By Gerry McManus
The British Cycling criterium series kicks off Sunday evening in Crawley. Top British riders may have thought they had seen the last of pave after the recent Cicle Classic and Lincoln GP races but the Crawley Cycling Club organisers have found more for them in the Sussex town.
Two winners from previous years, Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello - 2004) and Rob Hayles (Team KLR- 2006), are among the 47 riders entered for the one hour plus five laps race for top category riders. 4,000 spectators turned out last year and similar levels are expected this year. Racers will test bike handling skills on a technical 1km circuit.
The Plowman Craven team will be out in strength, but this year, they will start without last year's series winner Elliott who will ride with the support of his Pinarello teammates including Adrian Timmis. Plowman Craven's Simon Gaywood will be of the pre-race favourites. Gaywood has already taken a major victory in the Archer GP this year but is better known for his criterium racing over the years but the race could be won by any of his team mates this year including Tony Gibb and current British criterium champion James Taylor.
Dean Downing (Rapha / Condor) showed good form when he won the rain swept Lincoln GP last weekend. The former British Criterium and Madison champion has support in the shape of Ross Muir and Ben Price but this could be the circuit made for a lone rider like Warrick Spence (Cyclefit- Serotta). Spence outwitted all but Kristian House in the aptly named Warwick town centres races last season after House had broken a crank to leave him on his own take victory after the two had built an unassailable lead.
The local vocal support should be for Jody Crawforth (Evans Cycles) who would most likely win the most aggressive rider award if it was on offer in nearly all of the events he rides. Dont rule out the youngsters though as Tom Smith, Tom Barras, Liam Holoham and Jon Mozley (all Merlin RT) continue to look like they dont feel pain like everyone else.
The youth events start things off at 5:15 pm, and elite racers go at 8:00 pm. The winner will take home £750.