After six months in the wilderness, Matt Holmes announced his return to form with second at the GP Lucien Van Impe Pro Kermesse and with it, ambitions for the Tour of Britain podium.
Holmes revealed that at a pre-Tour of Britain meeting he asked for the support of the team – and had aspirations to deliver a result this week.
"I wasn’t very confident, but when Colin asked us what we want to for the Tour of Britain, I had enough confidence to say I want to get on the podium. But I was saying it but not believing it.
"So I wanted to do something this week so the team would have faith in me. I want to ride for the overall at the Tour of Britain and I’m sure team will have more confidence in me after today.
"This is a really strong team and with Connor and myself we have the chance to pull something off."
Planning the comeback
After finishing fifth at the Tour de Yorkshire in 2017, Holmes became a rider to watch on the Continental scene but has faced a challenging 2018 to date.
A knee injury counted him out of the early part of the season and once back on the bike, Holmes faced having to return to training and racing while many were at their peak.
“Obviously it has been a bit rubbish this year, I’ve not raced and not been fit until now so that has been frustrating.
“Colin has been really good though, he hasn’t pressurised me to come back too soon and has just let me focus on the Tour of Britain.
“With the injury I ended up having a complete month off it. It was like having a really long off season, in the middle of the season. It was quite boring and frustrating watching everyone race, while I was sat at home unable to do anything.
“Once I sorted my injury, I spoke to my coach Bob and he said I could just about get fit for the Tour of Britain.
“So we did seven weeks training as hard as I could without risking getting ill. Now I’m in the last three weeks of the block and trying to get fast again.”
The first rewards of the intensive training block began to show at Tuesday’s GP Stad Zottegem, where Holmes made the race-winning break. But in the final stages he couldn’t hold pace – something he put down to a lack of long-distance racing and the parcours not suiting his style.
“I felt really good at Zottegem, that was encouraging. But with 40km to go I felt awful. It was the first time I’ve raced over 200km since April’s Chorley GP and it also wasn’t my kind of course, with the cobbles, so I knew I wasn’t far off.”
But the Van Impe course was far more suited to Holmes’ attributes, with a shorter 165km distance and some strong work in the break by teammates Rich Handley and Tobyn Horton in the break, everything was set.
“With Rich and Tobyn up the road, we had an easy ride in the peloton and when that move came back, 20 riders went away me and Johnny went with it.
“We had around seven laps of the finishing circuit and there were no big attacks, everyone was happy to just work.
“There was a long dragging climb on the circuit and each lap I had been timing how long it was from there to the finish line.
“On the final lap, that’s where I attacked. Then the race came together and I attacked again.
“Only Oliver Naesen could come across to me and he had the better sprint so I finished second.”
With Holmes’ first result of the season in the bag, he now looks forward to the UCI 1.1 Great War Remembrance race, followed by the Ryedale GP.
While under no illusions about the quality of the field in Belgium, the Rydale GP will be a big target for the team – even if the legs are carrying some fatigue.
“Ryedale is my favourite race course of the year and hopefully, finally I can win it! I’ll sprint on the drops and see what happens. Together, me and Connor we can both attack and one of us should win, that’s what we want.”