British Cycling’s Premier Calendar starts on Sunday (1) with the Maldon Dengie Tour.
Billed as ‘the Hell of the East’, the race will bring together all six of Britain’s UCI Continental teams on home soil for the first time this season. The race is characterized by its sections of ‘pavé’, with nine sections of unmade roads included in this year’s event. Strong cross winds have also played a key role in previous editions.
Endura Racing will send a typically strong line up that includes defending champion, Zak Dempster, Tour of Normandie stage winners, Erick Rowsell and Ian Wilkinson, and Jonny McEvoy, who came within inches of winning the final stage. Alexandre Blain, overall winner of last year’s Tour de Normandie, and Rob Partridge and Scott Thwaites, both Halfords Tour Series stage winners in 2011, complete the line up.
Team IG-Sigma Sport will also field a heavyweight squad. Former Garmin-Cervelo rider, Daniel Lloyd, will make his debut in the red and black of his new team. Dutchman, Wouter Sybrandy, will hope to continue a strong start to the season begun by claiming Chris Boardman’s record in the North Road Hard Riders time trial. Simon Richardson and Tom Murray will also add plenty of experience to the London team’s eight-strong line-up.
Rapha Condor Sharp, dominant in last year’s race, will field a mix of youth and experience this year. Former national road race champion, Kristian House, Dean Downing, and James McCallum represent the experience, with Oliver Rossi, Ben Grenda, Felix English, Richard Lang, and Luke Mellor making up the youthful contingent. Rossi targeted his home race for a strong performance while talking to RCUK earlier this year.
Team Raleigh-GAC’s line-up includes many of the riders who performed so strongly in last week’s Vuelta Mexico. Tobyn Horton, twice a visitor to the Mexican podium, and Evan Oliphant, second on stage three, will ride with Bernard Sulzberger, who finished fourth overall in the green jersey competition, and climber, Russell Hampton, who finished 23rd in the mountain time trial. The Nottingham team will also field national criterium champion, Graham Briggs, who joined the team from Rapha Condor Sharp.
Team UK Youth will be led by former Paris-Roubaix winner, Magnus Backstedt supported by a returning Yanto Barker, former Commonwealth Games entrant and the man behind the Le Col clothing brand.
Node4Giordana, risen from the ashes of the highly successful Motorpoint squad, which had the first, second, and third placed riders at the conclusion of last year’s Premier Calendar series, have 11 riders listed on the start sheet, from which they will have to chose eight. Marcin Bialoblocki, third at the conclusion of last year’s series, would be an obvious selection.
Among the teams making debuts will be the four-man outfits of Hope Factory Racing and Spin-Rotor Racing. Hope will feature national series cyclo-cross champion, Paul Oldham, while Spin-Rotor will make their competitive debut just a week after their official team launch. Team manager, Neil Batt, said: “We’ve got a busy and punishing race schedule ahead of us, leading with the Dengie Marshes Tour and Tour Doon Hame. It’s going to be challenging, but we’ve got the right kit and we’re up for a good scrap!”