By Kris Zentek.
This weekend is the last weekend of racing in 2015 for Team Chronomaster. It marks the end of a great season, full of ups and downs, but with some great memories. Billy, Stephen and myself would be representing the team in what was sure to be a hard fought stage race as everyone scrabbled for those end of season points.
Earlier in the season myself, Billy and Karl attended the Comienzo Del Verano stage race which had the same race program, but due to some scheduling errors coincided with a charity horse ride resulting in day two being cancelled. So we were familiar with the first two stages already, but day 2 was unknown to us all.
We all arrived around 8:30am at HQ, having made our own way to Nottinghamshire. We had plenty of time to get settled in, get the turbo’s and rollers set up, and get a cuppa to warm our bones in the cool morning air. The sun was shining bright, and it was set to be a great day.
Our start time for stage 1 was at 10:38, and at 10:00 am, we jumped on the bikes to get our legs moving…
Stage 1 – Team Time Trial
This 4.5 mile course starts at the bottom of a climb that begins shallow, tempting you to hit it hard. But round a couple of corners you are met with the unwelcome sight of sharp kicks. The last time I did this TTT, I went a little too hard and hit the steeper incline in the red. This time was no different, and I clearly had not learned my lesson!
Billy and Ste looked comfortable, and I turned myself inside out trying to stay with them. I had to ask them to ease up near the top, but we did the first segment in a great time, with a cheeky KOM win to the first of the two tight lefthanders.
The corner was uneventful, and we were soon motoring along the back straight. It’s mostly downhill but rolling, so it was very fast, and we all worked really well taking 20 rev turns. As we approached the second turn, there was a bit of confusion as to where the corner was; the left-hander had a slip road, but the marshall in hi-viz was standing further down. We headed straight for him, missing the turn and instead had to slow to a stop to cross some gravel and double back on ourselves. This would definitely have cost us valuable seconds!
So into the last third, and straight into another climb. This one is a lot shorter, and eases up after a couple hundred hards to reveal a mile long slog to the finish. We quickly got back into formation and continued our efforts all the way to the line, finishing in a time of 11:08.
As we rolled back to HQ, the taste of blood and iron reminded us all that we hate TTT’s, but we were pleased with our performance knowing we gave it our best.
As the times came in, it was apparent we had missed an opportunity to place highly with that corner, and we ended up 9th. The winning time was a very impressive 10:52, with the next 7 teams all finishing between 10:00 and 10:05. We were kicking ourselves!
But all was not lost, as we were still relatively high on the overall and we still felt fresh for stage two, that was due to roll out at 1pm. We got changed, recovered, and had a bit of lunch…
Stage 2 – Road Race
This road race was labelled the ‘sprinters stage’, but looking at the profile (and having done it once before) I wasn’t so sure. It certainly didn’t bode well for stage three the next day – tagged the ‘climbers day’.
We rolled out of HQ on time, and the race was neutralised up the 1.5 mile climb to Belvoir Castle. Unlike in May for the Comienzo (where most of the group were dropped in the NZ), the lead cars took it steady, and as we rolled ove the brow of the hill into the right turn, the race was on. As we passed a rather embarrassed looking NEG rider with his ride on the deck, the pace accelerated and we were soon cruising.
This course doesn’t really favour attacks and breaks due to the length and profile of the climb, but nevertheless the front running teams made efforts to get their men up front, and control the bunch. A break did get away, but never more than a handful of seconds. It was the climb that would put everything in order.
This race was 3 full laps, so 4 times up the climb, and each time the screw was turned. I am not a great climber but I can hold my own, and every time I struggled to stay in contact. Ste is a much better climber, and cruised up the climb with ease. Billy started really strong as well, but the pressure being put on his back was too much and eventually he lost contact. After each ascent, the remaining bunch was reduced all the while the break keeping their small gap.
This same routine happened for the next two laps, and each time I struggled up the climb, but managed to stay with the ever reducing bunch. As we turned onto the back straight and the long grind up to the climb, the bunch really accelerated. Teams not represented in the break drilled it to the climb, and soon we had caught them. The pace on the last ascent was a bit too much for me, and a lost a few bike lengths. Ste was at the front, looking really strong and comfortable, and he made off up the road.
At the top I joined up with 3 others off the back, and we formed a brief pact to try and get back on. As the bunch made the left turn into the finish straight and the sprint, we followed a few seconds behind.
Ste finished in the mix with a top 15(?), and I rolled in 15 seconds later. I was around 30th with no other riders in sight behind. Billy found the strength to keep going despite severe back pains, and rolled in 4.5 mins later. Both Ste and I both applauded his effort. Great ride Billy!
From an initial field of 80+, the race had been decimated in the 37 miles of stage 2. The TTT leading teams increased their advantage, which all made for a really interesting (and probably very hard) day 2.
As we rolled back to HQ in the afternoon sun, we were happy with our performance, and looked forward to stages 3 and 4. We parted ways for the evening as Ste made off home to Bolton, Billy made off to his Aunts in Grantham, and I headed for my B&B, 4 miles away.