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By Karl Owen.
Team riders, Kris, Billy and myself headed down to the Midlands for the Comienzo del Verano stage race. Set in the rather beautiful surrounds of Belvoir Castle in Woolsthorpe. It was set to be 4 stages, with a team time trial, 2 hilly road races, and the masochist spectacle that is a Hill Climb.
Whilst I am renowned for staying “sur la plaque” I was looking forward to the opportunity to apply some pressure to the sprint specialists and engage the small ring. As me and Kris headed down the M6, we were chased by a howling tailwind, which was sure to make things interesting.
The first stage was a team time trial with some quite nasty uphill drags and a finishing straight into the headwind. The 3 of us prepped for 8km of pain. Not being TT specialists, we slightly nervously lent up against our start men, myself only just getting clipped in moments before we were set off.
I could give you a turn by turn analysis, but the only real descriptor of the TTT you need is OUCH. We seemed to work well together, making various grunts and groans in order to indicate changes. This being the only communication available at full gas.
We ground our way up the various inclines. Kris drove it home down the final straight at a ruthless pace into the relentless headwind, unfortunately this managed to slightly drop Billy. However we knew as we’d crossed the line that the time was strong. The taste of Iron and the threat of “chundering everywhaaaa” is generally a good indication of a deep effort. Kris’s Garmin indicated an 11:10.
As the results rolled in, we could see we’d done a good time. It turned out we’d managed 3rd , with 11.08 just 4 seconds back on Pedal Power Loughborough, and 18 on Clay Cross RT. This put us in a strong position for GC, and I felt confident going into the afternoon’s road stage.
Knocking around the HQ for the 3 hour wait really didn’t appeal. I find the smell of embrocation and adrenaline extremely off putting, so I succumbed to the temptation of the local, The Chequers, for a swift 1/2. I’m sure all the nutritionalists and sports science types will tell me of the error of my ways, but in the only race i’ve ever won, i’d had 1/2 a pint before and I decided to repeat the ritual.
As the 2nd stage rolled out through the neutralised zone, I tucked right behind the lead car. Taking the decision to make the race hard from the off. Shortly after we were released from the neutral zone I ended up away with 2 or 3 riders, unfortunately they quickly dropped back to the group, leaving me to drive on alone. As I hit the bottom of the climb with maybe 20 seconds, I figured a good haul of KOM points was a possibility. I was almost pipped to the line by a Loughborough rider, but had kept enough in the tank for a final acceleration to take the full 5 points. Over the top me, the Loughborough rider and one other continued to drive having a small gap, this was soon neutralised however by a slow moving bus. The joys of racing on open roads.
The pace in the group was kept high, however 2 riders managed to clip off the front and went over the climb the second time in 1st and 2nd, I tried to take the final KOM spot, but was just beaten to the line and rolled over 4th, for zero points. As we took the bell for the final lap I indicated to Billy that I was still feeling good, and wanted the pace kept as high as possible up the final stretch towards the climb. Shortly after however as the catch of the 2 riders who were still away became imminent I saw an opportunity to attack and bridge. Pulling to the right of the group and into the headwind I attacked, taking Billy with me, we quickly caught the 2 breakaway riders who were obviously pretty tired, however they managed to cling to the wheels and get a tow from the chrono train.
Shortly after we were joined by an OVB rider, and a langsett rider, knowing they were both strong teams I was confident we could take this to the finish and we continued to push on up to the top of the climb where I rolled over in second place, just behind James Allen* of Langsett. We were shortly joined by a few other riders, making a strong group of 7. As we thundered down the final straight a Beeston rider attempted to take a flyer down the right hand side of the road, this was quickly closed down by others but he’d managed to distance me and the OVB rider who’d both been doing more than our fairshare of the work. I crossed the line in 6th place, a few seconds back from the winner, James of Langsett Cycles.
I knew both the teams in front from the TTT had also positioned guys in the break, but was confident this put me in a very good place on GC. As we returned to the HQ to find out the results I had dreams of a good GC position, a spotty jersey and a tasty dinner, with maybe a recovery pint, in the Chequers running through my head.
Unfortunately I was soon knocked off my high horse (sorry) as we were informed Day 2 was to be cancelled due to an equestrian event being run on the same roads. Frustration and disappointment was written over the faces of all the riders. Talking with the organizer, I confirmed I’d be in the lead for the KOM jersey. He unceremoniously handed it over, no champagne, no podium, no national anthem, but a spotty jersey all the same!
Overall I had managed 4th on GC, Kris 10th and Billy 11th. The Team was 3rd overall.