By Neil Wood.
Myself, John Myburgh and John Bamford competed in the Simthfield 3/4 road race on 19th June – promoted by Rock to Roll Cycles. I woke up on Sunday morning at 6 am when my alarm went off. After the alarm was silenced, there was still a lot of noise coming from somewhere and it took me some time to realise that the noise was rain pounding down on the roof tiles. At this point, I was very tempted to text John Myburgh, who was picking me up, to tell him that I had suddenly fallen ill and could not make it, then go back to sleep.
But no, I persevered to drag myself out of bed on a horribly damp and cold morning, more like an autumn day than a mid summer day. It was still pouring down when John collected me, but was pleased to say that about 15 miles outside Bolton heading up the M6, the skies cleared which put us in better spirits.
We stopped for a takeout coffee at Tebay services where we met our team mate John Bamford, who was giving a lift to one of our training mates Darran Acton and we also bumped into Neil Higgins where we congregated for a quick chat before carrying on north to Carlisle.
The weather in Smithfield remained on edge during the morning, it was promising at first, but began to rain as we set off cycling and there was a lot of surface water and mud on the farm roads as well as other stuff that looked like mud but probably wasn’t. It’s a rolling, undulating course with a couple of sharp inclines and some long straight flats. As well as the roads being wet, it was also pretty windy and some sections slowing us right down with a block headwind, but some good respite with a tail wind on a long straight flat.
After the first 12 mile lap of the circuit, the rain had ceased within 5 minutes of setting off, which was fortunately a very light shower, the skies turned blue, and the wind dried the roads up quite quickly, but not before we were caked in muck off the roads. Despite the wet roads the pace started of quite nippy, but at times slowed right down mainly when the headwind was beating us into submission.
Things started to heat up a little bit on the third lap, where some of the slower riders were shelled from the peleton as the sharp inclines sorted out the riding order. A couple of little early breakaway groups were also reined back in. John Bamford decided to attack about half way around the third lap with a decent sprint and getting a good 100 meters from the peleton. Nobody had the legs to join him and since nobody was able to give chase, I thought John may be able to make a decent solo break and remain there, and I got to the front of the bunch and slowed the proceedings down to give john a helping hand. This was quickly identified by the bunch as to what I was doing, given that we were wearing the same team kit, so didn’t last long as they came straight past me again to speed things up. The bunch eventually caught John after about 3 or 4 miles as a solo break on this course was pretty tough going.
The pace finally picked up to a proper lung busting race pace in the fourth lap, with the bunch totally ignoring the headwinds and cross winds. After feeling fairly comfortable for most of the race, working on the front and keeping good pace, I was finally feeling my legs being tested with the increased intensity of the racing. With my legs being put to the test, I made a mistake. A quick chat with John to confirm that this was indeed the final lap, and I got to the front of the peleton to do some more work, which I did by taking turns with a cyclist from Manchester Wheelers. This was the wrong time for me to do this, because after a few minute, when I had just about had enough on the front, we came to a left turn, and a sharp incline I forgot about was right in front of me. It’s about 100 metres, big ring climb, but steep enough to sort out the men from the boys. Within about thirty seconds, I went from the front of the pack to the back as everybody passed me whilst I climbed on tired legs after doing all that work on the front. When it flattened out, I just about managed to stay on the back of the peleton and took me a good few minutes to recover from my dumb move.
The long straight flat was on the last third of the lap, where the pace picked up to around 30 mph, and there were constant attacks as riders vied for a good position coming to the home stretch. These attacks saw the peleton string out and made for decent racing. I made my second mistake at this point. I was feeling just about recovered from mistake number one, but I just had not got myself into a decent enough position when I saw the race marshall indicating a left turn which went into the final home straight sprint. This was a big mistake as this final stretch is about half a mile, uphill and into the headwind on a narrow single track road.
I caught sight of John Bamford get a 30 metre clean break into this turn, and I thought he was going to take the win. I entered the corner in the middle of the bunch, which is more or less where I stayed as I crossed the line. The uphill dash for the line into the wind was not easy as my legs were tired from mistake number one, I dropped back a few positions, but gave my all to sprint over the line. Unfortunately for John Bamford, he attacked slightly too soon and the bunch caught him going uphill towards the finish line.
No points taken in this race, but a great day out, great racing, and some experience gained as to when to ride on the front and when not to.
A quick brew and the best cheesy scones ever in the Brampton Community Association, before heading back down to Bolton, all buzzing after a well organised and successful race, albeit without any points.
The race was won by Dean Penfold from MTS Cycle Sport.
Photograph on the day by Michael Craig Photography
With many thanks to the race promoter Rock to Roll Cycles for a fantastic race, well organised, friendly and quick communication and a well marshalled field.
And many thanks to the event organiser, Robin Clark from Rock to Roll Cycles for putting on this great race, which we will be back to again next year.