British National TT Championship
Newton out on his own
AN-IN-FORM Chris Newton (Linda McCartney RT) added the British Cycling Federation Time Trial Championship to his RTTC 25-mile title after an epic duel with David Millar (Cofidis) over the twisting Bishopscourt course in the north of the Isle of Man. Both shattered Graeme Obree's four-year-old course record of 51-41 as Newton came out on top by just seven seconds with a superb 51-10.
Third place went to defending champion Stuart Dangerfield (BCFWCPP) in 53-11, with Tim Buckle (Team Men's Health) - the surprise bronze medallist last year - showing that his '98 ride was no one-off with a 53-31 for fourth. Five seconds covered the next three, Charly Wegelius (BCF-WCPP), 53-49, edging out Harrods pair Kevin Dawson, 53-50, and Julian Ramsbottom, 53-54.
Advertised as 40 kilometres, the event was held on the same circuit used for the regular Manx Week 25-mile time trials, with both Newton and Millar agreeing it was an ideal test for a BCF Championship and World's selection qualifier.
Starting at Bishopscourt, near Kirk Michael, the course turns left sharply after about four miles at Sulby and then left again at Sandygate before rolling round The Cronk, Jurby, Sartfield and St Judes on the way to a dead-turn on the outskirts of Ramsey at roughly 16 miles. Retracing to St Judes, the course then turns left and rejoins the TT circuit at Sulby Bridge and returns to Bishopscourt.
Lumps, bumps, and a heavy road surface made the course no easy ride. "It's a fair course," said Newton, a one-man team during his stay on the island. "It's not a drag strip, but like a typical time trial in a stage race abroad, apart from the dead turn."
Off 12 minutes in front of Millar, Newton had a lonely ride - his two-minute man, Bradley Wiggins, was a non-starter - and had no idea how the race was unfolding. Unofficial checks had him a few seconds up on Millar at the first Sulby turn with Dangerfield, still below par, a further 15 seconds back. The holder had lost 35 seconds to Millar after eight miles and it was already a two-horse race.
Newton went through St Judes, on the way out to Ramsey at approximately 14 miles, in 27-12 to lead Millar by eight seconds with Dangerfield (28-31) hanging on to third ahead of Buckle (28-37), Dawson (28-41), Wegelius (28-42) and Ramsbottom (28-50).
Behind them Graeme Stirzaker (Anglia Sport), in 28-58, was just ahead of Gethin Butler (Team Men's Health), 29-00, Lee Suthard (Chester RC), 29-01, and James Gilfillan (Total Fitness TC), 29-01.
Five miles later, back at St Judes, Newton (37-43) had extended his advantage over Millar to 20 seconds while Dangerfield (39-22) had consolidated third place as Dawson (39-49), Wegelius (39-52), Ramsbottom (39-53) and Buckle (3954) closed right up. But the situation changed again on the run to the finish as, battling against a rising headwind, Newton saw his lead come right down while the tussle for the minor positions intensified.
"It was quite tough, really," said Newton, who, with his win in the International Mountain Time Trial, picked up 45 UCI points in his two rides on the island. "The time trial at the World's is my aim, and I was told I need a minimum of 30 UCI points, which I have now got, and then to rank in the top two of the home riders. Hopefully, I'm there.
"I was pretty nervous last night and this morning - I knew I had the form, but I just wondered if I could get it out on the day. I came out of the Prutour feeling strong and just held it from there. After the National Road Race Championships I'm going to take a bit of a break and chill out. I need to keep myself healthy and then start training again."
Runner-up to Dangerfield last year, Millar was much happier than after the Mountain Time Trial. "I'm feeling better today," he said. "I'm happy, it's the best I could do at the moment. It was pretty heavy over the last 10 kilometres."
Champion three times in the last five years, Dangerfield was surprised to be standing on the podium this time. "I didn't think that was a medal ride at all," he said. "I've not felt very good all week - there was nothing in my legs.
"I'm just tired, I think, and I need a break. It's very disappointing." Buckle, unmistakable with his hair dyed green, borrowed a bike from Charly Wegelius to ride. "I wouldn't have been able to ride but
for that, and then I went and beat him," said Buckle, whose challenge in the mountain time trial had come to an end at Sarah's Cottage on the Creg Willys climb when his chain snapped. "I felt pretty good, and I've got to be pleased," he said. "I've shown that I can do it and last year wasn't a flash in the pan. The same two riders have beaten me again along with Newton, who wasn't there last year. I don't do many time trials and I'd done none this year. It was a bit of a gamble for the sponsors, picking me up from a fourth cat on the road at the start of the year to be where I am now, so it's all thanks to them."
Said Wegelius: "The course wasn't as good for me today as on Sunday. It was difficult to get going on it, but as long as I've got some UCI points that's what matters."
Gethin Butler's challenge was effectively over within the opening three miles when his tri-bars broke.
1. Chris Newton (Linda McCartney RT) ... 51 10