Matthew Holmes’ impressive solo bid for the line paid off in style after taking stage four and overall victory in the inaugural Cycle 360 Manx International Stage Race.
Madison Genesis rider Holmes was leading by just one second heading into Sunday’s final stage but made sure of his HSBC UK | National Road Series win in emphatic fashion, breaking and holding on with three kilometres to go of the 181km race.
That came after playing his part in a four-strong lead group heading towards the finish, with the eight chasers – including second-placed Mark Christian – unable to narrow the gap as Holmes prevailed in a dramatic weekend.
“I was mostly glad for the team, they pushed themselves all day and when I realised we were riding off it was a great feeling,” he said.
“You couldn’t see much at the top, you couldn’t see the groups ahead or behind but it wasn’t too bad.”
Tough conditions made the going difficult but the peloton was far from inactive, with cat and mouse riding setting the early tone with potential breaks aplenty.
A group of eight riders eventually took a grip of the race to hold a lead of close to beyond three minutes to the peloton as the first two King of the Mountain stages were safely navigated.
Among them was Spirit Tifosi Racing’s Tom Mazzone, victor of the first sprint, but when he was dropped, the leaders found the gap falling away as the peloton worked hard to claw themselves back.
Within no time at all the peloton were closing but the climbs forced the groups to split dramatically, with the group all back together within one kilometre of the fourth King of the Mountain.
Matt Bostock (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) and Rob Scott (Team Wiggins Le Col) then attacked to give the former the virtual leaders’ jersey as they approached the final lap with a lead heading towards two minutes.
By the time they were caught, you felt the next attack could prove vital, with Holmes among the instigators with Daniel Pearson (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes), Paul Wright (Zappi Racing Team) and Edward Laverack (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) all joining him up front.
Pearson dropped away to help form a group of seven chasers, also featuring Christian, with 50 seconds between the two lead groups.
And it was there that Holmes elected to take matters into his own hands, making the break in the final two miles to fly to a comfortable solo finish and confirm his status as Manx International victor.
Saturday’s third stage had seen Ed Clancy prevail in a dramatic finish for his second win of the weekend having opened up in style with victory in stage one.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome Holmes, winning stage two’s time trial to earn the lead in the general classification – one he didn’t relinquish on the Isle of Man.