Europa 2-Day (Premier Calendar)

Newton nails Europa
David Taylor reports for Snowdon Sports Editorial. Photos by Rob Lampard

Grand Prix of Essex winner Chris Newton underlined his Premier Calendar challenge when he led another Team Brite rout in the Europa two-day race

TEAM Brite made it three out of three when they dominated the Hendy Lennox Group Europa two-day race in Hampshire, the latest addition to the BCF Premier Calendar series.

Chris Newton won two of the three stages to take the overall honours ahead of his Brite teammates Jon Clay and Chris Walker, leaving little for the rest of the 74-strong field.

Only Matt Postle's win for the Welsh PDM Sports squad challenged the Brite's dominance - the team's first defeat in a Premier Calendar event - although the Europa result kept Brite firmly in the driving seat after Newton's win in the Grand Prix of Essex and Rob Hayles's victory in the March Hare event at Eastway. This left the opposition wondering just what they could do to break what threatens to be a Brite stranglehold on the season's major events.

It was only on the third and last stage that an impressive effort by Postle gave PDM Sports-WCU their moment of glory. The Welsh squad also snatched the only other top prize, the Frans Maas King of the Mountains award, thanks to Julian Winn.

With Rob Hayles pulling out after only 20 miles of Saturday's opening 70-mile stage - a knee injury from the Bremen Six bringing him to a stop - Team Brite riders Newton, Clay, Walker and John Tanner faced a tough task defending their position on the final 85mile leg on Sunday afternoon.

The first day's racing in the Meonstoke area saw the Brite boys controlling the action and dictating the pace, with three riders in the winning break and a 1-2-3 on the line for Newton, Clay and Walker. Sunday's individual time trial went to Newton, with Clay second, while Tanner salvaged second place to Postle in the final stage.

So what happened to the opposition? When the winning break went on Saturday, the 60-strong bunch, which contained riders from at least eight other teams, failed to get a properly organised chase under way.

With only seven riders in the bunch who had team-mates up the road, it should not have been too hard to bring the Brite-dominated break to heel.

Sunday's road stage saw an awakening of the other teams, with Mark McKay (Harrods) particularly active and Postle also putting his head above the parapet, along with Dave Williams (unattached), Brian Smith (Clarke Contracts) and Mark Walsham (Linda McCartney RT).

With Tanner and Walker riding the Tour of Greece, Sunday's Cycling Weekly Grand Prix could well see the Brite defences breached by rival teams who feel it is time to call a halt to their domination.

Stage 1

WITH a prime in the first couple of miles, the action soon started with Julian Winn (PDM Sports) breaking over the line and stringing the bunch out over the climb of Beacon Hill.

An eight-strong group developed, but a 100-metre lead was not enough. The second time on Beacon Hill, and riders were already losing contact, Rob Hayles among them. Again a break went, gained 10 seconds and was brought back.

Team Brite were in every move, as were PDM Sports, but it was after the third climb of Beacon Hill -when 10 riders were dropped, including Mark Daly (Colourtech RT) and Glen Holmes (Adidas SciCon) - that the day's move happened.

With 30 miles covered, a group of 11 were clear by 40 seconds. Newton, Clay and Walker were there along with Joe Bayfield and Matt Stephen (Harrods), Matt Roger (Team Bristol), Julian Winn and Dave Rand (PDM Sports), Danny Axford (Team 120180), Lee Davis (Terry Wright Cycles) and Tim Bayley (VC Deal).

As the gap widened to a minute, all in the break were working, although Bayfield did not look his usual self as the Brite trio pushed hard at the front. Into the last 20 miles and Winn punctured, but a quick change and a short chase soon had him back with the leaders in time to take part in the final battle.

Jon Clay started the ball rolling, attacking a quarter of a mile before the Beacon climb. On the hill Newton joined Clay, leaving the rest of the break floundering. Axford, Bayley, Davis, Walker, Stephens and Winn clung together but Bayfield, Rand and Rogers were dropped.

Newton and Clay forged away, as Walker sat on the following five, and the Brite duo headed for the final climb of Beacon.

On the ascent Newton took to the front and Clay had no answer as his team-mate pushed that little bit harder on the pedals to cross the line 15 seconds clear.

Walker completed the Brite clean sweep, dropping his five companions on the climb to finish ahead of Davis, Stephens, Winn, Bayley and Axford.

1. Chris Newton (Team Brite) 70m in 2-40-44
2. J. Clay (Team Brite) at 15sec
3. C. Walker (Team Brite) at 1-19
4. L. Davis (Terry Wright Cycles RT) at 1-29
5. M. Stephens (Harrods) st
6. J. Winn (PDM Sports-WCU) at 1-35
7. T. Bailey (VC Deal) st
8. D. Axford (Team 120180) at 1-39
9. S. Bray (PDM Sports) at 2-41
10. D. Barclay (Arctic 2000) st.

Stage 2

AFTER a night's sleep - reduced by the clocks going forward - it was time for a 3.5-mile time trial on a circuit around the event headquarters at Meonstoke Hall.

