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By Karl Owen.
On Sunday I travelled up to the NW regionals, held on the Bashall Eaves circuit near Clitheroe.
Hitter analysis for E/1/2s can be extremely important. The gap between the Elite full time riders, and the rest of us, can be vast. Once the firepower heads up the road, the remainder of the group can do little about it, no matter how organised. Knowing this I had analysed the start sheet beforehand and highlighted a number of riders including; Matt Cronshaw of Madison Genesis, Jack Pullar and James Gullen of Starley Primal, David McGowan of Pedal Heaven, Dillon Byrne of Champion system and Alistair Rutherford of the Nab racing.
Their ranks were however to be swelled upon arriving at the HQ. I spotted 2 Raleigh Militis’ in their lairy red and yellow paint schemes (Brad Morgan and Ian Wilkinson), one Condor with JLTs distinctive flashes of yellow (Richard Handley), and a rather pristine looking white Pinarello, belonging to Team WIGGINS member Chris Lawless. I hoped each of these riders had clocked my bright red Specialized Tarmac and this had enduced the same response in them as it did in me. Namely running off to the “gents” toilets at Edisford Primary (HQ), usually reserved for the year 1-3 boys, and appropriately sized for 5-8 year olds, rather than the bulk of the North West’s finest.
Post briefing we lined up in the school car park, teeth chattering due to the cold. Discussion centred around last year’s regionals at Oakenclough, where the weather had been glorious and I’d decided getting dropped and lying on the grass would make for a much more pleasant day. Cursing our current lack of a summer, we rolled out with the threat of rain looming. The overcast weather seemed to dip spirits. The neutralized zone for once being neutral and the first lap being extremely tame. A few people headed up the road, but as none of the horsepower went with them I knew they were doomed.
As we went up the main climb for the second time I clocked Chris Lawless moving to the right in preparation to attack, knowing how strong he is, and feeling good, I decided to track it. Digging deep I managed to cling on to Chris’s wheel over the top of the climb. Once I could focus on more than the pain in my legs. I had a look around me and I could see a serious selection had occurred, for company I had almost every elite rider in the race! Gullen, Pullar, Cronshaw, Lawless, Wilkinson, Morgan and Handley, also tagging along was Martin Woffindon (aka Woffy) from Cycle sport Pendle and Matt Nowell from Kuota, 2 more extremely strong riders, as well as Chris Southworth from Leigh Prem who was somewhat of an unknown quantity to me. It was early, but I knew this was an amazing move to be in, and started to contribute to the drive to get us away from the rest of the group. We rolled round together for a couple of laps, collecting in David Allonby and Samuel Jackson from Overplay.net who had gone from the gun.
On the fourth lap round, I could see Lawless stood at the top of the climb. Apparently he’d pulled due to a sore throat! Up the secondary climb on the circuit Pullar took it up, not a vicious acceleration, just a ruthless ramping of the pace, with Gullen taking it up after him, I was struggling to hold Handley’s wheel behind them and got inched off, along with the 2 Raleigh riders, Sam, Matt, Woffy and Chris, David had seemingly disappeared at this point. We were quickly collected by a group containing Si Bridges of Manc Wheelers, Alex Royle of the Army cycling union, Alistair Rutherford and Dillon Byrne, the remaining firepower. I gathered that what remained of the peloton were a long way back from us and shot all over the place. Royle was barking instructions, with Bridgey questioning when he was made Sergeant Major. As much as this rubs me up the wrong way, it seemed to work. We narrowed the gap to the leaders over the next few laps, as well as shelling the 2 Raleigh riders, I assume with their minds set on other races. Coming within touching distance of the 5 leaders on the penultimate lap. They seemed to sense this however and ramped the pace up, keeping us off them.
It was at this point that I started to significantly regret riding out the 55km to the race, 160km in the legs and they were starting to feel leaden. I struggled over the climb, trying to keep a poker face on, managing to keep with the group again for the remainder of that lap. I just got distanced the final time over the climb. Luckily Alex Royle was just in sight in front of me, and chasing him got me to the line in 10th place.
- Richard Handley (JLT Condor) 3:07.45
- David McGowan (Pedal Heaven RT)
- James Gullen (Velosure Starley Primal)
- Matt Cronshaw (Madison Genesis) all same time
- Dillon Byrne (Champion System VCUK RT) +1.35
- Simon Bridge (Manchester Wheelers) same time
- Matthew Nowell (Kuota – Spinergy – GSG) +1.38
- Jack Pullar (Velosure Starley Primal) +2.08
- Alexander Royle (Army Cycling Union) +3.20
- Karl Owen (Team Chronomaster) +3.42
7 Elite riders, the hugely experienced Si Bridges and Matt Nowell, current recipient of Dave Rayner funding in front of me, a great result. Big thanks to OTE for fuelling me round (managed to get all my gels in my mouth, rather than all over my front), Specialized for my pretty red bike, and V02 sportswear for my slick skinsuit.
Thanks as always to Ellen Isherwood for kindly allowing us to use some of her excellent photo’s from the race. to see the full album, click here.