|Tour of North East Derbyshire|
MALCOLM Elliott's renowned finishing sprint was not needed as he coasted in well over two minutes clear at the end of the 100-mile Tour of North East Derbyshire pro-am road race on Sunday.
The Teka rider, fresh from his points win in the Tour of Catalonia, left the home-based professionals to fight it out for second place when he escaped alone soon after a five-man break had begun the first of five laps of a finishing circuit at Dronfield.
Tony Doyle (Ever Ready Gold Seal), who had made contact as a chasing group closed in on Elliott's erstwhile breakaway companions, took the sprint for second place from Chris Walker (Raleigh-Banana), John Wainwright (PMS-Falcon), Karl Smith (Alpha Print-Chafes) and Paul Curran (Percy Bilton).
Elliott looked fit and bronzed as he lined up for his first British outing of the season, but it was a day for tights and arm warmers as cold conditions and continuous heavy rain turned the race into a survival of the fittest.
After his Girvan win at Easter, Steve Farrell, riding for the British amateur team, looked intent on rubbing salt in the professionals' wounds when he took the opening sprint on the second of three laps of a loop based on Clay Cross from Jack Kershaw (PCA) and local favourite Mark Walsham (Percy Bilton).
Six riders went clear on that lap in the first real action of the day, but they got no more than 23 seconds and it was on the approach to the second sprint that the decisive split formed. Keith Reynolds (PMS) took the flag from Chris Walker and Kevin Byers (Alpha), and these three stretched their lead on the final Clay Cross circuit and along the link route through Wingerworth and Chesterfield to the next main circuit, north of the town.
They were 55 seconds ahead when Byers took the first mountains prize at Middle Handley from Walker and Reynolds. At Marsh Lane Top, the next climb, they still lead and Reynolds took the prime from Byers and Walker, but the pressure was on as the field split behind them and the gap dropped to little more than 20 seconds.
Then, pandemonium broke out as Walsham, who had played a key role in designing the course, quickly realised that he and the rest of the main bunch had missed a left turn and riders and following vehicles were left to do U-turns in a narrow, twisting road.
Ever Ready manager Mick Bennett was quickly on the race radio with his observation that the break had gone up by between 45 seconds and a minute.
'What's the situation, as we have no riders in the break,' he asked chief commissaire Barry Broadbent. 'The situation is,' replied Broadbent, 'that the onus of keeping on the course rests with the riders. 'I have informed the bunch that they are at 1-15, and we continue as we were.
Elliott and Wainwright took off in pursuit on the approach to Holmesfield, joining Walker, Reynolds and Byers at the 55-mile mark. Paul Curran got across five miles later, at around which time Joey McLoughlin (Z- Peugeot) was having a rear wheel change before eventually joining the list of DNFs.
The new, six-strong leading group was 1-50 up by the second of three laps of this circuit, with Adrian Timmis (Raleigh) and Karl Smith chasing before first Smith and then Timmis dropped back to the the next group of 10. Byers lost contact with the leaders at 74 miles, and as they dropped down to Sheepbridge on the approach to the finishing circuit the lead car was baulked by a non-race vehicle and Elliott put in an attack.
Wainwright went with him but Curran quickly chased it down, and the five were only 20 seconds clear as they came on to the circuit. Elliott made his move at the top of the main climb, half a mile through the finish area with four and a half laps of a two-mile circuit left.
'I looked round, and got a shock to see riders coming up behind, only two or three hundred yards back.' he explained. 'I thought I'd better go, although I was feeling a bit spent. 'The break hadn't been working particularly well together - it was a bit sporadic - and I was getting weaker all the time. I was changing down a gear every time I went up the climb, and on the last lap I was in bottom gear.
The appalling weather could not detract from an excellent promotion by North East Derbyshire District Council, in conjunction with VC Chesterfield, with sponsorship from ICL Systems UK Ltd and numerous other firms with local connections.
1. MALCOLM ELLIOTT (Teka) l00m in 4-10-30
2. A. Doyle (Ever Ready Gold Seal) at 2-33
3. C. Walker (Raleigh-Banana)
4. J. Wainwright (PMS-Falcon)
5. K. Smith (Alpha Print-Chafes)
6. P. Curran (Percy Bilton) all st
7. D. Mann (Raleigh-Banana) at 2-43
8. D. Raynor (Raleigh-Banana) at 2-47
9. D. Cook (GB Amateur)
10. R. Downs (Percy Bilton) both st
11. N. Barnes (PMS-Falcon) at 2-51
12. S. Sutton (PMS-Falcon) at 3-08.