By John Bamford
The LVRC Condor Buckstone Flanders event was a road race I was really looking forward to. Well who wouldn’t when the race manual landed in my inbox and it described the course as;
‘A different event on scenic moorland roads on an 8.25 mile circuit….. includes approximately one mile on closed roads with a half mile sector on unsurfaced road across Scammonden reservoir followed by a short steep climb (20%) up a concrete ramp back onto open roads’
“It ain’t no Pimbo” I thought to myself at the time and it wasn’t, it was a cracking course. And the organisers should be commended for putting on such a challenging circuit.
Anyway, back to race day. Both Craig and I were racing in the A/B race with Graham racing in the C/D race. We met at the HQ in Greetland and after a small warmup headed up to the circuit behind the lead car. This was a rather pleasant affair with the pace comfortable enough to have a chat and take in the scenery, unlike some neutralised roll outs I’ve been involved in which have been see riders jettisoned out of the back before the race has even begun!
After a quick briefing we were on the move again, supposedly still neutralised for a further 2 miles, however a number or riders were on the attack, much to the annoyance of the bunch who were muttering a number of choice words about the riders out in front. Then we were racing and with a group already out front the pace increased. This section of the course (Saddleworth Rd) is a gradual incline to the junction of Buckstone Moss, and it’s very exposed. There was a fairly strong cross wind coming from the right so echelons were already forming with riders at the back fighting in the gutter to try and get some shelter.
My positioning here wasn’t great, I have to say, and as riders lost wheels I found myself at the wrong end of the bunch and in danger of being a casualty of the crosswinds. I decided to make an effort to move to the front and eventually made it up to the head of the bunch. However, in the space of a few miles the riders that had already got a jump on the main bunch from the start and a couple of other riders including Craig had managed to get a decent gap and the break of six riders were now well up the road. A bit disappointing for my own racing ambitions, but at least I had a team mate out front.
As we took the turn for the quick tailwind descent of New Hey Road we could see the break had maybe 30 seconds on the rest of the bunch. A decent gap, but it was still early doors with a lot of racing left.
The interesting section of the course came after a sharp left hander down a fast narrow lane, joining the Yorkshire Water service road, quick right hander under the M62, followed by a very sharp left hander followed by a 50m ramp onto the unsurfaced track across Scammonden reservoir. This unsurfaced section was narrow, potholed and had a steep descending embankment on the RHS, this then led to the 1 in 5 concrete ramp which again was potholed and full of gravel, large tufts of grass and other hazards. Oh the joys! At the top of the ramp it was a sharp right hander and then a flat-ish 250m dash to the finish line before exiting the service road and taking a left hand turn back on to the crosswind section of Saddleworth Rd to start lap 2.
It was at this point I saw a rider in the distance standing at the side of the road. As we approached I saw it was Craig with wheel in hand. He’d tried desperately to loan a wheel off a number of marshals but to no avail. So unfortunately his race was over and he was ruing his bad luck as the course definitely suited him. But it now meant I was free to race.
I got in the chain of riders doing turns into the crosswind but it was evident that there were only 3 to 4 riders willing to commit to the chase so in frustration I attacked, I headed for the LH gutter and pressed on the pedals, looked over my shoulder and saw another rider was coming across so I moved out to the centre of the road to give shelter and continued to press on.
‘Flick’…. Nothing……………’flick’……… nothing.
When I looked back the rider was Nick Shaughnessy who I knew. After a quick chat it was evident Nick wasn’t willing to ride as he had a man in the break. We were perhaps 10 second in front of the bunch and 20 seconds behind the break so I felt it was worth Nick riding. Not convinced or not willing Nick remained on my wheel. At that point I stopped riding and as Nick passed me I jumped and got ahead. I was prepared to nail my flag to the mast here but after another quick glance back I saw another rider coming across and he was bringing Nick with him!
The three of us hit the turn for the long descent and we were half way between the break and the bunch… And to give Nick his due, he began to work and we all nailed it down the descent. Unfortunately the bunch had other ideas and by the time we arrived at the LH turn for the YW section we had been reeled in. After another dodgy descent by myself I was towards the rear of the bunch and with some guys letting gaps open up I was working hard just to make up the lost places and stay with the group.
