By Jon Fowles
I lined up to start the Smithfield road race on Sunday eager to get a good result. Having come third the previous year, and knowing that the course suited me with a nice mix of short sharp hills on tight country lanes, as well as fast open road. A great combination for a break to get away, and stay away….usually.
From the gun the attacks started, the racing was vicious, with riders constantly trying to get away. For the most part I was partaking in this, not content with sitting in the bunch, and more than willing to dish out the pain. For the first few laps, when everyone was relatively fresh, none of the attacks were sticking. I was in numerous moves, with different people, but each time the bunch would bring us back, seemingly against all odds.
On the third lap, 5 others and myself managed to get a good gap on the main bunch, and worked well together. But once again, the pack brought us back just as we had passed the finish line. After this, another group of riders attacked, and knowing that it would be foolish to try and push myself once again to jump in, I settled into the peleton hoping that someone else would take up the impetus to close the gap. Unfortunately this was the breaking point of the group. The subtle moment in the pack had occurred when everyone looks at one another and sits up, unwilling to chase. This is just the luck of racing.
Surveying what remained of the main bunch, it was clear that the racing had taken its toll, with around 20 riders left. I wasn’t satisfied with what had happened, so resolved to sit in this group for a few laps before trying to get away once again.
On the fifth lap, I hit it hard out of one of the corners and managed to get clear with 5 other riders. We were shortly after joined by Hamish Graham (Green Jersey), and settled in to riding at a good pace. We pulled out a gap on the main bunch, but with 1:50 to the front group of 5 riders we knew it would be tough to bring them back.
On the final lap, riders in our group were becoming reluctant to take turns setting the pace. However, with the gap to the leaders brought down to 50 seconds, it was within our reach to catch them if only we could work well together.
We approached the left turn onto the fast section of road, around 6km to the finish, and I attacked hard on my own. I knew that Hamish was by far a better sprinter than myself, and my only chance was to go alone. I even had the possibility of making up the gap to the leaders if they starting hesitating before the finish. I went as deep as I could manage after a hard 3 hours racing, and kept the riders behind at bay for 5km. A few hundred meters before the left turn onto the short rise to the finish line, I could see them closing the gap behind; I knew I would never make it. I sat up, drew some breath, and prepared myself to jump on the back of the group.
Back in the small break, we took the left and began the rise to the finish line. A few riders pushed hard early, but I stayed patient and sat on the wheels. Closing on the line, I sprinted past two, but couldn’t quite manage to close the gap on the three in front. As expected Hamish took the sprint for 6th, and I rolled over the line in 9th place.
It was a tough race, and I felt strong enough for a good result. But sometimes luck just isn’t on your side
Many thanks to the organiser Robin from Rock to Roll Cycles
Many thanks to Ellen Isherwood, as always for her brilliant pictures