By Kris Zentek.
The George Darlington memorial Road Race was hosted and organised by Liverpool Century, on one of my favourite short courses Clieves Hill near Southport. It packs quite a lot into 5.5 miles, short sharp climbs, a fast technical descent with sweeping corners, and plenty of exposure to the elements. Today there was a slight threat of rain, but overall the conditions looked good. The race was fully subscribed and the usual big hitters were here. As it was TLI, there would be three races run concurrently, and the under 45’s would be off first, completing 11 laps of the circuit.
We rolled off, and as expected the attacks started once we hit the main road incline, all the way to the top of the descent. I think several were hoping for a big split early on, and go for the long win. But no-one was keen to let anything go. Onimpex Bioracer were the dominant team today with maybe 6 riders in our race, and were riding well to control the race. This was one of the main factors for the pace being so high throughout the day – either one of theirs attacked, and was chased down by the stronger solo riders like myself, or a mixed group attacked and the pulled it back.
As a result, the relentless attacking continued for the next 8 laps. Save for a few short-lived but promising moves, nothing at all was allowed to get away. It wasn’t until lap 8, when we caused the bunch from the vets race, that the definitive moved went. many of the main protagonists were at the front, pulling the group up the main road. We connected with the vets race at the bottom of the climb, into a fairly tight set of corners. The attack went here, up the climb, and into the sharp left turn. The pace continued up the drag to the top of the descent, and as we turned left into it we looked behind to see there was a big split.
There were maybe 7 or 8 riders in our group as we descended, and we could see there was a small chase group just behind. We started to work together as best we could, but with a large group it was pretty fragmented. The 4 behind soon caught us, and unfortunately for everyone else, three of them were from Onimpex – adding to the couple already with the main break.
We continued to keep the pace up, but it was pretty difficult with such a large group. However, with most of the attacking riders present, there was little danger of us being caught again. The main concern for me was attacks out of this group. As we crossed the line for the final lap, those attacks came. Three or four riders clipped off the front, and I missed the attack. The build only a small lead in the last lap – maybe 5 or 10 seconds – but it was enough to keep them ahead into the final turn onto Clieves Hill, and up to the finish.
When the main break got to the turn, there was a little confusion – apparently some riders never heard the bell, and thought was still had 1 to go. They carried on, taking the rest with them. I had already turned, but a second of doubt caused me to slow a little as I looked behind. When I pressed on again, I was already being passed by other riders, and I was so tired at this point I had nothing left to stay with them.
I eventually crossed the line just in the top 10, to learn that Onimpex’s Dan Whelan had won, pipping Ryan Pike at the line with a late sprint. Onimpex had controlled the entire race, had most (if not all) of their riders in the select breakaway, and had taken 3 of the top four placings, topped off with the win by Dan who is in really good form right now.
- Dan Whelan – Onimpex Bioracer RT
- Ryan Pike – High on Bikes
- Paul Lally – Onimpex Bioracer RT
- Tony Greenhalgh – Onimpex Bioracer RT
- Chris Quin – Macclesfield Wheelers
- Charlie Critchley – High On Bikes
- Karl Smith – Bott Cycle Team
- ?? – Kuota Spinergy GSG
- Kris Zentek – Team Chronomaster
- Chris Spencer – Onimpex Bioracer RT
As I said earlier, this is one of my favourite courses, and the race today reinforced that. Very aggressive racing, fast paced, and thoroughly enjoyable. I just wish I had fresher legs on the day (younger legs maybe too) to get a better result, but no complaints with a top 10 finish.
Thanks to the organisers for putting on a great race, and thanks to all of the marshalls and moto outriders for keeping us all safe on the open roads, and finally thanks to the support back at HQ for making sure no-one left hungry!
Thanks must also go out to Onimpex for their continued support of local racing, by sponsoring the winners jerseys which looked great!
Finally, thank you to Christine Holmes and Fred Chilton for being there on the day to capture fantastic images of the race, and allowing me to share a few in this report.