Stockton on Tees hosted the latest Elite Series road race, 111miles around the local country side and finishing with 6 laps of a circuit around Stockton town centre. Some 150 riders started fast from the gun with the bunches speed kept high by a succession of attacks and groups trying to break clear.
Team One Pro Cycling were prominent at the front but not over active given the team strategy. The team had sat down before the race and decided the best approach was to go for a lead out for Chris Opie who is in good form and best suited to the flat fast finish.
There were two riders with a job early in the race to mark the moves and that is what they did. We were not under pressure to force anything but to make sure we didn't miss it either. The rest of us were to stay out of trouble and conserve as much strength for the final quarter of the race.
With many attacks going and coming back finally the main break went over the top of a bigger group and it was two riders George Atkins OPC and Ian Bibby NFTO who went clear to gain around 50sec maximum lead. However they road hard with still a long way to go and the bunch picked up the chase with Madison Genesis doing most of the work.
It wasn't until the last lap and a half of the finishing circuit that the two breakaway riders got caught after a defiant effort to stay ahead so long. At this point the whole OPC team was close to the front and took up the lead at the head of the field. George gave his last ounce of effort to the lead out before swinging off and leaving the rest of the boys to take Chris to the line. We had clear markers and an order which was disrupted by a late puncture for Marc Hester with 800m to go but despite this we kept Chris at the front going into the last corner with 400m to go where he took up the sprint with the other fast guys going for the line. With a final kick at about 250m from the line Chris powered past the 2nd and 3rd to take the win with a convincing margin in the sprint.
Marcine and I who were now 150m behind after pulling the lead out celebrated together as we crossed the line with a fantastic job well done. The whole team takes such pleasure in victories for the team like this. We are all happy for Chris who is one of the most friendly riders you are ever likely to meet and to help him win is every bit as satisfying as any victory I have had.