The 2013 TourSeries kicked off in fine style tonight in the Scottish coastal town of Kirkcaldy.
The UK’s best domestic teams and riders fought it out on a tight course with plenty of corners to keep the pack on their toes, with the seafront esplanade providing a beautiful backdrop for a hard 60 minutes plus five laps of crit racing. The course was around 1 mile long and rose away from the start-finish area of the esplanade, up behind the main pedestrian shopping street before dropping down and doubing back along the esplanade for the mayhem to start again. One or two corners in particular were tight and tricky.
Last year’s round saw several breaks off the front of the race before it all came together in the final couple of laps. Scott Thwaites had the biggest kick to outsprint the bunch and take the win for his team, Endura, who went on to win the 2012 series. They stepped up to Pro Continental level for 2013 (after merging with Teamm NetApp) and did not return to defend their titles.
Series runners-up from last year, Rapha Condor JTL, were looking to go one better in 2013, and had high hopes of kicking off their title tilt in style, with Ed Clancy leading the team. The field was speckled with Olympic and Commonwealth medal winners, while man-mountain and living legend Magnus Backstedt also brought his years of experience to the race. There was plenty of local interest too, with the likes of David Lines, Evan Oliphant, Ben Greenwood and the ‘King of Scotland’, James McCallum all lining out on a dry and calm evening.
There was a ferocious pace set right from the gun, which quickly put some riders in trouble as they slipped off the back. The race settled into a rhythm after the early onslaught and Team UK Youth’s Niklas Gustavsson forced the pace at the sharp end of the bunch for several laps before finally clipping off the front. He looked in control and ready for the long haul, but within a lap he had dropped down through the pack and out the back. It turns out he had a rear puncture and couldn’t get a replacement from one of the pit areas out on the course where there was no mechanic from his team (he shook his head at this pit area on a later pass).
Meanwhile Tom Scully of Team Raleigh took the reins up at the front and broke clear. By now a lot of riders had been shelled out the back. Mags Backstedt had been dangling off the back for a while, but at the halfway stage he was adrift from the main pack and no amount of support from the fans could help him: a quick shake of the head showed his race was over.
Tom Scully was pushing on, ‘he’s a big lad and he can shift’ according to a soigneur, but with about 20 minutes to go he had been joined by Felix English of Rapha, Mike Northey of Node 4-Giordana (a Kiwi like Scully) and Yanto Barker (who would post the fastest lap at 2’05”) of Team UK Youth. They had a small gap on the chasing pack and over the next couple of laps they were able to extend their lead, shelling English (seems he was suffering from cramps) in the process. Finally the bunch gave up, leaving the group of three to duke it out for the win. With a couple of laps to go Yanto Barker ramped up the pressure on his breakaway rivals and took the bell on his own. Would he be able to hold off the other two from the break and take the win?
As the leaders rounded the final corner onto the finish straight, Barker still held a gap to the others and was able to sit up and celebrate his win as he crossed the line. Scully and Northey compeleted the individual podium places, while English held off the advancing pack to get fourth. Team winners and leaders in the overall standings were Team Raleigh, thanks to the hard work from Scully and high positions in the final bunch sprint from Lang & Blain.
This was a great night’s racing in perfect conditions and the enthusiastic crowd (which seemed much bigger than last year) clearly loved the cycling, as did I. But the Tourseries is more than Elite Men racing, as there were schools, youths and cat4 races all afternoon before the main event. And there are also races being held at 5 of the 11 rounds as part of a women’s tour series.
Highlights of the Kirkcaldy race (as with all rounds) are on ITV4 on Wed 15 May from 10pm, while the next race in the series will be on Thursday in Durham.