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In a hard, selective edition of the RideLondon Classic, Blythe beat Swift, Alaphilippe, Gilbert and Koren in the sprint from a 5-rider group to take the biggest win of his career

Photo: BMC / Tim De Waele

ADAM BLYTHE

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

RIDE LONDON CLASSIC

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
10.08.2014 @ 19:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Adam Blythe (NFTO) proved that he deserves to return to the WorldTour when he won a very hard and selective edition of the RideLondon Classic. The Brit made it into an elite five-man group that sprinted for the win on the Mall in London and here he showed an amazing kick to hold off Ben Swift (Sky) and Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to take the biggest win of his career.

 

After several years at the WorldTour level, Adam Blythe found himself getting ousted from the most prestigious races when the BMC team decided not to renew his contract after the 2013 season. As no other team decided to sign him, he had to step down to continental level with the NFTO team where he has been riding for the last 6 months.

 

Today, however, he proved that he is definitely strong enough to be riding the biggest races when he took a hugely impressive win in the second edition of the RideLondon Classic. The young Brit beat his compatriot Ben Swift and Julian Alaphilippe in a sprint from a five-rider group that arrived on the Mall in London to battle it out for the win.

 

What made the win really impressive was the fact that it was not taken in the usual bunch sprint. Instead, hard pace by the Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE teams and bad weather made it a race of attrition and Blythe showed enormous strength by joining some of the best classics riders in the elite selection that was created in the windy hilly zone at the midpoint of the race.

 

In a crosswinds section before the final climb of the day, the 40-rider peloton split when Alaphilippe and Gert Steegmans rode hard for Omega Pharma-Quick Step and suddenly a 12-rider group had been formed. Zakkari Dempster (NetApp) fell off the pace on the Box Hill, the final climb of the day, which left just 11 riders to battle it out for the win.

 

Cannondale chased hard to bring Elia Viviani back in contention but very early it was clear that their effort was futile. In the front group, the riders started to attack each other and it was a five rider group with Blythe, Swift, Alaphilippe, Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) that emerged.

 

Blythe briefly seemed to be out of contention when a strong attack by Gilbert created a front duo, with the Belgian being joined by Alaphilippe, but their three chasers worked well together to rejoin the leaders. From there, no more attacks were launched and the race was decided in a 5-rider sprint.

 

Riding in fifth position, Blythe rode wisely by launching a surprisingly long sprint and his amazing kick quickly opened a big gap. In the end, Swift came fast from behind but the Shy sprinter ran out of metres and so he had to settle for second behind his compatriot.

 

Blythe will now return to the domestic scene for the next few weeks but will get another chance to mix it up with the best in September where he will line up as part of the NFTO team for the Tour of Britain.

 

The Olympic legacy

The second edition of the RideLondon Classic was held on a 192km course that closely resembled the one for the road race at the 2012 Olympics. After a flat start, the riders rolled from London to the Surrey Conty where they tackled five climbs on narrow roads. The final 50km, however, consisted of a flat run back to the finish on the Mall in London.

 

The many continental teams were keen to be part of the action and so the start of the race was very fast. Lots of attacking took place and several groups were formed but as a few key teams always missed out, things came back together.

 

The break is formed

Finally, Sky shut down the chase when Adrien Nyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka), Steven Lammertink (Giant-Shimano), Jonathan Hivert (Belkin), Steven Lampier (Velosure), Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme Marseille) and Markus Eibegger (Synergy Baku) had a small gap and with 160km to go, they were 1.15 ahead. The gap grew for a little while but never reached more than 3.15 before the small Kuota team decided to up the pace.

 

The German team was clearly not pleased to have missed out and they rode pretty hard on the front for a while. As it was now raining heavily, there were lots of crashes and punctures that made the race a lot harder and positioning very important.

 

Sky up the pace

After Lampier had won the first KOM sprint, NetApp-Endura decided to join the chase but on the second climb they lost some ground. When Eibegger won the sprint at the top, the gap was 2.20.

 

As the riders approached the third climb, things started to get serious when Christian Meier started to ride on the front for Orica-GreenEDGE. As they hit the climb, Ian Stannard joined the fun for Sky and at the top, the pair had brought the gap down to just a minute.

 

The break is caught

Lampier won the sprint for the points while the peloton had already been whittled significantly down. Niyonshuti got dropped from the front group while Ian Boswell, Stannard and Meier set a brutal pace in the peloton.

 

With 75km to go, the break was brought back and Stannard rode hard until the bottom of the penultimate climb. When he swung off the pace briefly went down before Boswell took over.

 

Vliegen attacks

Later Nathan Earle took over the pace-setting and he had to work hard when Loic Vliegen (BMC) launched the first attack. He was joined by Alaphilippe but shortly after the top Earle and Meier had brought them back.

 

Bradley Wiggins took over the pace-setting in the 40-rider group that remained but with 66km to go, he was replaced by Alaphilippe and Steegmans who rode hard for OPQS. That happened in a windy section and suddenly a 9-rider group had taken off.

 

The selection is made

Gilbert, Blythe, Alaphilippe, Steegmans, Sam Bennett, Zakkari Dempster, Scott Thwaites (all Orica-GreenEDGE), Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Swift had all made it into the group and they were joined by Vliegen, Stef Clement (Belkin) and Koren who bridged the gap. With 55km to go, they were 40 seconds ahead of the peloton in which Alberto Bettiol, Maciej Bodnar and Paolo Longo Borghini were chasing hard for Cannondale.

 

On the final climb, Gilbert made an attack that ended the day for Dempster who dropped back to the peloton. At first only Swift and Alaphilippe could match his speed but first Ewan and later Koren also made the junction.

 

Alaphilippe attacks

The front group got back together while Topsport Vlaanderen had started to chase with the Cannondale riders. While Bennett fought his way back from a mechanical, the gap reached 1.30 where it was kept stable for a while.

 

With 30km to go, Wanty also started to chase but that made little difference. 5km further up the road, the tactical battle in the front group started and it was Alaphilippe who launched the first attack.

 

The key selection is made

Gilbert made the next move and when Ewan cracked, he got clear on his own. Swift joined him and later Blythe and Alaphilippe also bridged the gap before Koren became the final rider to make it across.

 

The quintet worked well together until they reached the 15km mark where Gilbert launched his next attack. Alaphilippe joined him and the duo seemed to be riding away from their rivals.

 

The front duo is caught

Blythe, Swift and Koren worked well together and with 11km to go they were back together. From there, they again cooperated to keep a chase quartet of Bennett, Clement, Ewan and Vliegen at bay.

 

Inside the final 5km, the tactical battle started and so both the chasing trio – Ewan had been dropped – and the peloton started to get closer. With 2km to go, the bunch was just 1 minute back but it was clear that the escapees would decide the win.

 

Blythe wins the sprint

Koren led the group under the flamme rouge and he was riding on the front for most of the final kilometre. With 300m to go, Blythe launched his surprise sprint and managed to get such a big gap that Swift could not shut it down.

 

Bennett won the sprint for 6th while Elia Viviani paid back his Cannondale teammates by holding off Russell Downing (NFTO) in the peloton’s sprint for 9th.

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