Previews Races

2019 Circuit of the Mendips: race preview

Preview of Round 4 of the National Road Series, with race insight and analysis from Colin Sturgess

Round 4 of the National Road Series this Sunday features another new race on the domestic calendar: the Cicruit of the Mendips. This is our preview of the race, including race insight and predictions from Colin Sturgess.

If you thought last weekend’s racing was tough… well, this is downright grippy

Colin Sturgess

What is it?

The Circuit of the Mendips is an out and back road race starting and finishing in Bristol. Like last week’s Lancaster Grand Prix, it is another new addition to the British racing calendar. It controversially replacing the old Bristol Grand Prix, which had originally been slated to take part on the same day as part of the National Road Series.

The race is for the men’s teams only – the women will ride a crit race in the afternoon in Bristol to kick of the women’s National Circuit Series. Once again, the UK’s top Continental and elite teams will be at the race, including  National Road Series leader Steve Lampier (Saint Piran) and team classification leaders Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes. Click here for the provisional start list.

The route

At over 150 km long and with more than 2000 m of climbing, this is yet another tough, lumpy course. Starting in Bristol, it then rolls out of the city up the steep side of Dundry Hill (with gradients up to 20%) and then takes in four laps of varying lengths through the Mendips, before heading back into Bristol.

The race is not short on climbs, with Harptree Hill, Blagdon Hill and Burrington Combe all featuring during the four laps.

If the race plays out like last week though, it could be the final climb, Dundry Hill, that is the launchpad for the race-winning moves. It’s only just over a 1 km long, but with gradients up to 14.4% it is steep enough to make the difference.

A tickling contest it is not!

Colin Sturgess

Colin Sturgess’ view 

Colin Sturgess is a former track world champion and professional road cyclist who has also managed domestic teams Metaltek-Kuota and Madison Genesis

Racing heads to the south west for Round 4 of the HSBC UK | National Road Series (I’ll get around to NOT calling them Prem Calendar races… eventually) and yet another new circuit to test the riders. If you thought last weekend’s racing was tough… well, this is downright grippy. Over 2000m of climbing in a shade under 155km is a solid day out. A tickling contest it is not!

The parcours heads out of Bristol city centre and after a relatively long (for UK standards) neutral section the kilometre zero is reached shortly before the first major climb of the day at Dundry Hill, a spitefully steep berg that could see early splits occur. A fast descent immediately afterwards will mean the riders will need to be alert and not lurking in the last half of the peloton. The circuits are then reached at Harptree Hill and continue on for an increasing lap distance of interlinked circuits until the run back into Bristol and the final ascent, being the opposing side of Dundry Hill. A fast technical descent could prove decisive for a sneaky attack as there is less than 10km to go and a relatively benign finale. It’s a great course; and similar to last weekend’s Lancaster GP, a real racing parcours. I am not a fan of the perceived wisdom of making a parcours as hard as possible by taking it up every 20% berg in sight, as a hard fought race can be had on a relatively flat course, but I do believe race organiser Andy Cook and team have the balance right here. 

With the right ratio of teams represented in a break this is not going to be an easy course to chase with any cohesion

Colin Sturgess

With Wiggins, Zappi’s and GBR national selection away at baby Giro the field is narrowed somewhat, but this shouldn’t take away from the racing in anyway. Canyon and Madison field the two strongest teams on paper, and will both be looking to consolidate on series rankings and last week’s results. Wiggins Le Col will be looking to play the Mark Christian card (rightly so), and Vitus have a healthy and reinvigorated Scott Thwaites back, and I’d ideally like to see a ride from Ali Slater. Ribble should be looking to Zeb Kyffin for that early move as the boy has some impressive numbers up his sleeve, and with a bit of guidance from experienced journeyman Gruff Lewis, should do well. For Swift Carbon Pro Cycling, the wise Pete Williams and James Shaw will be in the mix. Series leader Steve Lampier is looking to defend his jersey and around these roads and on what is almost a “local” race for him and the St Piran boys, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. And speaking of local riders, woe betides anyone that lets Marcin Bialoblocki (Nopinz Symec RT) up the road! He may well have taken a step away from Pro Conti level racing but you’d be a mug to ignore him. Don’t overlook the Wales Racing Academy lads for a solid performance, but I keep coming back to Madison and Canyon. Stedman and Moses can trouble any field in the country, and with strength/depth in both squads I’m afraid to say the rest of the peloton is going to have to go some to better either squad.

So how do I see it being played out? I’d get someone with good legs in an early move, and then let a break establish. Be cautiously patient and then fire across another rider (or two) in a counter-move and try to force the break to stick at 90seconds or so. I am an advocate of getting multiple riders in a break, and whilst it can backfire, it is advisable to be on the front foot. With the right ratio of teams represented in a break this is not going to be an easy course to chase with any cohesion, and a break is more than likely going to stay away. A rider like Bibby or Shaw could hit out on the final climb, and although it would be expected, by then it’s down to who has the form and the legs on the day, and both do. 

I’m loath to make predictions but if I had to name the top five riders I’d go with Tom Stewart, James Shaw, Ian Bibby, Scott Thwaites, and Steve Lampier. You choose the order…

National Road Series standings

Steve Lampier (Saint Piran) currently leads the individual National Road Series standings on 60 points, just 2 ahead of Ian Bibby and 5 in front of Bibby’s teammate Matt Holmes.

In the team standings, Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes narrowly lead Madison Genesis (155 points to 148). Team Wiggins Le Col (110 points) are in third.

The race is also a Tour of Britain qualification race. Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes continue to lead these standings.

Timings

10.30 – 14.15 approx

Weather

The forecast suggests there could be showers at times, with a moderate breeze also expected, which could make a tough course even harder. In the riders’ favour, the weather will be mild, with temperatures of up to 17 degress expected.

TV

Highlights of the race will be shown on Eurosport.

Featured photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com. 04/09/2018 – OVO Energy Tour of Britain 2018 – Stage 3 Bristol to Bristol – A view from above Cheddar Gorge