Saltburn > Saltburn 186km
The British road race takes place in the north-east of England, not too far from Middlesbrough, on what is one of the most demanding circuits you’re going to see this weekend. 186km in length, with 4037m of climbing, this is going to be a very hard race.
Cloudy sun and mild for this part of the world. The wind will be up at around 28km/h, but much of the route is protected from the wind.
There are three main climbs, 1.84km at 6.4%, 700m at 7.1% and 300m at 12% which is the rise to the finishing line. Those are the serious climbs, but the road is either going up or down, this circuit has virtually no flat roads, which will make it incredibly hard to control.
Ineos are not the force they once were. They are here with just six men, and without any of their “big hitters”. Thomas was meant to be here, but he’s pulled out, which leaves the team looking unsuited to a race with so much climbing. This is not a race they’re going to dominate, but it doesn’t mean they cannot win.
Most of the other contenders are solo riders, apart from those from EF. They have a team of four, if you include the young lad from their devo team, which puts them into a good position. FDJ also have a few boys, but they are unlikely to be fighting for the win, they should be looking for the break.
This is the interesting bit in the race, who will control the break if Ineos and EF are represented? This issue has led to a break featuring the top riders in previous editions, this year I would expect something similar due to the difficulty of the circuit. Once this group gets away, it won’t come back, but the composition will be crucial. Numbers from Ineos will put pressure on the solo riders, but if they can form an alliance, they can break the Death Star. The difficulty of the circuit means the cream should rise to the top and the strongest riders on the day fight it out for the win.
Ineos – they arrive with six riders: Rowe, Connor & Ben Swift, Josh Tarling, Ben Tulett and Ben Turner. I would think that Tulett is plan A, he copes well with the short climbs in this race. The team will try to use their numbers, it’s all about getting riders ahead of the race and forcing others into chasing. I think Connor Swift is plan B, he doesn’t mind a punchy climb and currently looks very lean.
Fred Wright – this is a good route for Fred, but going up against the numbers of Ineos won’t be easy. 2023 has been another decent year for him, but he’s still searching for his first professional win. One of the issues he has is that he’s always doing big races, he’s hardly ever at a lower ranked race, which is where he could pick up a stack of wins. 8th in Flanders is his most notable result this year, that is a race with a lot less climbing than this one. If Fred is going to win here, he needs to be climbing at his very best.
James Knox – if he finds his Basque Country form, he’ll be very hard to beat. He was 2nd in the Queen stage of that race, 8th on GC, and that was up against some of the best in the world. He was gathering up a head of steam, but illness in Romandie set him back a few weeks, but he’s hoping that with Suisse in his legs he finds form here. He’s another who’ll like the punchy nature of the climbs, they’ll remind him of Cumbria.
Simon Carr – after winning the final stage in Occitanie, he arrives here full of confidence. Recent form is excellent, that win followed up his 3rd place on Ventoux, it’s been a good couple of weeks for him. I think he’d prefer longer climbs, but the amount of elevation in this race suits a rider like him. He’s got a couple of teammates to try and hold the race together, which is very important against the numbers Ineos have.
James Shaw – good on the hills we have in this race. If he and Carr can play their cards right, they could have two men in the front group, giving them a big advantage. Since moving to EF, Shaw has struggled to fulfil his potential, but I sense a big result isn’t too far away.
Paul Double – was brilliant in the Queen stage of Slovenia, he’s got a realistic chance of challenging for the podium.
Stephen Williams – he registered for the race, then after the Giro decided he wasn’t going to race, but the word on the street is he’s changed his mind after performing better than expected in Occitanie. I’m glad he’s had a change of heart, if he has the same legs as last weekend, he’ll be one of the men to beat.
I’ll take a first professional win for…