Britain’s Elite Road Series returned to Suffolk once again today, contesting the last fixture of this year’s race calendar at the Ipswich & Suffolk Coastal Grand Prix. Only the second running of this new annual event, Yanto Barker of Team Raleigh went into the day’s race as series leader and defending champion – having won 2013’s edition for the now defunct UK Youth team. The majority of the 200km race was to be contested over five laps of the Suffolk countryside, running through the outlying villages of Rendelsham Forest: Butley, Alderton, Hollesley and Shottisham to name a few. With rolling terrain and a lack of shelter from the coastal winds on the route, it was expected that a breakaway would be prolific throughout the day’s racing in Suffolk.
Having left Ipswich and ridden through Woodbridge en route to the start of the five countryside circuits, the early break was formed of Alex Peters (Madison-Genesis), Lawrence Carpenter (Catford-Banks CC) and Jon Mould (NFTO Pro Racing). This triumvirate managed to break the minute mark on the opening lap and a half, before being joined by Mould’s NFTO teammate Adam Blythe and Nathan Edmondson of Velsosure-Node4 Racing. This larger group of five then worked well together, stretching their lead beyond two minutes, but the breakaway was reduced to four as Adam Blythe decided his chances were better off in the day’s possible sprint finish and so sat up to roll back to the peloton. By the fourth circuit, this well functioning group had pulled out a gap over the main bunch of more than three minutes, but a chasing trio of Lloyd Chapman (Richardsons-Trek), Will Bjergfelt (Metaltek-Kuota) and Rob Moore (Pedal-Heaven) tried unsuccessfully to bridge the gap to the leaders with ambitions of contesting the win alongside them.
On the final lap, Rapha-Condor-JLT hit the front hard as they began to eat into the breakaway’s lead; which by this point was edging beyond the five minute mark. As the peloton ramped up the ever-increasing pace, fatigue became apparent in the leaders as Catford’s Lawrence Carpenter lost contact with his companions’, as did Nathan Edmondson. With the time between escapees and bunch now reduced to a measly sub-30 seconds, the leading duo of Mould and Peters were doomed in their attempts to stay away; even a late sprint from Rob Partridge of Velosure-Node4 to the leading pair was hopeless as Rapha and Raleigh ensured that no late counter-attacks succeeded in denying them a sprint finish.
Yanto Barker’s lead of over 20 points heading into the day meant he did not need to win here in order to take the series title, but his Raleigh team were focused upon keeping him at the front of affairs regardless. Rapha and NFTO did their best to force a sprint finish, with impressive pace setting in the closing stages, and their wish was granted as the sprinters navigated the tricky Ipswich Waterfront finish.
Adam Blyhthe’s tactical decision paid off as he took the win from a fast finishing Chris Opie of Rapha and a surprising third went to Pedal Heaven’s Alex Paton. With the day’s win in Blythe’s hands, Yanto Barker was next up on the podium to collect his trophy as overall Elite Road Series Champion, having led the competition since the Lincoln GP in May. Alongside him onstage were his Raleigh teammates, who were also crowned champions of the series’ team competition after proving the most consistent riders this year.
Next up for the domestic teams is the Tour of Britain, which begins on the 7th of September in Liverpool and will feature some of today’s peloton alongside Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.