Adam Blythe (NFTO) sprinted to RideLondon-Surrey Classic victory on The Mall, leading home a British one-two ahead of Ben Swift (Team Sky).
Blythe was one of five riders remaining from a break which went clear on the run-in to Box Hill, with former team-mate, 2012 world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), the chief instigator in the group.
However, after Swift had worked to keep the group together in the face of a series of attacks by the Belgian, Blythe beat his fellow Yorkshireman to record NFTO’s biggest victory of their debut season.
And the delighted former BMC man said post-race: “It’s hard to put into words what it really means – I think the look on my face says that.
“I came back to England and took a step down from WorldTour and I just wanted to show I’m still here and I’m still capable of mixing it in races like these.
“With the rain and the conditions it definitely made it hard and with about 40 kilometres to Box Hill, Sky began to put the hammer down – I knew then it was race on.
“The break went away just before the climb and luckily I was in that, we got over Box Hill together and we worked well together.
“It was typical of Philippe Gilbert’s attacking, but I stuck with him. I cramped up a little but I just tried to as much as I could while saving myself as much as possible at the same time.
“We got to about a kilometre to go and I thought right, game on. I’m just super happy.”
Rolling out of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a fast pace was set from the very start which made it difficult for a break to go clear.
Kristian House (Rapha Condor JLT), who was typically active in the early part of the race, was part of one group which earned a small advantage but it was soon brought back as the likes of Sky worked hard on the front.
When a group did finally earn an advantage, they too were kept at close quarters as Steven Lammertink (Giant-Shimano) looked to sweep up the sprint points.
Steven Lampier (Velosure-Giordana), Markus Eibegger (Synergy Baku), Jonathan Hivert (Belkin) and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka) also went up the road.
Their lead stretched to more than three minutes but was rapidly brought back into check as Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Quickstep hit the front of the bunch.
The gap had fallen significantly as they hit the first climbs of the day, the short ascent of Stanmore seeing Sir Bradley Wiggins drag the peloton in behind.
With strong winds shortly after the climb, the bunch became split as those who found themselves towards the back on the ascent were caught out.
It was not until Box Hill, the day’s final climb, that the race-winning break was formed however – Blythe, Swift and Gilbert just three of the big names to make the split.
Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Scott Thwaites (Team NetApp-Endura), Stef Clement (Belkin Pro Cycling), Kristijan Koren (Cannondale), Julian Alaphilippe and Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) also made their way into the lead group.
Thwaites’ team-mate Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE), Loic Vliegen (BMC Racing) completed a strong 11-man group.
With all of the WorldTour teams represented up the road apart from Giant-Shimano, there were few teams to take up the chase – though Cannondale continued to pull the bunch with Elia Viviani, rather than Koren, in mind.
With Gilbert up the road the move always looked a dangerous one however, even as the roads levelled out for the rapid run-in to the finish.
Unsurprisingly it was Gilbert who split the front group up too, as he, Swift, Blythe, Alaphilippe and Koren turned a hundred metres’ advantage into just shy of a minute.
Bennett, Ewan and Clement chased hard, but with Vliegen looking to disrupt the chase, the gap held as the kilometres ticked down.
The five up the road continued to share the workload well, each pulling on the front – despite some attempts by Gilbert to split it up.
They were still together as they hit The Mall, however, with enough of a gap for the looks over their shoulders to start as they dared someone to take up the sprint.
Riding close to the barrier, it was Swift – with 200 metres to go – who began to pull away but Blythe stuck to his wheel and burst past him to take the win.
Swift came in second, with Alaphilippe rounding off the podium, but – just as team-mate Russell Downing had predicted – it was the UCI Continental team who took top spot on the podium.
Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic – result
1) Adam Blythe (NFTO Pro Cycling)
2) Ben Swift (Team Sky)
3) Julian Alaphillipe (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
4) Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing)
5) Kristijan Koren (Cannondale)
6) Sam Bennett (Team NetApp-Endura)
7) Loic Vliegen (BMC Racing)
8) Stef Clement (Belkin Pro Cycling)
9) Elia Viviani (Cannondale)
10) Russell Downing (NFTO Pro Cycling)