By Gerry McManus
The top British criterium riders will have two opportunities to win this weekend with races on consecutive days. The weekend kicks off on Saturday at the Hillingdon GP at 3pm. Round one winner and series leader Simon Gaywood takes to the 1.5km purpose built circuit in Hayes, West London with his Plowman Craven team in support.
Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT) will not be returning to defend the Hillingdon title that he won last year. The Tour de France veteran travels to Belgium on Friday with his Pinarello team to get some serious training and racing in before the Premier Calendar series resumes and he must also be targeting the national championships at the end of the month. Strangely enough, Elliott's team-mate Andrew Roche is marooned on the Isle of Man unable to get a flight or ferry to the mainland due to the motorcycle TT event clogging up the transportation system.
Marius Wiesiak (Team Nippo) won last year's Brentwood event and is another absentee this year. Rob Hayles (Team KLR/Parker International) could hold the key to the trophy cabinet for both events this year. However, the technically unchallenging circuit at Hayes will not be helpful to the 34 year-old from Portsmouth with the strong Plowman Craven team having previously shown their ability to keep control of the race.
Plowman Craven's 11-man entry for the 50-mile event will not be popular with any of the other teams. Gordon McCauley, James Millard, Tony Gibb, Simon Gaywood and Jason Allen all completed the Cambridge CC 10-mile time trial in less than 20 minutes last weekend, narrowly missing the national team record. Recycling.co.uk's eight-man entry of elite riders led by Chris Newton could just be their match.
Sunday will offer Hayles more opportunities on the tight circuit in the provincial town of Brentwood in Essex. Hayles has the power to accelerate out of the corners time and time again putting pressure on his opponents albeit in a shorter one hour plus five laps event.
Dean Downing (Rapha/Condor RT) continues to have form and will be a contender. Dean's brother Russell (Health Net-Maxxis) will not apparently be travelling down from Rotherham despite still being stranded in the UK with visa difficulties prohibiting his return to his team in the US.
Warwick Spence (CycleFit-Serotta) continues to show that he is perfectly built for navigating through tight corners and he will want to improve on last year's third and seventh places at Hillingdon and Essex respectively. Junior Peter Kennaugh (Pinarello RT) could show his elders the way as he steps up to the senior event at Hillingdon. He is back to the junior race at Brentwood to defend the title he won last year. The 17 year-old from the Isle of Man has hopefully escaped from the island be before the tourists descended on it.
Both the events have support races earlier in the day with Brentwood hosting the Reynolds/Michelin sponsored junior and women's British Cycling series races on Sunday.