By Gerry McManus
Former world track silver medallist Tony Gibb (Plowman Craven RT) is keen to sign off his professional career with the gold medal at this week's British Criterium Championships. The 32 year-old is one of 70 riders heading to Beverley in East Yorkshire on Friday evening aiming to take home the title.
"This is my final year of racing and it would be great to sign off with a win in the championships," said Gibb. "It is what I have been working for in the last couple of weeks. I wanted to win the British 10-mile time trial championships but that didn't work out because Michael Hutchinson pulled out an absolutely outstanding ride and I finished second."
Gibb's career successes include a record four wins in the Eddie Soens Memorial race at Aintree, eight Track World Cup and multiple British Championship medals but Gibb won't let his personal ambitions outweigh those of a potential team victory. "There are a lot of people for us to look out for in the race," said Gibb. "We will just concentrate on our own game to set it up for one of our guys to win."
Gibb's team-mate James McCallum wears number one as the defending champion, but team orders could see him riding for Gibb. Gibb is clearly on form after he rode away from the entire field to win the Blackburn Grand Prix last week.
The hot British summer spell is expected to be cooled by showers on Friday to provide a little comfort for the riders competing in the high speed 70 minute plus five laps race. The 1.25 km circuit throws up a couple of long 90 degree bends, but nothing that would prove to be too advantageous for the short distance specialists. The long run up to the finish line could see all the big teams battling it out to deliver their nominated sprinters into a race winning position, if it should all end in a mass sprint for the line.
"There are only two tight corners on the Beverley criterium circuit and the back-straight is quite narrow," said Gibb. "It is not too twisty and we have got a 500m run in to the finish. If we can get it going really fast, that would really suit me."
Plowman Craven may have eight riders in the race but the powerful Rapha Condor Recycling squad will have 12 starters. The latter's squad includes 2008 sprint revelation Graham Briggs, Dean Downing, Kristian House and Simon Holt.
Pinarello could also provide the British champion through Russell Downing or Malcolm Elliott. At 47 years of age, Elliott still shows no sign of slowing down.
Rob Hayles (Team Halfords / Bike Hut) would dearly love to take the winners gold medal home to sit in the trophy cupboard next to the one he won in at the British Road Race championships last month. A double victory would provide some consolation for missing out on Great Briton selection for the Beijing Olympic Games.
It would take a brave man to bet on the winner coming from anyone else that the aforementioned top four teams. Ian Wilkinson (ScienceInSport-Trek) is the only United Kingdom regular to snatch victory from them in the major races this year and we can expect other spirited winning efforts from Dave Collins (ScienceInSport-Trek), Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport RT) and Pearl Azumi-Planet X's young trio of Liam Holoham, Stephen Adams and Jon Mozley.
Many of the riders are staying over in Yorkshire to ride the British Cycling calendar event of the East Yorkshire Classic on Sunday with 104 riders entered for the tough 98-mile race over the rolling terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. Russell Downing could clinch the series, with two events remaining, if he wins on Sunday.