Ben Ives and Alex Mitchel competed in the final round of the Elite Circuit Series at the Sheffield GP. As this city centre circuit was really tight the service areas were too confined for all the entrants so we set up camp outside Nelsons Rock Bar who were very helpful.
Raleigh GAC’s Graham Briggs, having already secured the 2012 Elite Circuit Series title in the previous round, finished the series on a high with a win from a bunch sprint in front of big crowds in Sheffield. Endura’s Russell Downing took second, ahead of Node4 Giordana’s Rico Rogers in third.
The daylight was quickly fading in Sheffield city centre as the 90 elite riders began the final round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series on Wednesday night.
Russell Downing (Endura Racing) put in an early attack followed by a string of Raleigh GAC and Rapha Condor Sharp riders. The race was on, and over the next couple of laps, the Downing name was at the front, with either Russ or his brother Dean, both of whom got huge support from the local crowd, cheering on the brothers who hail from four miles up the road in Rotherham.
The only significant break of the night was a very shortlived affair with Ben Grenda (Rapha Condor Sharp), Bernie Sulzberger (Raleigh GAC) and the New Zealand Criterium champion Mike Northey (Node4 Giordana) managing to escape from the group but only gaining a maximum of seven seconds.
Although Team Raleigh had got Bernie Sulzberger in the break, they worked hard to bring it back, with the help of Rob Partridge and Russell Downing.
With three laps to go the streetlights had come on and the Sheffield city centre circuit resembled a nocturne, with huge crowds and slick promotion thanks to organiser Mark Etches and his team. The Raleigh GAC team amassed at the front of the fast moving peloton followed by a line of Rapha Condor Sharp riders and, tucked in the centre of this elite group, was Russell Downing, the lone Endura rider.
At the bell, the Raleigh line had dropped to one rider and Evan Oliphant came through to take the bell with Russell Downing tucked on his wheel. However, in the back straight the Raleigh riders regained control of the front end of the race when criterium specialists Tobyn Horton and Graham Briggs moved into their race winning position.
Into the final corner with 160 metres to go, Graham Briggs had taken the lead. On his wheel was Russell Downing and Rico Rogers, the Australian Node4 Giordana rider. At the line, with the local crowd shouting in equal measure for Briggs and Downing, Briggs managed to get the win.
As for our two riders, the name of the game was simply to enjoy the event and gain some valuable experience in these city centre style criteriums.
Alex was competing in his first ever Elite circuit race, while Ben was competing in his second following a successful debut at Beverley a few days ago.
The plan for both of our riders was simple, try to get as far up the field of 90 riders as quickly as possible before riders begin to pop and inevitable splits in the peloton occur. Starting from the back of the race, due to the set starting order of the Elite Series, both riders knew that the first 15minutes of the race would be the crucial determinant of their success in the event.