By Kris Zentek.
As it was going to be an unusually dry day, and with it only being a short crit, I decided that it would be a good idea to ride down to Swynnerton for the Manchester BC race at the Swynnerton Training Camp. The race briefing was at 11:30, leaving me loads of time to amble through the Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire lanes to the HQ, 30 miles away. I left at 9ish, and arrived at 10:30 – a tail wind helping me along the way.
On arrival, I learned that the race would be 90 mins + 3 laps, so a bit more than I expected. I’ve never ridden the course before, so I get a bit of intel from the regulars. It’s fast, flat, some tight corners, on fairly gravelly surfaces, heavily tree-lined, often full of rifle shells, and had so far not been raced on in 2016 so no-one would actually know the state of it till we got there. Great! Perfect for a crit then!!
We rolled out to the camp ready for a 12pm start, and I was pleased to know we would do a neutral lap first. As expected, there were a lot of leaves on stretches of it, and a lot of gravel.
We were going to race a handicap with the +50’s group getting a 4.5 minute headstart. They went off, and we started talking tactics. Given that we had two separate podiums, and each race would have it’s own primes at 20, 40, 60 and 80 mins, why would we need to chase them down? We asked ourselves. Then we concluded that we would anyway, because it would be more fun 🙂
Off we went, and we set a fast but steady pace. They are pretty short 2.4 mile laps, and so we got regular time checks. We seemed to be knocking about 20 seconds a lap off the front group. I spent much of the first part of the race sat around 10th wheel, occasionally doing some turns on the front. Throughout the race we set pretty consistent lap times and as the race went on, my confidence in the corners was increasing – I was on clinchers, and my tyres were not in the best shape. Note to self, change tyres!
Nothing eventful really happened, save for the sprint laps every 20 mins to collect the primes. The speed went up to chase down the sprinters to make sure they didn’t form a break, we all came back together, and then it was back to normal.
For a while we had been passing the odd rider from group 1, but it wasn’t till around lap Around lap 13 we caught sight of the main bunch. Then the chase was on. Their group was much bigger than ours, and I was suddenly very aware of the risk our race would split as we tried to pass them on the tight turns. This is what happened, and after a sharp left I found myself about 30 riders back, the wheels I was marking right up front. Any second they could launch an attack and I would be miles behind, so I maneuvered myself up to the front as quickly as I could. Luckily no attack happened, and soon I was back in the top 5-10 wheels.
On lap 14 (ish) after the start/finish straight, there is a testing left-hander. gravelly, into a heavy tree-lined straight, with leaves everywhere. One rider, Alex Royle, started to attack up the right, but got caught by the leaves on the side. All I heard was the sliding of a wheel, I looked right and saw Alex hit the deck hard. A couple other riders came down as he fell into the road, and much of the race slowed. We had escaped.
There were maybe 15-20 riders at the front of the split, and the rest of the race were soon out of sight, and we started to press on. Soon we had shed a few more riders as we attacked out of each corner and into the headwinds, and as we approached 90 mins, there were only 6 of us left.
As we hit 3 laps to go, one of the Mammoth Racing riders Will Corden attacked. A good strategy, as he had a team mate Josh Yates in our group who started to work less. The rest of the group was made up of two from Onimpex Bioracer – Paul Lally and Steve Davies (who was from the +50’s race), Chris Quin from Macc Wheelers, and myself.
Will was allowed to get away, and we were planning to catch him, ready for a counter from his team mate Josh. What we didn’t account for though, was that he was burying himself, and with our best efforts to chase, he was holding a 10 second gap on us. This continued for the remainder of the 3 laps, and it wasn’t until the last couple of turns that we realised he had got this, and we would have to settle the minor honours between us.
As we hit the finish straight, I was second wheel. Paul Lally from Onimpex Bioracer (who had spent most of the race at the front) was leading us, Chris was on my wheel. Josh Yates was at the back, sitting on Steve Davies wheel who had been rightly sitting on for the last few laps given he had certainly won his race anyway.
I started to spin up just as Chris went for the line. Steve jumped straight on Chris’s wheel, and I jumped on his wheel. By this point I was getting tired, and knew I couldn’t get round them in the short distance for the line, so I settled for 4th place, with Chris taking second. Steve took 3rd position on the line to win his race overall. Congratulations! You’ll see from the video link below that at some point we were joined by a 7th rider in Pro Vision kit who rolled in behind me – I’m not clear on the final finish order, so hopefully someone will point this out – did someone take a lap and rejoin?
- Will Corden – Mammoth Racing (Winner, Cat S)
- Chris Quin – Macclesfield Wheelers (Winner, Cat A)
- Steve Davies – Onimpex Bioracer (Winner, Cat C)
- Kris Zentek – Team Chronomaster (Second, Cat A)
- Josh Yates – Mammoth Racing (Winner, Cat J)
- Paul Lally – Onimpex Bioracer (Winner, Cat M)
The overall winner Will Corden, had put in a fantastic effort to stay away, and we all congratulated him as we recovered in the early afternoon sun. I was eager to get back to HQ, because I now had to ride home again. The race had taken a lot out of my legs already and I promised the wife I would be home be 4…
The next 30 miles were just awful. Cramping all the way, I had a headwind as I battled my way north to Winsford. At various points I stuck the bike in the lowest gear I had in protest, but I had to stick it out and I ploughed on. Eventually I got home again having covered 115 miles that day, and vowed that I would never do that again!!
I’ll finish off by saying that I really enjoyed the racing at Swynnerton Training Camp and so long as it is dry, will definitely by racing there again. All of this was made possible thanks to the organisers who arranged it all, and to the marshalls and support staff who looked after us all day.
I’d like to thank Mike Cleary for taking these fantastic photo’s of the race – I hope you don’t mind me sharing them! If you want to see the whole album, click here.
I’s also like to thank Steve Simpson, who took a video of the finishers. If you want to see how not to sprint, look no further than here 🙂
If you’ve never checked out the ‘Flyby’s’ that Strava do, it gives good insight into how the race panned out. Click here for a Flyby of Sunday’s race…