TLI Stafford & Stone Race 1 – Race Report

By Kris Zentek.

My first TLI race of the season – well, first for nearly 3 years, was quite local, and a friend from my club Weaver Valley CC – Jim Duffy – offered me a lift. So I got a nice lie-in, which was very much needed as I had been off the bike for a couple of weeks the last of which was in Boston MA.

Jet-lagged, I got up, we packed the car and headed down to Eccleshall. The sun was shining and there was an early morning frost, almost perfect weather for a Spring road race. We got there in plenty of time, and gave me an opportunity to catch up with some friends I don’t normally see in BC races.

The format for TLI is age categorised, and being 40 I am a Cat A. On heavily subscribed races, the categories are split up 5 mins apart, but seeing as we only had 23 total from Masters, A and B, there were just two groups – 50+, and under 50.

We set off neutralized onto a rolling 11 mile course – 4.5 laps in total, with the finish about half way up a punchy climb. As the lead car left us, I sat on the front ready to jump on an early attack. I fancied a day in the break to get the legs back into shape. Former national champ Paul Thursfield was the first to make the move on the first of several short climbs, but no-one chased, and he sat out front till the sharp left turn. Here, the move went.

As we went round ,the bunch compressed and up the incline another attack went from Ben McIntosh. I jumped straight on this and we shouted to Paul to jump on, but he didn’t take the bait and sat up to wait for the bunch. About 8-10 riders were attacking, too many for such as small race, so on the next incline another attack went, and it was reduced to 6. Not long after, one rider – Chris Spencer – lost the wheel, and we were down to 5. This would be the final selection, including current National Champ Nigel Kershaw, Chris Quin, Karl Smith, Ben McIntosh, and myself.

It took us a while to get organised, as we pressed hard to build a lead as fast as we could. Eventually, we settled into a rhythm of 20 second turns. For the most part, we all worked well together, with the occasional missed turn. It was early season still, and some were in better form than others.

The rest of the course was up and down, with two really fast left turns (which I really liked). We kept up the pressure for the next couple of laps, and it wasn’t until 2 laps to go that we finally got a time check – 2 mins. We kept pressing, and as we neared the bell, we got a 3 minute time check. That can go one of two ways, either the bunch give up, or they chase us down, and 3 mins for a bunch of 18 working together can easily be done over 11 miles.

At this point, I was really starting to feel the fatigue in my legs. I could see that both Chris and Ben were in much better shape, and throughout the last lap their turns had been getting stronger. I expected the attack to come, but not so far out. But it did, on the climb past the bell. Ben went first, Chris chased, and the rest of us hung on. Then Chris went again, Ben followed, and created a gap. I was on Nigel’s wheel, and in just a few seconds they were away. There are long straights on the course, and a short while later I could see that Chris had also distanced Ben.

Nigel and I did the best we could to chase down Ben, knowing that Chris had this in the bag even with 8 miles to go, but I was so tied now that I lost Nigel’s wheel on a climb. So there we were, the 5 man break, each about 100-200 metres apart. TT style, we each chased down our minute men to the finish line.

And that’s how the race finished….12963767_10101472243349932_3991328406538741824_n

1st – Chris Quin – A
2nd – Ben McIntosh – S
3rd – Nigel Kershaw – B
4th – Kristian Zentek – A
5th – Karl Smith – B
6th – Steve Rocky Chapman – B
7th – Mike Tomlinson – B
8th – Steve Blaney Green – B
9th – Simon Williams – M
10th – Chris Spencer -A

It was an excellent win by Chris, and a real show of strength in the final lap. We had amassed over 8 mins by the finish, and I am really happy with my result, given the lack of prep and the disrupted sleep I’ve had. The course was fantastic – one of my faves to date, and the organisation was flawless – never any trouble at the junctions, which is a testament to great job done by the marshalls and outriders.

So I’ll finish by saying thanks to everyone involved, the organisers, marshalls, Outriders, and the caterers back at HQ, and thanks to my comrades in the break who made it a really great day in the saddle. Roll on next week!

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