Jeremy Hunt faces the most difficult three months of his cycling career after another frustrating ride in the National Road Race Championship and the knowledge that his Banesto (Spain) team will tackle the Tour de France without him, writes David Thomas.
The 25-year-old former national champion from Dartington is coming to the end of his current contract with Banesto, and he says: ‘‘I've got three months left this season, and I want to make the most of them - big-time.
‘‘I've got to win, and win abroad, to get another contract.
‘‘I've got to put myself under pressure. I've tried not to, and it hasn't worked.''
As usual Hunt, fit again after recurring back trouble, was a marked man in Sunday's national championship, held over 131 miles at Solihull.
He and former Mid-Devon Cycling Club teammate Ianto Barker were prominent throughout, but Barker had to settle for 13th place and Hunt 16th in a group closing down fast on winner John Tanner (Pro-vision/Planet X) and runner-up Kevin Dawson (Harrods-Sixt).
Hunt was in a small group of breakaway riders who had just been caught when the experienced Tanner (31) and Dawson attacked in the winning move with six miles to go.
‘‘I'm annoyed, because I made a mistake by not jumping after them straight away. Looking back, I was strong enough to do it, but I didn't go,'' said Hunt.
There was encouragement for both youngsters Barker, last year's national junior champion from Littlehempston, and Darren Moore from Paignton.
Mid-Devon CC's Moore marked his Nationals debut with a better-than-expected 45th from around 120 starters.
Barker and Hunt (25), who won the title three years ago, were up with the action throughout the race, held in wet and windy conditions.
Tanner, a popular champion, outsprinted Dawson at the finish, with the rest of the leading challengers closing fast.
Barker (18), who finished only a dozen seconds behind the winner, said: ‘‘I was hoping for a top-ten place, but I'm quite pleased with the way I rode.
‘‘It's the first time I've raced over that distance and I felt strong.
‘‘Jez (Hunt) is disappointed. He was strong, but not quite strong enough to ride away from everyone, and he sat up near the finish.''
Newton Abbot's Deanna Shepherd was fifth in the latest Road Time Triai Series event at Newbury, recovering from a spill to finish the 25 miles in 1.08.02.
Ken Robertson from Paignton was first Veteran On Handicap (4.36.28) in the Bournemouth Jubilee Wheelers' 100-mile time trial.
Nobody could hold Gerry Bowditch (Global RT) in the latest Westpoint Criterium Series at Exeter, where he lapped a strong field.
Mid-Devon's Andrew Parker was third, Simon Aske fifth and John Peters sixth.
Martin Burridge won the ‘B' race for 4th Category, Junior and Veteran riders.
Re-printed by kind permission of the Herald Express newspaper, Torquay Devon. Their website can be found at: www.thisissouthdevon.co.uk