It was a case of cool hands and heads all round for the Jersey cyclists who, faced with a power show and canny tactical battle from the Isle of Man’s triumphant big guns, responded in great style in the 69.3-mile battle around Erée Bay last night.No one exemplified this gritty approach better than David Jardine, getting back into shape and form after a long break from the sport.
Well placed in the pack on the penultimate lap to at least make an outsider’s bid for individual medals, the Scot was sent reeling after a Faroes helper stepped in front of him at a feeding station.
Cut and bruised, with his chain slipped, he was a least 30 seconds down before getting under way again.’It was quite an effort to get back going again,’ admitted the 28-year-old after a tremendous effort brought him back with one of the leading packs, but too spent of energy to launch an attack.
He did, however, finish as Jersey’s second counter in ninth place after a sprint finish, behind Chris Spence, who also put on another excellent performance to finish seventh.Jersey’s other counter was Sam Firby , the individual silver medallist in the last Games, who had taken on his share of work at the front of the field in the early laps, and still came back to finish hard in 11th.Danny Le Marquand, too, put in some important work over the course which included the testing Pleinmont Hill – the stretch where most hearts and minds were broken.The man breaking most hearts was eventual winner Elliott Baxter who roared away on the fifth lap, leaving the following pack of eight a minute behind in next to no time.Within another seven-mile plus lap Baxter had the luxury of two high-class team-mates, including Andy Roche, ‘beating up’ on the only real threat to gold, the Isle of Wight’s classy Keiran Page.
They covered every move Page made to pull back Baxter and eventually left him shattered in tenth spot.Roche broke away on the final lap for clear silver, but Gunnar Dahl-Olsen of the Faroes prevented a clean sweep by the Manx riders by pipping Christian Varley for bronze – some 2 min 20 sec after Baxter crossed the line in 2 hr 49.36.Spence, who also suffered in the tactical battle, was +2 min 49 sec and Jardine +2.58.’That was the best Island Games road race I’ve ever seen,’ said IoM team manager Gary Hines.It certainly was a punishing ride with more than half the 47-strong field flagged down well before the finish, including Jersey’s fifth team-member Alistair Cann.Jardine, who hopes to be fit for tomorrow’s town criterium after receiving treatment for his injuries, was the hero in a night of heroes.Said Jersey manager Tony Richomme: ‘That was simply one of our best performances for years – these lads are the strongest team we’ve had for a long time.’