TLI Stafford & Stone Race 3 – Report

By Kris Zentek.

This was race three of a series of four, and as I was on marshalling duty the week before, this was my second appearance. I felt a lot fresher than I did in race one, so had better expectations…but this week there would be a full field with all races filled up. On my way down to Swynnerton, there were a few drops of rain on the windscreen – there was a chill to the wind, and I hoped that it would stay mostly dry.

I got there in plenty of time to get warmed up on the turbo, and at 9:50 we assembled for the briefing. There were blue skies with a brush of cloud, and no real sign of rain, but various people said it was coming. But I felt optimistic, and bad weather might help split up the race a bit more.

Once we passed neutralisation the race stayed steady, until Steve Fidler from Dave Hinde attacked up the road. No-one else was biting, and we gradually closed him down after the sharp left had turn. As we did, his teammate Ben Palmer countered, and two others went with him. They got a decent gap, but I waited near the front for others to pull – which happened when we got to the lumps and bumps. The field split a bit on the inclines, and we had maybe 15 in a front group. There was no interest from most riders in getting turns going, and so when we got to the finish straight I put a bit of a dig in to split it up a bit more, and get some distance from the rest of the bunch.

At the top, we were down to maybe 8-10 riders – still too many for a short race, but the pace picked up and we started to chase down the three breakaways. Soon we had caught them, and we formed a larger group. There were still a number of riders sitting on, and so when we got to the lumps again on lap 2, the same thing happened – big digs on the inclines, to shake off the passengers. We shook off a few more.

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Now I had the precarious situation of there being three riders from Dave Hinde, two riders from Onimpex Bioracer, and a couple of solo riders like me – not ideal to have two teams strongly represented in a break, and so on the finish straight the screw was turned once again. We managed to distance the Dave Hinde trio, and the rest of us pressed on down the hill. A little while later, Steve Fidler managed to bridge back across to us minus his teammates Ben and Mark Hassall.

And so we were left with 6, which would end up being the final selection for the rest of the race; Andy Bennett and Mike Jolley from Onimpex, Aaron Tonks, Dave Reece from Liverpool Mercury, Steve Fidler from Dave Hinde and myself.

We started to work together, but it was very fragmented with numerous turns being missed – not a big problem, but some were doing more work than others. As we crossed the line to start lap 4 I shouted for a time gap, and I got the reply “oh, your MILES in front!” So I eased up on the efforts a bit, and we agreed on a more steady pace, trying to keep the turns tapping through from everyone.

Into the final lap, and I was fully expecting the digs to start. Dave Reece was the main culprit, putting in a few testing digs looking back at us menacingly, and we were quick to respond. When we got over the climb, it was Aaron who pinged off the front, and a little bit of disorganisation between thee rest of us allowed him to get some distance. At this point I was calling for the two Onimpex riders to put more efforts in, and they came through on the descent.

By this point, Aaron was well up the road, and I was hesitant to get on the front given we had two from Onimpex. Pretty soon they started to attack and counter, but this didn’t last too long, and before long we were approaching the last climb to the finish. Dave put in another dig, and we chased him down. The counter attack didn’t come, and so I had a go myself. I managed to put a bit of a gap in, and with about 200 yards to go I looked back and saw Steve Fidler start to sprint from the back. Out of the saddle, I want as hard as I could, but with a few yards to go I saw his front wheel pass me and I knew I was beaten.

Final results:

1. Aaron Tonks –
2. Steve Fidler – Dave Hinde Racing
3. Kristian Zentek – Team Chronomaster
4. Andy Bennett – Onimpex Bioracer
5. David Reece – Liverpool Mercury
6. Michael Jolley – Onimpex Bioracer
7. Ben Palmer – Dave Hinde Racing
8. Mark Hassall – Dave Hinde Racing

Aaron put in a fantastic last lap and did really well to stay away from us. Steve Fidler, just starting to find his form, clearly hasn’t lost his top end with an impressive sprint to clinch 2nd and top of his category. I settled for 3rd, a bit disappointed that I didn’t follow Aaron as I had the legs. Ben and Mark did well to stay away from the bunch on their own to take 7th and 8th respectively.

All in all a great race, and thanks as always must go to the marshalls, support drivers and outriders who kept us safe and sound on the wet roads. Thanks to the organisers for another successful race, and last but by no means least, thanks to the HQ staff for the lovely brew and cake that welcomed us when we got back there.

Next week I’ll be competing in my first LVRC road race near Worcester, so won’t be around to see the final race in the Stafford & Stone Wheelers race series. Good luck to all the riders who are heading to Audlem next Sunday…

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