By Gerry McManus
The cancellation of the Tour of the Peaks on August 20 means that this Sunday’s Tour of the Pendle and Ribble Valley is the last counting event in the British Cycling Premier Calendar series for 2006.
82 riders will line up for the tough 136 km race based in Barnoldswick in Lancashire with Kristian House (recycling.co.uk) holding an unassailable lead in the series and team mate Rob Sharman in second spot. Recycling has dominated the seven race British series by winning five out of six so far with Mariusz Wiesiak (Team Nippo) being the fly in the ointment when he won the Archer GP back in April. However there are a number of other teams capable of taking victory here with key riders coming into form.
The riders leave the market square in Barnoldswick at 9.30 am heading out to the 44km circuit over the rolling Lancashire moorland on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Surprisingly enough the circuit features only one main climb but the long drag over Blacko is around 4 km in length and has to be ascended three times. The main race action is likely to start here when the peloton arrives after 42 km.
The leaders will have a 19 km run into the finish back at Barnoldswick when they reach the Blacko summit for the final time. There’s enough time to close down any small gaps created on the climb in the tough final kilometres towards the finish, and a small canal bridge near the finish could provide the non-sprinters with an opportunity to slip away.
Two non starters from the original entry sheet are Recycling’s Rob Partridge and Ben Greenwood. Partridge is on international duty in Italy as a replacement for Geraint Thomas who is currently on trial with pro team Saunier Duval. Greenwood would have been amongst the favourites for the UK event but stays racing in Italy where he has spent much of this year.
House has yet to recapture the form that won him the FBD Rás and Lincoln GP races earlier in the year but Rob Sharmen and Evan Oliphant have enjoyed more recent Premier wins in the Rutland-Melton GP and Ryedale GP races respectively. Mark Wordsworth (JE James RT) has already beaten Recycling to the finish line this year after he won the Mike Binks Memorial road race in the middle of July and he rides with four team members in support.
Mark Lovatt (Planet X) is back to form winning the recent AA Brown road race and taking fourth in the Ellis Briggs event won by Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport). The course could suit Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport RT) who is lying fourth in the series overall with results including podium spots in the Lincoln and Ryedale GPs.
The Plowman Craven team have lesser ambitions at this stage of the season and have opted to ride the Python RT road race in the South. Alex Higham looks currently to be the strongest of the Agisko/Dart/Cycling.tv team in the absence of Clayton Barrows, after Higham finished fifth overall in the recent Tour of the South.
The outside bet for this race lies in local rider Ian Stott (Blackburn and Dist CTC) whose pedigree includes being a former winner of the British national hill climb championship. There are 100 points awarded for first down to 2 points for 20th place.