Archer Grand Prix (Premier Calendar)
THE rising stars of British road racing came out on top in Sunday's Archer Grand Prix, won by 21-year-old Chris Newton (North Wirral Velo-Kodak) from first-year professional Glenn Holmes (Ambrosia/-Dyna-Tech).
But you can't write off the older generation. Mark Walsham (Tritech), winner of this Chilterns classic back in 1984, sprinted to third place ahead of Matt Rogers (Team Energy), Julian Ramsbottom (North Wirral Velo) and last year's Archer winner Paul Curran (Optimum Performance RT).
Newton won in the grand manner with a late charge that stunned all the other leading contenders. 'It's certainly my best ever win on the road,' said Newton, who won a silver medal in the 1994 Commonwealth Games team pursuit and will be shooting for a place in this year's world track championships.
It was North Wirral's second consecutive Premier Calendar win, following Julian Ramsbottom's success in the Grand Prix of Essex. Ramsbottom looked a likely winner on Sunday when he escaped from a 21-man leading group with 20 miles to go. With him in the decisive attack were clubmate Matt Stephens, Glenn Holmes and Mark Lovatt (Optimum Performance RT). Ahead of them were nearly two laps of an 11-mile circuit based on roads between Amersham, Hazlemere and Beaconsfield.
Holmes, with victories in Romford-Harlow and the Tour of the Fens in the previous two weeks, knew he was outnumbered by the two North Wirral men. As the leading quartet tackled a climb he decided to do something about it. 'I thought I'd try to cause a split, perhaps go away with one of the Kodaks,' he said.
'I was committed and I just put my head down and went. I got quite a good gap and then Chris (Newton) appeared,' Holmes said.
Newton had been with the 17-man group about half-a-minute down on the leaders. 'I needed a big win,' he explained, 'and I thought I'd be able to get away on a hill because I was feeling strong. Paul Curran helped me a bit. He jumped, then I managed to counter it and I got away.
As the course plunged into the lanes, Newton gobbled up the gap between himself and Ramsbottom, Stephens and Lovatt. Sensing victory, he flew past the trio and homed in on lone leader Holmes, catching him just before the final climb.
'I caught him just at the right time, just as we took a right hander before the steep climb (Winchmore Hill),' Newton explained. 'I just chose my gear, 53 x 17, and went for it. I knew he'd have tired legs.'
Holmes put up token resistance on the climb. 'I tried to get on his wheel but I was cooked by then,' he said. The Ambrosia professional could only watch as Newton disappeared rapidly over the summit and headed for the finish less than six miles away.
Newton never faltered and came home alone with 35 seconds in hand. Victory was consolation for last year's Archer failure when he was in the winning break with Curran but blew up in the closing miles. Until now his biggest successes have been on the track, including the national 20 kilometre title in 1993.
The track is still his prime target. 'I want to make the pursuit team,' he said. 'With the World's being so late in the season I can do road up to the track nationals and then switch over.'
While Newton was celebrating his £200 first prize, Holmes was gritting his teeth, hanging on to his hard-earned second place. He managed it with just three seconds to spare over Walsham who took the 19-man sprint for third place.
Sharing the presentation podium with the first three was Matt Illingworth, an unlikely winner of the King of the Chilterns climber's prize based on the three climbs evenly spaced around the circuit. 'Not bad for a fat boy,' he joked after out-pointing Chris Lillywhite (Karrimor-Mongoose) for the £100 prize.
Pointing out that he hasn't finished outside the top ten in his last 15 races, Illingworth said: 'I haven't felt this good for a couple of years.' Although he is concentrating on the road for the present, Illingworth's first target for the season is the RTTC national 10-mile title.
Newton's victory was good news for British cycling, proof that a new talent is maturing nicely. The young north easterner, who switched to North Wirral Velo this season, beat a field of 92 starters, including six former winners to take the 40th edition of the spring-time classic which was run off in summer-like conditions.
