A little bit of Northey soul
MIKE Northey became on the second man to win both of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling's principle weekend races when he stormed home ahead of the field to take the Grand Prix of Wales on a baking hot afternoon in Abergavenny
Yorkshireman Russell Downing claimed the double back in 2008 and, after New Zealander Northey won the Wales Open Criterium on Friday night in a thrilling finish, he rode down the centre of the town in triumph to come home on Sunday by three seconds from team-mate Steve Lampier.
The two of them had ridden away from third-placed rider Mark Christian on the final lap of ten closing loops of the town but the 24-year-old Kiwi still had a sprint in him after nearly four hours of exhaustive effort which included a climb up the notorious Tumble Mountain between Abergavenny and Blaenavon.
On resumption, the race took a little while to get going as the riders stayed pretty tightly bunched for the first 25 miles of the 100-mile route through Usk, Raglan and Monmouth.
But once the attacks came on a very hot day, there were some telling contributions. The first big break came after 25 miles when ten riders got away from the bunch and got to two minutes 20 seconds up on the pack.
Lampier was the only one of the eventual podium trio in that group which included home Welsh favourites Rhys Lloyd, Dale Appleby and Rob Partridge, all experienced riders over the Abergavenny course.
Yet the group's lead was whittled back and, as they approached the Tumble Mountain climb and the King of the Mountains prize, their lead was only one minute 45 seconds.
But the Tumble is not rated as one of the toughest climbs in the UK for nothing and as the riders ploughed onwards and upwards on the five kilometre road to the summit, the peloton was split asunder.
Six chasers clawed the deficit to 50 seconds as the mountain took its toll but it came as little surprise that Olympic Games mountain bike expert Ollie Beckingsale, Enduro MTB Racing, came storming up the climb to join a lead group of four riders, which soon became three, that had survived the tortures.
As the riders rode back to Abergavenny along the Heads of the Vallleys road, the breakaway was caught and a large group entered the final ten finishing laps around the town.
Lampier, Lach Norris and Niklas Gustavsson, the later who came second in Friday's Criterium, took the lead on the first lap but that grew to ten riders with six laps left to the finish line.
At this time, Northey was still nowhere to be seen and, with two laps left, a break of three riders - Lampier, Christian and young talent Michael Cuming, who has recently won the Tour of Korea, went away.
However, it was here that the Kiwi made his charge and, with Cuming and Christian losing touch at the bell on the penultimate lap, it was left to the two Node4 - Giordana Racing riders to fight it out to the finish.
They reached the final kilometre and were looking to go over the line together but decided to race it out and, Lampier's effort told in his legs as Northey sprinted away to the line to win by three seconds.
The Grand Prix of Wales paid its own tribute to Ben Carroll, of Cardiff, who died in a club handicap race on Tuesday by stopping the race for a minute's silence at the spot just outside Abergavenny where the rider was killed in a head-on crash with a van.
Mike Northey thought this was very respectful and added, "It as nice that we could do that."
As for the race, the Kiwi revealed, "I got myself up to the front and then, when we got on the laps, it was my style of racing – circuits – which I enjoy."
The Node 4-Giordona Racing ace struggled up The Tumble Mountain, the main climb of the Grand Prix and admitted, "That is definitely not my forte. As soon as they attacked from the bottom, I just rode it at my own pace and luckily I had my team-mate with me to help to get to the front end of the second group.
"It was less than a minute going over the top so it was going to come back at us. I have always been told to be on the front foot and, once we got onto the circuits, I was aggressive. We did it really well and set me up to go across the gap to the leaders."
Lampier was there or thereabouts all the way but heard from a photographer in the final laps that Northey was closing in on the front group.
Lampier explained, "When I got away with the group, a photographer said 'Mike is coming across (the gap)'. So I sat on the back of Michael Cuming and asked 'How are you feeling?' He said, "Good'. So I attacked and dropped Mark (Christian). There were then three of us (Lampier, Northey and Cuming) and I had another go but Michael got a bit of cramp.
"I said to Northey 500 metres out 'What are we going to do?' He said, 'Let's race it out!' But I didn't have the legs left."
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