Features Previews Races

South Coast Classic: men’s race preview

Preview of Round 8 of the National Road Series

Round 8 of the HSBC UK | National Road Series sees the domestic peloton take a rare trip south, to Eastbourne, for the South Coast Classic.

The road to Beachy Head. Photo: Nilfanion [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

What is it?

The South Coast Classic is one of four new races in the National Road Series, organised. Centred around the Victorian seaside resort of Eastbourne, and taking in a coastal route along the white cliffs of the South Downs National Park, the race should serve up some picturesque and aggressive racing.

As well as being part of the National Road Series, the race may also be decisive in the Tour of Britain qualification race. the race is also the second to last qualifying round of the Tour of Britain. Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother will need a strong result (and to finish well ahead of Team Wiggins Le Col) in order to keep their outside qualification hopes alive.

The route

At 156km long, the race is one of the shortest in the National Road Series. With the riders having to tackle the climb up to Beachy Head 13 times each and with the potential for crosswinds on the coastal road, however, this will be no walk in the park.

The race starts in on Eastbourne’s Victorian seafront against the tree-lined backdrop of the Western Lawns. The route then takes the riders out of town up to Warren Hill, where the men will face 13 laps of a lumpy coastal circuit (the women face 9 laps on the same course).

The key challenge on the circuit is the climb up to the iconic chalk headland of Beachy Head. Just over 2km long at an average gradient of 4.7%, it’s a steady, rather than savage, obstacle, although it does pitch up to 8.3% at its steepest. By the 13th time up it, however, the climb will feel far from easy for the riders, especially if it’s an aggressive race.

I’d expect this climb to be the place where the main moves are made during the race. Once the riders are over it for the last time, it’s then a fast descent back in to Eastbourne.

Contenders

We have only seen a provisional start list so far and the final list will no doubt change, especially as the current list still has plenty of spots left to fill.

Leader of the National Road Series, Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) – 4th in the recent Tokyo 2020 Test Event – is a provisional starter, as is his nearest Series challenger James Shaw (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling, 10th in Tokyo). This is a course that suits both riders. Third-placed Rory Townsend, meanwhile, is representing Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes in France at the GP de la ville de Pérenchies (UCI 1.2).

Who else might feature? Like the Circuit of the Mendips and the Lancaster Grand Prix, this is another race for punchy riders. So other contenders from the Continental teams include Max Stedman, Tom Stewart (both Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes), Ian Bibby (Madison Genesis), Dan Tulett (Team Wiggins Le Col) and Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK).

Interestingly, Ribble Pro Cycling aren’t on the provisional startlist. Like Canyon dhb, they are racing the GP de la ville de Pérenchies on the same day. With no chance of Tour of Britain qualification, presumably they have decided to give their riders some UCI race experience instead. It will be interesting to watch the final startlist to see if they field a team or focus their energy on France.

Beyond the Continental teams there are, as usual, some strong riders who we’d expect to see competing for a result. Steve Lampier (Saint Piran) is the obvious pick of the elite riders; he’s been Mr Consistent this season and this is a race that should suit him. Our recent interviewee Kieran Savage (Cycling Sheffield) should also find this race to his liking. Alex Peters continues his return to racing and could well feature after a strong showing at the Beaumont Trophy. And one of Britain’s most promising talents Ethan Hayter is also a provisional starter. He’s racing the RideLondon Classic the following weekend so this will be a good warm-up race for him. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if he wins.

HSBC UK National Road Series Stockton GP Men’s Race, Matt Holmes
Photo: Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com

Standings

Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) currently leads the individual National Road Series standings on 122 points, just 8 ahead of James Shaw (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling). 3rd-placed Rory Townsend isn’t racing, but 4th-placed Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK) is. He has 88 points.

In the team standings, Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes have a clear lead over Madison Genesis (381 points to 249). SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling (249 points) and Team Wiggins Le Col (232 points) are both close to challening for Madison Genesis’ 2nd place spot.

The race is also a Tour of Britain qualification race.

Timings

Start: 13.30

Finish: 17.30 approx

Weather

The forecast is for mild, wet weather with a ‘fresh’ breeze. This could make it a particularly testing race.

TV

Highlights of the race will be shown on Eurosport.

Featured photo: Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com – 07/07/2019 – Cycling British Cycling HSBC UK National Road Series The Beaumont Trophy Stamfordham, Northumberland – The peloton heads up the Ryals for the third time