And it won’t just be last year’s winner, local hero Scott Thwaites, who is challenging current Circuit Champion Graham Briggs over the twists and turns of Bondgate and Birdcage Walk. This year’s Circuit Race Championship sits between the UK’s two big town centre criterium series: the Halford’s Tour Series dominates the early season, with British Cycling’s Elite Series kicking off after the Otley Championship in June.
Dean Downing has to battle illness in the Halfords Tour Series but should be on fire for the British Championship in Otley…
Thwaites hit form early in the Tour Series, winning twice and finishing on the podium twice more. His Endura team heads the rankings going into the final two races and they will also be the team to beat in Otley, fielding no less than seven top riders including Sheffield’s Russ Downing and previous Otley winner Ian ‘Superman’ Wilkinson alongside Scott Thwaites.
But current circuit champ Briggs (Raleigh-GAC) has also had a win in the Halfords Tour Series, and his Raleigh teammates are finding their legs at the right time and have will eight experienced riders on the grid on Bondgate. The Yorkshire challenge, however, extends across many of the other teams and even includes a number of riders with close connections to the Otley and Leeds area.
Russ Downing’s brother Dean heads up a strong Rapha Condor squad that includes Olympic medallist Ed Clancy MBE. Local favourite, Tom Barras is among nine riders from Metaltek-Scott. World-class will also be present in the form of Sheffield’s Adam Blythe, who this year moved to ride with Tour de France winner Cadel Evans in team BMC.
Two more young Yorkshire hopefuls, who have followed Blythe’s lead and gone looking for experience on the continent, will also be in Otley in the colours of their Italian racing squads: Joshua Edmondson rides for Team Colpak Astro, while brother Nathan Edmondson is with Valle Seriana Cere. They won’t have teams around them, but they will have learnt to look after themselves in the European peloton and will be sure to play an active part in a very active race!
He’s the rider of the year winning long endurance road races and crits alike — last years winner Scott Thwaites.
Anyone in any doubt about the current and future strength of cycle racing in Yorkshire only has to look at the rest to the evening’s race programme to see why the area is doing so well: Olympic Road Race favourite Lizzie Armitstead will front the grid in the Chevin Cycles Classic race, the local lass leading out the best of the region’s race teams and club racers including her brother Nick riding for Otley-based Dirtwheels Cycles. Before that, youth riders aged 12 and upwards will demonstrate the strength of the local club racing scene in the WGC Landscapes Lads and Lasses race and the Triton Construction Super Prestige Youth Race. The average speeds at last year’s Youth race were only a whisker behind the elites!
Of course, the local riders won’t get it all their own way. With all the UK’s top teams here for the National Championships, and having honed their circuit-race form in the Tour Series, you can also expect to see a good show from riders who traditionally do well on this tough course: Kristian House, James McCallum and Tony Gibb are never far from the front here.
Over 4,000 spectators are expected to line the course, and enjoy the continental atmosphere that transforms the Yorkshire market town on bike race night. And if they’re grabbing a pint and miss the vital move, they’ll be able to catch up a few days later as race highlights will once again be shown on Sky TV.
To find out more, visit www.otleycycleraces.co.uk
follow @otleycycleraces on Twitter or see the Otley Town Centre Cycle Race page on Facebook.