The course - with narrow, twisting roads, one long climb and a descent - was made for roadmen with plenty of nerve rather than pure time triallists, and it was no surprise to see Newton triumph by nine seconds in the only sub-eight-minute ride.

His easy style belied his speed on the long climb away from the start, up to the high point of the circuit. Kevin Dawson (GS Strada) certainly looked to be going faster, but the BBAR had to settle for third place behind Newton and Jon Clay, who no doubt owed his placing to a 55mph descent on the back of the circuit.

The stage confirmed Newton's yellow jersey and Clay's second place overall, while Chris Walker's time was good enough to keep him in third, three seconds clear of Lee Davis (Terry Wright Cycles RT).

1. Chris Newton (Team Brite) ............ 7 52
2. J. Clay (Team Brite) .................. 8 01
3. K. Dawson (GS Strada) ............... 8 08
4. L. Davis (Terry Wright RT) ............. 8 09
5. S. Bray (PDM Sports) ... . ............ 8 11
6. M. Postle (PDM Sports)............... 8 11
7. C. Walker (Team Brite) ................ 8 21
8. J. Winn (PDM Sports) ................ 8 22
9. D. Axford (Team 120180) .............. 8 23
10. J. Taylor (SW Centre of Excellence) ...... 8 24

Stage 3

THERE were a lot of tired legs as, some 90 minutes after the time trial ended, riders lined up for 85 miles on the Perfs Pedal Race circuit, with its undulations and uphill finish.

Once again the hunt for prime points forced early action, with Julian Winn taking the first. Ten riders moved clear, with John Tanner and Chris Walker looking after Newton's interests. Neil Hoban (Linda McCartney RT), Mark McKay (Harrods), Simon Bray (PDM Sports), Gary Paterson (Clarke Contracts) and Matthew Beckett (North Wirral Velo) were also up there.

Beckett took the next prime as Darren Barclay (Arctic 2000) crossed to the break. The 11 strong group was a minute clear as Andy Proffitt (VC Deal) was dropped from the bunch.

The yellow jersey of Newton was in a big group, chasing the break along with Joe Bayfield and Matt Stephens, Dave Rand, Harry Lodge (unattached), Dave Cook (Middridge CRT), Peter Swettenham (Twickenham CC), Scott Gamble (Linda McCartney RT), Julian Winn and Lee Davis.

A third group was also in pursuit, as the front two merged to form a 25-strong bunch. But the leading group was too big to work together, and another 14 riders managed to tag on over the next couple of miles to give 39 riders up front.

Former Milk Race mountains winner, Mark McKay, flexed his muscles and burst clear over the next prime to gain 10 seconds. Dave Williams was quick to give chase, whistling loudly to let McKay know he was just behind him.

The pair worked well, and a 35second advantage became 1-07 at 42 miles and 1-37 at 45 miles. With 16 miles left, their lead was 1-33 on the bunch, with Matt Postle chasing on his own at 1-02.

Then Brian Smith (Clarke Contracts) jumped from the bunch, marked by John Tanner. Mark Walsham (Linda McCartney RT) was next to show, as he and Peter Swettenham edged steadily clear of the bunch.

Postle's effort was impressive, and he was suddenly with the leaders. Postle took the lead, lifting the pace, and McKay and Williams were in trouble. McKay was first to blow, then Williams, leaving Postle out on his own.

With Smith and Tanner at 18 seconds, it looked as though Postle's flight was about to end. They were joined by Walsham and Swettenham, as McKay and Williams were swept up with three miles to go.

1. Matthew Postle (PDM Sports-WCU) 85m in 3-13-00
2. J, Tanner (Team Brite) at 28sec
3. M. Walsham (Linda McCartney RT)
4. B. Smith (Clarke Contracts RT) all st
5. P. Swettenham (Twickenham CC) at 32sec
6. D. Williams (unatt) at 35sec

Final Overall

1. Chris Newton (Team Brite) 6-02-18
2. J, Clay at 32sec
3. C. Walker at 1-51
4. L. Davis at 2-07
5. J. Winn at 2-17
6. M. Postle at 2-20
7. D. Axford at 2-20
8. T. Bailey at 2-38
9. J. Tanner at 2-40
10. M. Stephens at 2-46

UWG team.- Team Brite 18-08-20
Frans Maas KoM.- Julian Winn (PDM Sports-WCU) 15pts; 2, D. Williams 12; 3, M. McKay 11.

What they said

"I always seem to go well at the start of the season," Chris Newton admitted as he donned the yellow jersey. "I have some good form at the moment, and the team worked hard for me. With three of us in the break, we had everything under control on the first day. And on the last stage, it suited us to have a group away which was no challenge to us. But we had to do a lot of riding to keep the gap under control, and we were all tired at the finish."

Newton won 13 events last year, seven of them in France. "I could have gone back to France, but I got a better deal with Brite -they're looking after me very well."