By Gerry McManus
The flag drops for the start of the 2006 British Cycling criterium series with the Hillingdon Grand Prix in West London on Saturday June 3, closely followed by the Brentwood Town Centre criterium events in Essex on Sunday afternoon. These are the first two of twelve counting events running through to September.
Race 1 - Hillingdon Criterium Grand Prix
A number of key riders have entered the Hillingdon event with a prize list of £1,000 on offer. A top 10 placing will yield a good reward, ensuring a competitive race right to the end in the 80km/54-lap blast on the circuit built a number of years ago over waste land near Hayes.
James Taylor (Plowman Craven RT) won the big sprint last year and will again feature among this year’s winners nominations. 29 year-old Taylor has 25 national road and track championship medals in his trophy cabinet, all won with the help of the powerful sprint belonging to the short distance specialist. Taylor also has the support of Tony Gibb, Malcolm Elliott and Freddie Johansson in the eight-man PCA team, providing an advantage over the remaining 47 riders on the start sheet.
Mariusz Wiesiak (Team Nippo) could turn out to be the PCA nemesis again as the exciting Polish prospect has already out-sprinted veteran Elliott to win the Archer GP earlier this year. His teammate David Clarke has no hills to conquer in Hillingdon but looks useful on the flat too. Only the Evans Cycles RT including Justin Hoy, Jamie Newell and Jody Crawforth, have the numerical strength in seven riders to compete with PCA tactically. Warwick Spence (London Dynamo/Cycle Fit) could be an outside bet but he can't slip under the radar without being detected like he used to. Robert Hayles (Team KLR) returns the UK after supporting Geraint Thomas in his overall win for the GB team in the 57th Flèche du Sud in Luxembourg this week, but will find it hard to get more than a 200m lead over a vigilant bunch. But it only takes a tyre width to win this event and we know he can do if he gets clear with under 4km to go.
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