The 7th edition of the Ilkley Cycle Races takes place on Friday 23 July. For the first time, the elite races will form part of the National Circuit Series, a timely promotion given race cancellations elsewhere in the series. Here’s our preview.
Featured photo: Will Palmer/SWpix.com – 30/06/2021 – British Cycling – HSBC UK National Men’s Circuit Series – The Property Development Men’s Otley Grand Prix – Otley, Yorkshire, England – The peloton races through Otley.
What is it?
Just six miles away from the scene of round 1 of the National Circuit Series in Otley, Ilkley will host round 2 this Friday. The Ilkley Cycle Races has been running since 2014 and has quickly established itself as a popular event, with a good atmosphere and enthusiastic crowds.
As well as two elite races (the Ilkley Cinema Women’s Grand Prix and the Lister Horsfall Men’s Grand Prix), the event also features an under-16s race and a Cat 2/3/4 and Masters’ race. The elite races form the second and final round of the shortened 2021 National Circuit Series.
The elite men’s race has previously been won by Alex Dalton (2014), Pete Williams (2015), Scott Thwaites (2016), Tobyn Horton (2017) and Tom Moses (2018 and 2019). Victors of the women’s elite race, meanwhile, have been Melissa Lowther (2014), Henrietta Colbourne (2015), Rebecca Womersley (2016), Annie Simpson (2017 and 2018) and Emily Meakin (2019).
The route is a short punchy clockwise circuit in the centre of Ilkley, hard enough to split the race to pieces. At just 1.5 kilometres long, expect the riders to complete each lap as quickly as two minutes; Tom Pidcock is the only rider to have broken the two-minute barrier on the circuit, according to Strava.
The circuit starts outside Bettys Café Tea Rooms on The Grove. It quickly takes a 90° righthand turn and from here, the main climbing begins, with a 200 m ramp up Riddings Road, which has a maximum gradient of around 14%. Positioning into this right-hander will be crucial, as it is from this climb that we can expect many an attack to be launched. A long stretch of false flat then follows along Albany Walk and onto Parish Gyll Drive.
The race then begins heading back into town with a technical downhill section, fast and challenging enough that any rider hitting this section first on the final lap will fancy their chances of winning the race outright. The road kinks right then left onto Wilton Road before turning right onto Grove Road for a fairly long, straight downhill stretch. The riders then bear right again – at high speed – onto the finishing straight along The Grove.
The women’s race lasts 45 minutes, with the men racing for 60 minutes.
Riders to watch
As with the Otley Grand Prix, the fields are packed with some of the UK’s most talented riders. The results from Otley offer a good barometer of form, but don’t expect the race to follow the same pattern.
At the time of writing, the women’s field stands at 80 riders, a good deal smaller than the packed 120-rider startlist at Otley. Probably the biggest omissions are April Tacey (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur) and Jenny Holl (Tekkerz CC), who were second and third respectively in Otley. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of talented riders taking to the start.
It’s hard to see past Team Breeze again. In Otley GP winner Eluned King and Ella Barnwell (4th in Otley) they have two riders who could both win the race and take the overall series. Women’s CiCLE Classic winner Abi Smith is also in good form. Expect King to be the favoured rider if it comes down to a sprint finish, with Smith the kind of rider who could win solo. Barnwell is also a fast finisher.
The Pro-Noctis – Redchilli Bikes – Heidi Kjeldsen team were a bit of a surprise package in Otley with two riders in the top 11, Corinne Side (5th) and Jo Tindley (11th), and both riders are ones to watch again on Friday.
One of our under-23 riders to watch, Alice Towers (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur), finished 6th in Otley suggesting she could do well again, although without any teammates supporting her, she will have to thrive solo.
UCI Continental teams AWOL O’Shea and CAMS-Basso Bikes have the numbers (they both field six riders, more than any other team) but do they have the strength? Hannah Bayes was the former’s best finisher in Otley (9th) while Megan Barker was the best of CAMS-Basso Bikes’ riders in 14th. Both squads will have a point to prove on Friday.
Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus’ cyclocross specialist Amira Mellor showed she can compete in a flat out crit when she finished 7th in Otley. Team LDN – Brother UK duo Lucy Lee and Dani Shrosbree have both been in good form this season. Lee has had no less than ten wins this season, including the recent Guildford Town Centre Races 2021 and The Great Nothern Crit Series Round 1. And Shrosbree was second at the Banbury Star women’s road race and then won The Barnsley (Not in the Town Centre….) Races women’s race last weekend. Team Boompods’ Ellen McDermott is in form after her second place at the Women’s CiCLE Classic and is a former Irish crit champion. Keep an eye too on the Isorex NoAqua Ladies Cycling Team rider Milly Knight.
Beginners luck struck when we were foolish enough to make a prediction for the Otley Grand Prix, correctly guessing Eluned King as the winner. Such is our faith in the rider, we think she can make it two from two in Ilkley.
We once again expect UCI Continental teams Canyon dhb SunGod and Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling to be the strongest teams. Ribble Weldtite struck first blood in Otley with Matt Gibson’s victory and Gibson will once again be one of the favourites. He’s backed up by a fast experienced team, and in riders like sprinter Charles Page and 2019 Salisbury Tour Series winner Frederik Scheske, they have options beyond Gibson himself.
Canyon dhb SunGod will no doubt be backing Matt Bostock again, a five-time winner of National Circuit Series races in 2019. He’s one of our favourites again this time around, but such is the strength-in-depth of the team, you could imagine any one of their riders getting up the road and taking a win from the break too. Rob Scott came close in Otley with his second place, with three other Canyon dhb riders finishing in the top ten that night (Reece Wood, Matt Bostock and Jim Brown).
Beyond these two domestic super-teams, there are plenty of other riders to watch. In the other UCI Continental teams, we’re interested to see how fast-finishing Jacob Hennessy fares in his debut for Saint Piran; he’s a former Tour Series round winner. Ollie Rees (TRINITY Racing) has a fast finish but will have to fend for himself with no teammates to support him. And SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling will be hoping that new signing Ollie Peckover can improve on his 19th place in Otley.
Elite team Crimson Orientation Marketing RT once again have a strong line-up capable of upsetting the UCI opposition, not least current national circuit champion Joey Walker and Toby Barnes, winner of the Loughborough Cycling Festival elite criterium. Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor are another elite team to watch. They placed two riders in the top 20 in Otley – sprinter Josh Price and cyclocross specialist Tom Couzens. Both riders are capable of challenging for a top ten on Friday.
Joshua Whitehead (Team PB Performance) won The Barnsley (Not in the Town Centre….) Races men’s race against some top opposition at the weekend and will be looking to continue his good form. Team Inspired’s best-performing riders from Otley – Sam Watson (3rd) and Rhys Britton (9th) – are both racing in Europe – giving an opportunity to young talents Oscar Nilsson-Julien, Jack Rootkin-Gray and Max Rushby to shine. And finally, the revelation of Otley, junior Joshua Tarling (FlandersColor Galloo) will be looking to impress again.
Prediction time. We plumped for the two Matts – Bostock and Gibson – as the favourites in Otley and it’s hard to look past these two riders and their respective teams again. Let’s go for Bostock this time around.
Women’s race here.
Men’s race here.
National Circuit Series standings after round 1 here.
17.45 MAS Design under 16s race
18.25 Ilkley C.C. Classic Race (cat.2.3.4 men & masters race)
19.20 Ilkley Cinema Women’s Grand Prix
20.20 Lister Horsfall Men’s Grand Prix
At the time of writing, the forecast indicates it will be a warm, sunny evening, perfect for beer, bikes and BBQs.
How to follow
There will be race updates from the British Cycling Twitter account.