by Kris Zentek.
I had retired for the season with a disappointing performance at the Fin Del Verano, ending on 173 points and parking my hopes of getting first Cat. I’d started to wind down, and was thinking of my winter training plan.
Then a post from Paul Hamilton (race organiser of the FDV) popped up in my feed…the OVB Oktoberfest end of season road race. Back over in Lincolnshire, it was a Regional A 2/3/4. But I’ve packed, and I was planning a month off.
Two days later, Ste Feeney shares it on our team page, stating with excitement that he’s signed up for it. Git. Only a win would get me the required points. It was a 4 hour round trip. It was another 6am start, and on a Saturday too. So I did the sensible thing and signed up too 🙂
When I arrived Saturday morning, I took a quick look at the start sheet. Only 17 names were down! There were several OVB riders, and a mix of various others, all ready to battle for much needed points no doubt. The course was 5.5 miles long, pan flat save for the ramp to the finish, and had four junctions. The Tarmac was not great, but was not as bad as some courses I’ve ridden. The weather was temperate, with a fairly strong northerly making the long finish straight the trickiest part of the lap. It total it would be 9.5 laps.
By the time we readied for racing, there had been 6 or 7 EOL’s. So in total there were 22 of us. It was quite strange to see so few, but it made for a very relaxed and even club like atmosphere. We were off at 10:05 after the briefing, and rolled out in two lines. Onto the course, we kept our formation, and no one was making an early move. At one point I thought we could be doing a chain gang for the whole race!
As we took the left onto the finish straight, the OVB lads pushed up the pace, and then we were racing. I was maybe 4th or 5th wheel, and I was ready for the moves. A couple clipped off the front and I found myself at the head of the bunch, so I eased up a bit and waited for the inevitable chase, which soon came. As we caught, a few more went, and I went with them. We got a bit of a gap and crossed the line to the next left turn. No OVB lads were here, and I could see the bunch were chasing us down so I sat up and waited.
As we were caught, Andy Sherat from OVB countered on the next left, got a bit of a gap and I attacked again to join him. We worked for a few turns and increased our gap a little, but we were still being chased down. There were a string of riders trying to bridge, pulling the rest of the bunch with them, so we sat up again.
As we were caught again, a VCUK rider countered, and I jumped straight on his wheel. Yet again, we worked for a bit and got maybe 10 seconds clear, but as I came through to take a turn, he eased off and lost touch with me. I really didn’t want to spend the entire race having to chase down every attack, and I already had a bit of a lead, so I got my head down and pressed on – hoping that a stronger rider would bridge to me – preferably from OVB, but I was hoping it would be Ste.
It didn’t happen. I spent the next 2.5 laps on my own. At one point the bunch were well out of sight and the commissaries car moved in behind me, indicating that I had a decent lead. But into lap three I could see that a rider was trying to bridge, and the bunch were chasing him down. My lead was getting shorter, and as the start of lap 4 I was only 5 seconds ahead. I eased up, ready to settle back into the bunch and recover a bit.
But then I saw an attack from another rider from Rhino, Michael Cowland. He bridged, came past me, and I jumped on his wheel again. And so we started Woking to build a proper lead. Within 1/2 a lap, the bunch were out of sight again.
We were both working really well together, we never really said anything, we just both knew we were committed now, and doing 20 rev turns, we built up over a minutes lead in the next 5 laps. Into lap 9, we were both so in the zone that we never saw a third rider join us; Barnabas Purbrook, the same guy who tried to bridge to me early in the race. He just appeared out of nowhere! He’d apparently been bridging over to us for at least 2 laps, which was an awesome effort as we were not hanging around! My first concern was the the time gaps were wrong and the bunch were zeroing in on us, but he told us the bunch were miles behind him, and were we still safe.
So now we were three, and we were all strong, all doing our turns. We got to the bell maintaining our 1 minute lead. Each time I got to the line I looked behind and could see the bunch and they always looked too close for comfort, but the wind was so strong that the time gap seemed right.
With the lead we had, and with us being in the last lap, I expected that the battle between us would begin, but I was so pleased that it didn’t. We all continued to work hard. I think I was the only one who missed a turn the whole time, as I was starting to suffer a bit. I was out of gels and out of water, so I missed a turn to try and recover a bit. I taped through on the next turn.
If you’ve read any of my previous reports, you’ll know that in this situation I usually end up stuck at the front of a break into the finish straight. We turned left for the last time, and as the chequered flag came into view, I found myself at the back. Perfect!
Barnabas was at the front, and tried a couple of digs. Nothing came of it. As we got onto the ramp, I was primed to follow Michael who I could see was ready. All I needed to do was stay on his wheel, out of the wind, and pip him at the line. But as he sprinted away, he was clearly much fresher and stronger than me, and he got a bike length on me. I was now sprinting into the wind and I couldn’t get him back. He raised him arms to celebrate a really well deserved win, and my head sunk as I crossed the line in second, 2 bike lengths behind. Barnabas, obviously running on empty after his epic ride to bridge to us, rolled in for third place just behind me.
As we shook hands to congratulate each other on a great race, I saw Steve pop over the junction! 4th place! He was followed by a guy from Spain who took 5th. I later learned that with two laps to go, Ste and his Spanish comrade had attacked and stayed clear to the end. Another fantastic ride from Ste…
As we rolled back to HQ, we both shared our stories from the ride, and we were both pleased that we came. I didn’t get the win I needed, but I was now just two points away from my goal, and I felt re-energised. There were no more road races now, but Ste told me that there were still circuit races, so the target of 1st Cat is still achievable.
This race was probably one of my favourites this season. Not because of the course though there was nothing wrong with it, but because I rode positively, and made the race my own. I very nearly got the win, but ended up still with my highest finish this year.
Full results to follow when I get them…
- Michael Cowland – Rhino Racing
- Kris Zentek – Team Chronomaster
- Barnabas Purbrook – Full-On Tri Club
- Steve Feeney – Team Chronomaster
So I’d like to thank Paul and the rest of the organisers and marshals for putting this race on, keeping us safe on the road and making it a great day for us all. It’s helped me to realise my goal is still within reach.
2 points left…