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Tour DoonHame Stage 1 – Sparling 55th

report by Tour DoonHame

April 23, 2011 (Moffat, Scotland) – Canada’s James Sparling (Team Raleigh) helped his teammate Matt Cronshaw (Team Raleigh) take the win at the 147.2km/92-mile Stage 1 circuit in Moffat as the 3-stage Tour DoonHame got underway in cold, rainy conditions. Sparling finished 55th on the stage.

Photos here.

Tour DoonHame Report
Marking an abrupt end to the recent spell of fine weather, the first stage of the 2011 Tour DoonHame began under leaden skies in the town of Moffat, 24 miles from the race’s base in Dumfries.

As the 142 starters took the ceremonial start outside the town hall, the rain began to fall and it wasn’t to let up until well after the winner crossed the finish line some hours later. A short loop around the town brought the race back to the town centre to contest the first Endura Hot Spot sprint of the day after just 6 miles of racing, followed almost immediately by the category 1 climb of Type Knowes to mark the first action in the battle for the King of the Mountains jersey. The completion of another larger loop saw the race contest the same indermediate points before leaving Moffat behind and heading for the remote countryside of the Lowther Hills.

The early miles were marked by a several crashes as the riders battled the slippery conditions, and the team cars were kept busy with a constant stream of punctures as the rain loosened the grit on the roads. Although several attacks took place at the head of the peloton, it was not proving easy to get away as the pace remained high. A group of 12 attacked at 26 miles, with many of the major teams represented but the advantage was short-lived and never amounted to more than a handful of seconds. No sooner were the escapees caught, than Tom Murray (Sigmasport-Specialized) and James Sparling (Team Raleigh) made a move which gained a maximum gap of 24 seconds before being reeled back in at the 31 mile mark.

Sweeping through the narrow streets of Abington and Crawfordjohn the elastic was stretched but never really broken. Meanwhile at the back of the race the relentless pace saw an increasing number of riders losing ground. A group of seven, including 2004 Paris Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt (Team UK Youth) were ahead by 20 seconds approaching the final Endura hot spot sprint in Sanquhar but yet again the gap was closed by the start of the last climb of the stage, the long category 1 ascent of Wanlockhead.

With several teams forcing the pace, Peter Williams (Motorpoint) – only just back on the road to recovery after an early season crash – found himself felled again along with team mate Tobyn Horton and Twenty3c-Orbea’s Mike Cuming.

The pressure of the climb finally split the peloton asunder and a substantial group of 60 headed the race as Jack Bauer, former New Zealand road race champion and winner of the final stage of the inaugural Tour DoonHame, secured the climbers points and with it the J&B Print King of the Mountains lead.

Further splits saw the lead group reduced to little more than 20 as the 10 mile to go board was reached. With the climbing done for the day, the pace was again frantic as a dangerous looking group of eight forced themselves clear. Bauer was again in the thick of the action, along with the star of the early season, Rutland Melton winner Zak Dempster (Rapha Condor Sharp). Ian Bibby (Motorpoint), Simon Richardson (second overall in the 2010 Premier Calendar) and Steve Lampier (both Sigmasport-Specialized) along with Raleigh’s Matt Cronshaw, Yanto Barker (Pendragon-Le Col) and Matt Higgins (Team Corley Cycles) made up the rest of the break.

Back on roads familiar from earlier in the day, their lead grew to 49 seconds with less than 3 miles to run, and the stage victor now seemed certain to come from this select group.

Inside the final kilometre, and with the road rising toward the line, it was Cronshaw who unleashed a powerful sprint which would see him take the victory ahead of Dempster and Bauer. Good placings in the sprints also saw Cronshaw earn the first green jersey of the race to add to the white of stage winner and the yellow for overall.

With a better weather forecast promised for Sunday’s second stage, the shorter race distance and less severe climbs could combine to allow those futher behind on GC to challenge the Team Raleigh rider’s lead.

Results (brief)

1. Matt Cronshaw (Team Raleigh) 3:18:09
2. Zak Dempster (Rapha – Condor)
3. Jack Bauer (Endura Racing)
4. Ian Bibby ( Motorpoint)
5. Steve Lampier (Sigma Specialized)
6. Matt Higgins (Corley Cycles 1)
7. Yanto Barker (Pendragon – LeCol)
8. Simon Richardson (Sigma Specialized) 0:05
9. Marcel Six (Twenty3c – Orbea) 0:55
10. Simon Gaywood (Corley Cycles)

55. James Sparling (Team Raleigh) 1:13

GC after Stage 1

1. Matt Cronshaw (Team Raleigh) 3:17:54
2. Zak Dempster (Rapha – Condor) 0:09
3. Jack Bauer (Endura Racing) 0:11
4. Ian Bibby ( Motorpoint) 0:15
5. Steve Lampier (Sigma Specialized)
6. Matt Higgins (Corley Cycles 1)
7. Yanto Barker (Pendragon – LeCol)
8. Simon Richardson (Sigma Specialized) 0:20
9. Scott Thwaites (Endura Racing) 1:09
10. Marcel Six (Twenty3c – Orbea) 1:10

55. James Sparling (Team Raleigh) 1:28

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