Tour Series Round One - Redditch
The riders were treated to a beautiful spring day as the local fans thronged the streets to watch the first round of the 2017 Tour Series in Redditch.
Returning for its ninth year, the Tour Series has been a hugely successful annual series of ten criterium races, spanning the length and breadth of Great Britain.
Criterium racing is equivalent to suped-up road racing, with the riders tackling a short town centre circuit for either a pre-set time limit or number of laps, resulting in high speed, intense racing.
Running alongside the Tour Series is the women’s Matrix Fitness Grand Prix, now in its seventh year.
In the opening event, three races were scheduled; the men’s team time trail, the women’s race and then lastly the men’s race.
The team time trial consisted of two laps of the 1.4km circuit, while the women’s and men’s races were 45 minutes and one hour plus five laps respectively.
Team Time Trial
Of the first four teams to complete the course, Madison Genesis were quickest, posting a time of 3:56.158.
Defending champions JLT Condor were the next on the ramp, with many tipping them to continue their Tour Series dominance.
And they did not disappoint. Blitzing the previous markers laid down, JLT Condor drilled the course all the way to the finish, recording an impressive new fastest time of of 3:49.000.
Team Bike Channel were the final team out and gave JLT Condor a scare, but ultimately came up just short with a time of 3:52.118.
After the time trail, JLT Condor rider Alex Frame said: "It was fast. We dropped it through all the corners and just had a plan and tried to execute it as well as we could. Everyone’s really happy with how we did."
A star studded field took to the start line for the first outing in the 2017 women’s Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series.
A blistering start by the riders resulted in significant splits from the very first lap, decimating the peloton and allowing early breakaways to form.
Soon, three riders were out on their own and it was certainly the cream that had risen to the top; Katie Archibald (Team WNT Pro Cycling), Elinor Barker (Breeze Network) and Alice Barnes (Drops Cycling).
Archibald won the first of the intermediate sprints ahead of Barnes as the three riders continued to pull away from the rest of the pack.
However, it was Barnes who made the first move, continuing her momentum from the sprint to distance Archibald and Barker.
By the time the race had reached half distance, Barnes had pulled out an 18 second lead and took the second sprint of the day.
From this point on there was no stopping her. The gap to the two chasers steadily increased and in the end the win was a formality for the hugely impressive Barnes.
Behind her, Archibald won an exciting battle of the two Olympic gold medalists, beating Barker to second place.
Unsurprisingly, Barnes also took the accolade of fastest lap and leads the points competition going into the second round.
Barnes explained how she managed to shake the other riders, saying: "Me and Katie had a bit of a gap on the other riders.
"I lead it down after the first corner and got a bit of a gap and kept going. I saw them a bit behind me so I just kept pushing on."
It was a perfect day for Barnes' Drops Cycling team as they also narrowly beat Archibald's WNT Team to lead the team standings.
Before the race, all eyes were on JLT Condor rider Jon Mould; who last year won six of the ten races to overtake teammate Ed Clancy for most all time Tour Series wins.
The men's race stayed together far more than the women’s, with any attack being quickly reeled in by the peloton.
Team Metaltek Kuota rider Zach May rode briefly away form the pack to claim the first sprint of the day before being quickly brought back.
Jacob Hennessy (British Cycling) produced two excellent turns of pace to claim the next two sprints while the race geared up towards a nail biting finish.
Things looked good for JLT Condor who, with all five riders still intact, lead the field across the line for the penultimate time, looking to delivery Mould to another Tour Series victory.
However, Bike Channel rider Chris Opie had other ideas. He rounded the final corner in first position before producing a perfectly timed sprint to the line, with Brenton Jones (JLT Condor) and Sanz Enrique (Team Raleigh GAC) trailing in second and third position respectively.
Speaking to Sports Gazette after the race, Opie was delighted with the result and described how hard it was to beat the riders at JLT Condor.
He said: "They’re well tuned and well drilled in what they’re doing and I got in amongst it. As soon as I had the chance to pass ten metres out of the penultimate corner, that’s when you’ve got to go.
"I know that the final corner is where it’s won and lost, you’ve got to get into that final corner first.
"I couldn’t give any more than I gave. I reckon that’s probably the hardest I’ve tried for a long, long time."
Accumulating 14 points, Sebastian Mora (Team Raleigh GAC) will lead the points classification heading into Round 2 in Stoke-on-Trent.
Despite the disappointment of the individual result, as JLT Condor had the quickest cumulative time, they finished the day on a high and collected the team leaders' red and white jerseys.
If you have missed the highlights on Eurosport or ITV4, this was how Sports Gazette experienced round one of the Tour Series in Redditch.