By Stephen Feeney.
The racing season may be drawing to a close but events remain competitive, perhaps even more competitive than early season races, for a whole host of reasons. Kris, Billy and I lined up for the ‘out of the saddle’ road race in Braithwell, South Yorkshire, with our
own particular objectives.
Kris, who has had an excellent season placing consistently well in events all year, is tantalisingly close to achieving his first category racing licence. A few more decent results would clinch it!
Billy, who has shown glimpses of his potential during an injury and illness interrupted season, was in good form and needed just a few more points to keep his second category status.
As for me, I just wanted to try and get a decent result to round off a disappointing, injury delayed season after breaking my hip in February.
The course, 8 laps of the roads around Braithwell totalling some 55 miles, was challenging in many ways. The condition of the road was appalling in places with pot holes you could disappear down. There was a steep descent with a roundabout and an almost dead left hand turn at the bottom. Around that left hand turn there was a sharp uphill sprint. The finishing straight, along a narrow road, seemed precarious.
It didn’t take long for the action to get going and one of the first to attack was our own Billy. I had caught a glimpse of him flying up the outside of the bunch and he just keep going! Unfortunately, his break was short lived and he was back in the bunch soon after.
Kris was next to go on the offensive. After a couple of thwarted attempts, he finally managed to get away in a small group and establish a decent lead. I thought this might have stayed clear but the bunch, who had been keeping a tight reign on any escapees all day, had other ideas and Kris was soon back in the bunch again.
I had even had a dig myself. Feeling no ill effects from my (unsuccessful) race in Oxford the day before I went after a group that had a small gap on the bunch. However, after bridging the gap I found only one of the group willing to work with me to try and pull the break away and we were soon caught.
As the race progressed I noticed Billy was no longer in the bunch. Being somewhat unobservant, I thought he might have been up the road. But after chatting with Kris I discovered he’d actually gone backwards. When we saw him at the HQ afterwards we found out he’d punctured. In fact, there were many puncture victims during the race, which was not surprising given the condition of the roads.
Going into the last lap the bunch was altogether and we prepared for what was going to be a hair raising final lap and sprint but I was up for it!
I had managed to stay near the front on the last lap and coming into the final sprint, with about 500 meters or so to go, was positioned on the outside of the bunch ready for a final charge.
There had been a lot of pushing and jostling on the run in to the finish and although the finishing sprint was on a straight road, it was narrow. Riders were taking up most of the width of the road on the approach and, with the combination of riders trying to force their way out of the bunch to find an unhindered route to the line and oncoming cars forcing riders over to the left hand side of the road, suddenly there was a big crash.
Several riders hit the ground hard, right in front of me. Riders unable to avoid them went down too. I hit the brakes hard and just managed to avoid going down but I had to stop, as did most of the bunch. Some 15-20 riders were unaffected by the crash and they went on to sprint for victory!
I went to check if Kris was OK. Luckily, he had not got involved in the sprint and was a safe distance behind the crash.
So we all left the race with unfinished business and just a couple of races left to try and achieve our goals. Next up, the Upton road race and Fin del Verano 2 day.