The Masters Tour of Malta was the first major road race of the year for Staithes cyclist and Whitby Wheelers member Martin Hopkinson.
The race ran over four days with each day’s times adding up to an overall position at the end of the four stages.
Cyclists competed from all over Europe with strong teams from Italy, Malta and the UK.
Stage one was an individual 20km time trial at St Paul’s Bay on undulating roads. Martin, who rides for Stokesley-based Fietsen Tempo (Chapters), posted a time only 45 seconds off the winner of the stage, Patrick Silcluna, to put him fifth.
The second day saw a 60km stage, six laps of a 10km on the difficult, hilly San Martin circuit which had a 2km climb every lap.
The race stayed together for the first two laps with the top contenders playing a tactical game, then with attacks constantly happening the race whittled down to a group of nine leading riders. With two laps remaining, Italian rider Fabio Scalora put in a huge attack with no-one able to go with his effort.
On the final climb, Martin broke away with the previous day’s winner and out sprinted him to finish in second, pleased with a place on the podium and moving him up to fourth overall and only two seconds off third.
Stage three involved a short ferry journey to Nadur on the Island of Gozo which ended with the stage being cancelled due to heavy unseasonal rain which made the road surfaces deemed too unsafe to race on.
It was back to Malta for the final stage at Tapellu with the weather a fine 25C.
Over a tough, hilly 50km course, Martin hoped to gain the two seconds.
With teams from Malta and Italy working against him, he stayed with the top six riders for the first two laps then found himself off the pace, losing time and in danger of losing his fourth place in the general classification. He closed down on the leaders and finished with a hard-fought fifth place on the stage to maintain fourth overall, with Scalora taking first place for Italy. Martin thanks Fietsen tempo Team for their continual support and also Pete Coney for help with training.