Chris Opie sprinted to seventh place as BIKE Channel Canyon caught the eye on their UCI debut in the 1.1 Ronde van Drenthe. Despite losing his last team-mate Harry Tanfield to a late puncture, the 29-year-old used his experience to surf wheels and grab a fine finish for the team. The Cornishman was left wanting more, though, as Jan-Willem van Schip celebrated success for Delta Cycling. Van Schip held off Twan Castelijns of Lotto NL Jumbo before a select bunch was led home by Lotto Soudal’s Jasper de Buyst, ahead of Aqua Blue Sport’s British champion Adam Blythe. Opie, who will lead the team again in Dorpenomloop Rucphen on Sunday, was pinned to the rails on the left of the road and, starved of room, had to settle for seventh. He said:
“It was good. You always want to do better, though, don’t you? “There was a little bit of space I could have done with having and that might have meant I finished a couple of places higher. “I would have liked to have been on the right of the road. As I started sprinting, the guy in front of me slowed down more than I was expecting and that meant I ended up on his left and not his right. “But considering it was my first big race since August, it was good. We will chill out now, eat some food and get ready to go again tomorrow. “Everyone seemed pretty happy when I got back to the car park! So, I think we are all looking forward to tomorrow now.”
The team intended to put a man in the early break but found their path blocked by the big players, such as Lotto NL Jumbo. The likes of James Lowsley-Williams, Rory Townsend and Dexter Gardias then spent a little more time in the wind than they had hoped. Along with Tanfield, Sam Lowe saw his race scuppered by a puncture but the two flats were a decent return given the problems suffered by rivals on the mixed terrain. Meanwhile, Rob Partridge was caught up in a crash and while he was unhurt and paced back in by George Atkins, the damage was done to his chances. BIKE Channel Canyon sports director Tim Elverson said:
“The crash and the punctures all seemed to happen at key moments. “But I am really pleased with our UCI debut. We wanted to get involved in the race a little more early doors but I said a top 20 would be worth the effort and a good job. “I said a top 10 would be a fantastic result and a top five would be unbelievable. It was somewhere between fantastic and unbelievable, so I’m pretty happy with that! “It was a good way to set our stall out. Outside of the Tour de Yorkshire and Tour of Britain, it is possibly our biggest race in the foreseeable future. “And we came out of it with our heads held high and with a result we can be proud of. Roll on tomorrow!”
Tanfield has a sore back but is expected to make tomorrow’s line-up. If he does, the only change will see Jack Pullar come in for Lowe.