At the start of the third lap Darran Acton, a good mate of mine and former team mate, had manged to get away in a bunch of 6-7 riders so the remaining group had now split into two smaller groups on the difficult crosswind section, and unfortunately I was in the second of these which contained perhaps 15 riders. Myself and two or three other riders continued to share the work and lap three came and went with the odd escapee trying their luck to bridge to the first group behind the break.
The next section of unsurfaced road at the end of lap 3 saw my bunch whittled down to about 8 riders and at the start of lap 4 we had almost caught the group that Darran was in. Half a mile later and the catch was made apart from one lone rider who had jumped clear before the catch. So we now had 5 up the road in the break and a lone rider then a group of about 15 riders.
Feeling good I continued to work at the front as the lead car could be spotted in the distance so we knew the break had perhaps no more than a minute on us. Frustrated that some riders were willing to sit third or fourth wheel in the echelon but not go through and work I decided that when I hit the front the following time I’d press on the pedals a bit harder. There were some tired legs out there and so I just drifted off the front. As no one had followed I decided to press on more, quick glance back, and I noticed Darran was trying to get across. I eased up and Daz made it onto my wheel. In situations like this, you immediately know if someone is feeling good or on the limit and I could tell Daz was a bit fatigued from the effort to get across and from his foray off the front the previous lap, so I put my head down and pulled us both to the turn for the descent before asking Daz for a turn.
We both worked well and just before the left hander for the YW section we swept up the lone rider (Andy Peace) and the three of us took the off road section sensibly.
At the start of the final lap we knew we had about a 30 second lead but could also see that we were closing the gap on the break. With Daz still suffering a bit, me and Andy took turns into the crosswinds with Daz coming through when he could.
By the time we got to the crossroads to hit the fast descent for the final time we could see the break clearly and my immediate thoughts were we could catch them! I shouted this to Daz and Andy and we engaged 53×11 and gave it everything we could. The guys ahead clearly had the same idea and although we were motoring, we didn’t seem to make any further inroads against the 5 guys ahead of us.
As we hit the YW section for the final time I could feel Andy ramp it up on the fast gravelly descent and under the motorway bridge. I knew from the previous lap he was smooth through this section whereas I had already had four previous attempts at it and almost come a cropper 4 out of 4 times! I felt confident that any gap Andy made, I could claw back up the little ramp before hitting the offroad reservoir section, which I did. We then looked at each other and with no one keen to hit this section first wheel, I decided to take it up. Next thing I know, Daz is flying down the outside shouting I’ll lead you out. Cheers Daz.
We hit the concrete ramp and myself and Andy attacked it neck and neck, before taking the final RH turn and onto the flat run to the finish. I decide to go for the line straight away, and fortunately I managed to cross the line ahead of my two break away pals to finish 6th overall and 4th in my age group.
Disappointed not have made it across to the break but hat off to those guys for staying away on what was a tough circuit, and congratulations to Robin Mckinnon for the win.
Condor Buckstone Flanders Race results Sunday 3rd July 2016
RACE 1 AB event 43.25 miles
1 Robin McKinnon B 11 Nick Shaughnessy A 21 James Dyson A
2 Andrew Sedgwick A 12 Ben Whitehead A
3 Andrew Prince A 13 Michael Tomlinson B
4 Tony Greenhaigh A 14 Tony Grassby B
5 Karl Smith B 15 Stephen Blaney A
6 John Bamford A 16 Simon Appleton B
7 Andy Peace B 17 David Micklethwaite A
8 Darren Acton B 18 Rory Crone A
9 Stephen Bottomley B 19 Robert Fowler B
10 Craig Moody B 20 Chris Spencer A
Not long after, Graham’s race was finishing in a bunch gallop. Graham came in 6th overall and 3rd in his age group.
Race 2 CD event 43.25 miles
1 Stephen Ellis C
2 Stephen Wilkinson D
3 Robert Blackburn C
4 Ian Davenport C
5 Melvin Hartley D
6 Graham Balshaw D
7 Karl Moseley C
8 Roy Holmes D
9 Neil Rollins C
Thanks have to go to John Ginley and all those involved at Condor Road Club for putting on such a fantastic event on a unique circuit. Thanks to all the marshalls and everyone else involved. A great day out.