Handley, who finished fifth and best young rider in last years Rás, made his bid for overall victory on the hardest stage of the race on stage 4. Handley attacked with teammate Mike Cuming in a pre-planned on the fifth of the eight categorized climbs on the stage, and pushed yellow jersey Marcin Biablocki all the way to the finish.
Team manager John Herety said, “We went into the stage with Rich 47 seconds down on GC, and we knew that was the stage to do something. We planned to send Rich away with Mike (Cuming) early on to try to take yellow. It was a matter of making the race as hard as we could and trying to crack Marcin – but he was really strong, and managed to whittle the gap back down from over a minute to just 28 seconds at the finish.”
After making his bold move on day four, Handley found that he was naturally a marked man throughout the following four stages of the race. Despite this, Herety insisted that the team keep trying all the way up to the final stage.
“We tried all the way up to the end of the race, but Rich couldn’t make up any more of the time he needed. Ultimately, I am really satisfied with the result because the whole team did all they could. It was really great for us too, to come here with guys like Ed Laverack, and Elliot Porter who were both competing in a race of this distance for the first time and have them not only get round, but contribute to the racing.”
The only bad news of the race for the team was the loss of Aaron Buggle who was unable to start stage 4 after falling heavily on the previous day, and requiring stitches to his chin.
As the Rás was finishing in Skerries on Sunday, the Rapha Condor JLT criterium squad were themselves competing in another famous event, the Milk Race.
Formerly run as a two-week tour, the Milk Race returned to the UK this year after a twenty-year absence in the form of a criterium in Nottingham city centre.
Felix English has shown signs of top form recently, and the young Irishman took the win after escaping early in the race with Alexandre Blain, and managing to get the better of the Frenchman in the dash for the line. Ed Clancy made it a double celebration for the men in black, by taking the bunch sprint for third.
English was naturally delighted with the win.
“It’s really good for my confidence to take a win tonight. It’s a busy time for the crits, with a lot of races and my form has been where I want it to be. I’ve been quite close in the Tour Series, but I’ve made a few tactical errors. I got it right tonight though, the race was great, and the crowds were huge. I am a pretty enthusiastic guy normally, but I already can’t wait to line up for the next race.”
English won’t have to wait long, as the racing continues at a pace for the Rapha Condor JLT team, with the Tour Series resuming tomorrow night in Torquay, where the team will be looking to take their first team win of the series.