GREAT BRITAIN celebrated a bronze medal as the opening race of the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire delivered success for the host nation.

The British sextet of Dan Bigham, John Archibald, Harry Tanfield, Anna Henderson, Lauren Dolan and Joss Lowden were able to crowd on to the bottom step of the podium in Harrogate as the Dutch took gold ahead of Germany in the Team Time Trial Mixed Relay.

Britain knew they were likely to be in a battle with Italy to take bronze, and snatched it by just four seconds after Italy’s race was wrecked by a puncture for Elisa Longo Borghini, the strongest rider in their women’s team.

“We never anticipated getting a medal,” said Tanfield, who is based in Great Ayton. “From the start we knew it could be close, but, with the teams Italy, Germany and the Netherlands have, we knew they were going to be super strong.”

Britain’s bronze brought emotional celebrations from the entire team in front of a soggy but enthusiastic crowd, but particularly for Tanfield, who was competing only three weeks after the sudden death of his mum Clare.

“For my family and stuff to come and watch, to come away with a medal is fantastic,” the 24-year-old said. “That’s why I wanted to do it, for my mum to be proud of me.”

The event, new to the World Championships in place of the Trade Team Time Trial, saw teams of three male riders tackle the 14km course around Harrogate, with the women setting off in relay once the second man had crossed the line.

Britain endured a long, tense afternoon in the hotseat after setting the fastest time from the first wave of teams to take to roads dampened by heavy downpours in the morning, and remained top of the time sheets after the second wave of four teams completed their runs.

Italy, Germany and Holland were all that remained, but the odds were still against Britain until Borghini punctured on the short but testing climb on Penny Pot Lane.

Italy had been 14 seconds up on GB’s pace at the time, but, as Borghini battled to catch her team-mates after a bike change, that advantage disappeared and they crossed the line just four seconds off the podium.

“It’s a really tricky one,” said Lowden. “Obviously we want to win, but you don’t want to see people fail. What an amazing ride to get back on. She deserved a medal for that really.”

With the event new to the World Championships, it had been difficult to predict who would triumph, but once the Dutch had named a squad including Bauke Mollema, Jos van Emden, Lucinda Brand and Amy Pieters, they were immediately installed as favourites and duly delivered, winning in a time of 38mins 27.60secs, 22.75secs ahead of Germany and 51.27secs ahead of Britain.

“We like it of course, because we won,” Mollema said of the format. “The UCI I read are thinking about making (it) for the Olympics 2024 and of course that will be a big step for this event, then there will be more countries focusing on it. I think it is nice, it is something different, something new. We have to give if a few years to see what it brings.”

Yesterday’s action marked the official start of the World Championships, which continue today with the Junior Time Trials.

However, for the first time, a Para-Cycling International acted as the curtain-raiser to the World Championships, with some of the world’s leading para-cyclists competing on Saturday.

A field of 89 para-athletes battled it out in 26 different races, with Beverley’s Adam Duggleby the first rider to cross the finish line piloting Hebden Bridge resident Stephen Bate after emerging triumphant in the B class. Dame Sarah Storey was one of five World champions in action, and she too romped to victory in the C5 class.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve raced in front of since London 2012 and I heard so many cheers and people shouting my name,” said Storey, who won time trial and road race titles at last week’s Para-Cycling World Championships in the Netherlands. “It was amazing.

“The course was really good too and held in such a beautiful location. Yorkshire’s taken the bull by the horns and hopefully this can be a blueprint for how para-cycling events are run worldwide. It was a really sensational event and I’m proud to have been part of it.”