MIKE Northey just held on in a brilliant finish to win the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling Wales Open Criterium around the streets of the town centre on Friday night.
It was a great race from the gun as a field including double Olympic Games gold medalist Ed Clancy and last year's winner Graham Briggs were stretched after just a lap of the hour-plus-six-laps race which was part of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series.
Northey had not featured among the podium riders at either of the opening two Elite Series races in Stockton and Otley but he raced off to the lead with Mark Christian and built up a substantial lead over the stretched pelaton around the Abergavenny circuit, which includes a challenging hairpin bend.
But both riders were away and it looked more than likely that the winner would come from these two. However, Niklas Gustavsson had other ideas and while the pack floundered, the made an attack as the final finishing laps approached.
The gutsy Team UK Youth rider bridged the gap and came into the final stretch side-by-side with Northey but was defeated by a bike-length on the line and admitted later that he did not have the strength left to fight in the sprint finish. Christian came home third.
New Zealander Northey said later, "It was a bit of luck. Niklas was going quicker than me but I managed to get a little bit more momentum but it was tight coming into that last area. I was pretty lucky there, just scrapped through.
"I was just trying to ride to the pace of the bunch during the race but Niklas came across very quick and once he got there, I knew it would be down to the sprint."
The two riders were neck and neck with only 25 metres to go but Northey just managed to get his wheels in front.
That now gives Northey some valuable points in the Elite Series and he said, "I never got anything out of the other ones, a win is a win."