Archer action lap-by-lap
Lap 1.- 6 miles: Attack by Graham Birch (Wrekinsport CRT) on Gore Hill prime, Adrian Allan (Harlow CC), Andy Lyons (Wembley RC), Danny Axford (Team Energy) join him. 8m: Aaron McCaffrey (Team Energy) punctures; break caught. 10m: Keith Mailer (VC Olympia) opens lone lead and is joined by Ray Eden (Optimum Performance RT), Paul Spencer (Long Eaton CC) and Russell Williams (Geoffrey Butler) in short-lived break. Rob Holden (Ambrosia Desserts) disqualified for crossing double white line.
Lap 2.- Matt Stephens (North Wirral Velo) leads through finish area with 10 seconds' lead over bunch but is soon caught and Ian Knight (Olympia Sport) leads over summit of prime hill from Spencer Wingrave (unsponsored) and Mark Lovatt (Optimum Performance RT). 23m: first substantial break of the day by Lovatt, Chris Lillywhite(Karrimor-Mongoose) , Julian Ramsbottom (North Wirral Velo),Matt Illingworth (Team Clean);
Eric Poulizac (VC Fontainebleu), Rod Ellingworth (Ambrosia/-Dyna-Tech), Ben Wilson (GS Purbeck), Rob Hayles (All Media-Futurama). 25m: Break's lead is 40 seconds after one hour of racing.
Lap 3.- 30m: Gary Thomas (Leek CC) disqualified for 'dangerous riding.' 36m: Glenn Longland (Radford) and Paul Manning (Wrekinsport CC) both puncture. 37m: eight-man breakaway has 17 seconds' lead over eight-man chasing group, bunch is at 50 seconds.
Lap 4.- Manning rejoins bunch; four-times winner Steve Farrell (Tunstall Wheelers) stops for service. 38m: chasing group of Wingrave, Mark McKay (CC Luton), Mark Walsham (Tritech), Chris Newton (North Wirral Velo), Paul Esposti (Cwmcam Paragon), Simon Lillistone (North Wirral Velo), Glenn Holmes (Ambrosia/-Dyna-Tech), Dave Williams (RT Italia) catches the breakaway, making a 16-man lead group.
Lap 5.- 50m: leaders hold 30sec lead over new chasing group, with main bunch at 1-00. 52m: Wingrave dropped from leading group. 56m: third bike change of race for Wilson who is having trouble with his bottom bracket.
Lap 6.- 60m: Walsham suffers back wheel puncture and drops out of lead group. The chasing group, driven by Richard Prebble (Wembley RC) and Paul Curran (Optimum Performance) absorbs Walsham. 64m: chasing group of Curran, Prebble, Stephens, Knight, Lyons, Russell Williams, Shane Sutton (Peugeot), Matt Rogers (Team Energy), Roddy Riddle (Moray Firth RT), Martin Pitchford (Brough Wheelers), Chris King (CC Giro), Julian Ramsbottom (North Wirral Velo), Colin Langley (Team Energy), Bryan Steel (Team Chilworth) catches leaders at Winchmore Hill. Main bunch at 2-05 and rapidly losing ground. 66m: Wilson has fourth bike change. Steel punctures.
Lap 7.- 78m: five riders off the front in attack led by Dave Williams. Attack is nullified as Wilson, Knight, Sutton, Hayles are dropped. They fight to regain the group but are dropped again on Gore Hill.
Lap 8.- Lead group comes together but there are constant attacks until at 86m Ramsbottom, Lovatt, Holmes and Stephens establish a slender lead. As the lap-to-go bell rings, the quartet has 30 seconds lead over the rest of the group. The main bunch, more than six minutes down, is pulled out of the race.
Lap 9.- 96m: Holmes attacks and drops Ramsbottom, Stephens and Lovatt. Newton moves up from the group, rides straight past the Ramsbottom group and sets off in solo pursuit of Holmes. 100m: Newton catches and drops Holmes. With Newton quickly out of sight, Holmes holds on for second place, with Walsham winning the group sprint for third place.
1. Chris Newton (North Wirral Velo-Kodak) 106m to 3-59-0
King of the Chilterns: Matt Illingworth (Team Clean-Freshstart
) 36 pts; 2, C. Lillywhite, 16; 3, M. Lovatt, 16.