, the 25-year-old has only finished outside the top 10 four times in 15 outings for the UCI Continental outfit, with his lowest finishing position 19th in the Manx International.

It is a record which has delighted directeur sportif Tim Elverson, who reckons there is plenty more to come from his Oxford-based charge.

The Pedal Heaven chief said: ‘I’m ecstatic with how Dex is going. He is all round going really, really well.

‘I like his character and I like the way he races. He is a far more intelligent rider tactically than a lot of people give him credit for.

‘He is a really good balance for the team. He is a good all-rounder, which you need to be in the UK, and he is going as well as we had hoped.

‘He is not surprising us because we believe he is as good as this if not better. He is going really well and long may that continue.’

The eight-day An Post Ras gets under way at Dublin Castle on Sunday, with stage finishes in Multyfarnham, Charleville, Dingle, Sneem, Clonakilty, Dungarvan, Baltinglass before the finale in Skerries.

Joining Gardias in the Pedal Heaven team are Spring Cup runner-up James Gullen, Tour of the Reservoir champion Joe Fry, Lloyd Chapman and Harrison Jones.

They will cover a total of 1,235km, tackle 25 categorised climbs, including the category one Conor Pass, Ballaghisheen Pass and Mount Leinster, in what looks to be a challenging 64th edition of the race.

Fox salutes stunning support team

Will Fox has paid tribute to some of Pedal Heaven’s biggest supporters ahead of the inaugural Velothon Wales on Sunday (12.40pm).

The 27-year-old, from Banbury, has wasted no time in hitting top gear following a delayed start to his campaign.

After a handful of National B races, Fox blasted back on to the top tier of the domestic scene with second place in the Landmarc Cycle Wiltshire Grand Prix.

He has since bagged 15th, fourth and 19th in the opening three rounds of the Tour Series in Ramsey, Motherwell and Edinburgh respectively.

The second of those three was capped by the news he had clocked the fastest lap on the night, which earned him a well-deserved trip to the podium.

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Sandwiched within those superb crit results was another fine performance in the Lincoln Grand Prix as he crossed the line in 11th place.

It all adds up to a stunning start to the season for the former Loughborough University student but he admits he couldn’t have done it without some crucial support.

Fox said: ‘We are working with some great people this year, like Alan Murchison, the Performance Chef. The guy has a Michlein star! He has got everyone so lean.

‘There’s the support staff at the races, giving up their time and energy. We can’t thank them enough. And then there’s all the equipment. We have some great kit.

‘I’m really lucky to have a couple of personal sponsors, too. Udo’s Choice have also been helping me with my diet. I have lost 2kg this year and on hilly circuits like Wilton and Lincoln that really helps.

 

‘It is the lightest I have ever been and I feel great. Everyone is looking great. We look good and we are performing well, so it is going good.’

Fox returns to action in the Velothon Wales on Sunday. The 174km contest, which is ranked 1.1 by the UCI, includes two passes of the Tumble and three ascents of Caerphilly Mountain.

The Pedal Heaven team, which also features Rory Townsend, Jake Womersley, Alex Paton, Max Stedman and Jack Pullar, will face tough competition from home and continental Europe.

But Fox reckons the squad will rise to the challenge and, having already made a stellar start to the campaign, more big results are just around the corner.

He added: ‘When it comes to the numbers, everyone is pretty close at this level. There is only one or two per cent in it.

‘It is what you do on the day that counts and if you have the confidence, it can make a massive difference. Just being there and being confident in yourself and your own ability.

‘You need a little luck but you can almost make that. It’s weird but it just seems when you are going well and you are confident, the luck comes to you.

‘I guess that happens in all sport. When you are on top of it, rather than having a bad time or always getting injured, you seem to get the luck.

‘The team is going very, very well at the moment. Hopefully we can keep that going and build on the success.’

Pullar can’t wait for Edinburgh tear-up

Jack Pullar is relishing a return to Edinburgh for round three of the Tour Series.

The 26-year-old, from Bolton-le-Sands, was part of the Pedal Heaven team who notched third place in Motherwell on Tuesday.

Will Fox was the star of the show as he clocked the fastest lap of the night on his way to fourth place behind winner Jon Mould.

Now Pullar, who finished ninth, is hoping he can shine in the Scottish capital as the team aims to improve on their current fourth position in the overall team championship.

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The 27-year-old, who represented Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, reckons the squad will thrive on the new 1.6km circuit, which includes cobbles, a gruelling hill climb and hairpin bends.

Pullar said: ‘Edinburgh is my favourite city in the whole of the UK. I’ve had a lot of good memories there, so it’s going to be a special race for me.

‘I think with the new course it’s going to be even better than last time because you take in even more of the sights, like the castle.

‘We were the third team in Motherwell and we’re moving back-up, so I think it’s upwards from here. As a team we should suit Edinburgh, so we’re targeting a good result.’

Fox was part of a five-man breakaway as the championship crossed the border into Scotland on Tuesday night.

And he swept up enough points to take a share of the lead in the sprints classification, alongside team-mate Rory Townsend and jersey wearer Morgan Kneisky.

Kneisky’s Raleigh GAC team-mate Albert Torres took second on the night, with Ed Clancy finishing third for team winners JLT Condor.

Pullar was the second Pedal Heaven rider home as he finished ninth, while Townsend was 16th, Alex Paton was 19th and Ian Wilkinson finished 32nd.

Their efforts ensured the Hampshire-based UCI Continental outfit rose to fourth in the overall team standings ahead of tonight’s third battle.