Alexandre Blain (Endura Racing) has won the opening round of the 2012 Premier Calendar series.
The Frenchman outsprinted Rapha Condor Sharp’s Ben Grenda and Matt Cronshaw (Node4-Giordana) to win the 2012 Maldon Dengie Tour.
Blain claimed Endura Racing’s tenth victory of the season, their first this year on home soil, with victory on a grueling 104-mile parcours of rural roads and farm tracks, billed as the Hell of the East by the race organisers.
The 31-year-old Frenchman’s victory came despite an early puncture and he thanked teammates Rob Partridge, who towed him back to the bunch, and Ian Wilkinson, who selflessly set the tempo in the closing miles, for their role in his victory.
Andy Hastings (Metaltek-Scott) seized the initiative, attacking within the opening 18 miles to establish a gap of about 30 seconds, but crashed after being caught by the bunch.
Sam Harrison (100% ME) then went on the attack. Chris Opie (Team UK Youth) bridged across to his wheel and together they opened up a lead of a minute. But behind them, Endura Racing, leaders of the UCI EuropeTour, began to drive the peloton and reeled in the pair.
A six-strong group including Blain and Wilkinson, Cesaro, Cronshaw, Grenda and Team IG-Sigma Sport’s Simon Richardson went clear, with Wilkinson falling away in the closing miles after setting the pace in Blain’s service.
Six of the top ten places were claimed by Britain’s UCI Continental squads, who provided four of the first five finishers. But fourth place for Meridiana Karmen’s Robert Cesaro, seventh and tenth for Sam Harrison and Owain Doull (100% ME) and eighth place for Marcel Six (Metaltek-Scott) showed the competitive nature of the race.
The Rouleur King of the Early Classics title, contested by riders who completed the Maldon Dengie Tour, the Jock Wadley Classic and the Wally Gimber Trophy, was won by Matt Jones (Corley Cycles Blue).
The Condor Cycles Under 23 prize was won by second-placed Ben Grenda (Rapha Condor Sharp).
Maldon Dengie Tour
1) Alexandre Blain (Endura Racing) 3:56.05
2) Ben Grenda (Rapha Condor Sharp)
3) Matt Cronshaw (Node4 Giordana Racing)
4) Roberto Cesaro (Meridiana Karmen)
5) Simon Richardson (Team IG-Sigma Sport)
6) Marcin Bialoblocki (Node4-Girodana Racing)
7) Sam Harrison (100% ME)
8) Marcel Six (Metaltek Scott)
9) Evan Oliphant (Team Raleigh)
10) Owain Doull (100% ME)