By Kris Zentek.
My start to the race was not ideal. I overslept by a good hour and a half. Luckily I had decided to pack all my stuff the night before otherwise I would have just stayed in bed. But I still had time (barely) and launched myself into the car and hit the road – no breakfast, and no McDonalds coffee (now a race tradition). I gave Steve Feeney a call, who was already at HQ with Karl Owen, and he let the organiser I would be there – possibly after the 9am sign-on close.
I arrived at 8:56, got my numbers and got ready. The race was rolling out at 9:30. I barely had time to visit the loo before the group lined up for briefing. Phew, made it!
The race was 5 laps of a very large rolling circuit – 85 miles in total. The last mile is an uphill drag, starting with a steep and technical climb before it levels into a long straight. We would do this 5 times, and each time it would be faster and faster.
For the first half of the race, various attacks went, were pulled back, and countered. This made for a very erratic pace – always compressing. The roads were slick from rain, and so all corners were taken very tentatively which again caused the bunch to stretch a lot. I chose to keep my nose out of the wind at the back, Ste was tucked away in the middle of the bunch, and Karl was up front drilling the pace. He managed to form a couple of promising breaks, but the bunch were not willing to let go and each time, he was pulled back.
Up the climb, a few more riders lost touch each lap, and soon the field was reduced. On lap three, a small group got a decent gap and were allowed to go, and for the rest of the lap, riders pinged off in 1’s and 2’s until the the break had swelled to 7 riders. Other riders tried to bridge, including Karl Owen, but the threat of a bigger break caused concern, and so others were chased down and brought back.
Into lap 4, I moved up as I felt good. After the left turn at the garage, I saw a rider jump as the break were maybe 30 seconds up the road. Karl was just off the front, and so I used him to launch my own attempt. It worked, and after a few minutes of hard effort, I bridged to the break. I was joined by a further two riders who followed me. Now the break was 11, I was in it, and the bunch were out of sight as we attacked the climb for the penultimate time.
Into the last lap, and due to the size of the bunch, there were a few passengers forming. I was still fairly fresh and did not want to be caught, so I did my best to get everyone working – not very successfully. Those that were working were keen to reduce the size a bit, and a number of digs were attempted to shed the weaker riders – not very successfully. So it would all come down to the final climb.
Being fat, and being 40, I knew I would struggle racing up the climb – especially as I had burnt a few matches bridging, and working the last lap. At the bottom, 5 riders attacked and I quickly lost their wheel. I was just behind with two others in a second group, with the remaining 3 further behind. At the straight, we maintained out distance to the 5 up front, but could never close the gap. I ended up in a sprint for 6th place and was pipped by a wheel to roll in 7th.
The rest of the bunch came in a minute later, with Karl off the front to take 12th place. Ste rolled in with the bunch (maybe) in the top 20. Congratulations to Cwmcarn Paragon who topped the podium a great ride from Andy Williams and Richard Harris.
In summary, given the not-ideal start, I was really pleased with the ride today. It is my highest placing so far in a National class race, and I had not raced in a month. I was very glad I decided not to stay in bed!
On the ride back to HQ, which is down a pretty fast descent, one of our lead group Tom Brazier clipped a kerb at speed, and had a very nasty fall. He had to be airlifted to hospital to receive medical attention. At the time of writing, I don’t know what injuries he suffered, but on behalf of everyone at Team Chronomaster and the rest of the riders in todays race, we wish you a speedy recovery.
Thanks to the organisers of this race – it is one of my favourite races, and it is always a privilege to ride races in honour of cyclists like Andy Poole, who tragically lost his life 25 years ago. Thanks to all of the marshalls and NEG support for keeping us safe – they did a fantastic job keeping the roads clear for us. And thanks also the the helpers back at HQ for putting on a fantastic post race spread for us – the coffee cake was fantastic!
- Andrew Williams (Cwmcarn Paragon CC) 3:20.00
- Tom Swingler (Ystwyth CC)
- Richard Harris (Cwmarn Paragon CC)
- Richard Bussell (Aero-Coach/RST Sport Club)
- Colin Parry (Ride 24/7)
- Edward. Roberts (Team Elite)
- Kristian Zentek (Team Chronomaster)
- Ryan Bevis (The Bulls)
- Thomas Brazier (Chester RC)
- Andrew Turner (NFTO) all at same time