BASILDON professional Russell Hampton secured his first podium finish of the season – proving he is more than capable of bloodying the noses of the country’s biggest teams.
Hampton made the brave step of not signing for a team for this season, instead opting to ride on his own backed by the Chelmsford cycle shop Athlonsport.
He has been a lone rider in a peloton made up of the best domestic teams in the country in most of the big races this year, but until Sunday had not had a top three finish to show for his efforts.
That came to an end when he finished third at the Stockton Grand Prix despite going into the race believing he did not have the legs to make an impact.
“Since the nationals two weeks ago, I have not been feeling all that great,” said Hampton. “I think I left my legs in Wales actually. And the race was really fast to start which was pretty tough.
“My legs still hadn’t come round and I was just following wheels just hoping to see what I could do at the finish.
“But I started to feel better with about 50km left and I saw an opportunity and went for it.”
Hampton showed his power to bridge a 50-second gap to a breakaway that had kept all the chasing teams at bay all day, but he had company in the shape of former Team Sky professional Russell Downing.
“I really didn’t think I would catch the break,” said Hampton.
“Downing had a man in the breakaway so wasn’t going to do any work so it was just me.
“I got to the break with a kilometre and a half to go but when I got there I was pretty spent and Downing was fresh and could sprint for the win.”
Hampton said he is enjoying riding on his own and without the politics of being in a team, although he has had to change his riding style slightly.
“I protect myself a bit more now,” he said. “I used to be quite an aggressive rider, but now I have to be a bit more careful and when I do go it either comes off, or it doesn’t.”
Hampton is the only rider competing on his own at the top end of British cycling and though he admits other riders have shown an interest in what he has done, he doesn’t expect too many to follow his lead.
“A lot of people have said it’s a great idea,” he said. “But it’s having the balls to do it. Some people might think it’s a good idea, but they will go and sign for a team because it’s easier for them.”