By Jon Fowles
On Sunday I lined up to race Bole Hill alongside Karl and Gareth. I was apprehensive about the race, having never ridden the circuit, and hearing terror stories of the climb and ripping nature of the course. I put on my best climbing legs, and prepared for some hurt.
The race passed mostly in a blur, with lots of dribbling and pulling faces from myself. Without disappointing, the climb was hard, and the race attacked it at a savage pace, the result of which was losing both Karl and Gareth in the early stages of the race.
I wasn’t keen on sticking around in the main bunch and having to endure the pace up the climb ten times, so my plan was to get in an early breakaway and ride at more of a hard…but consistent pace. There was a strong cross wind on the flat section before the descent into the climb, so I attempted my attacks there, hoping to get a lucky escape. Unfortunately the eager bunch managed to bring back all the moves I tried, consequently putting me way out of my comfort zone when going into the climb. After a few of these attempts, it was apparent that I wasn’t going to escape, and with my energy reserves dropping risked getting dropped on the climb.
In the chaos of the race, 4 riders had managed to get away from the bunch, and held onto a 1-minute advantage over what remained of the main bunch. As the race progressed, the difficulty was clearly visible by the dwindling numbers of riders left in the main pack, with only as many as half who started remaining by 5 laps in.
On the 7th time up the climb, I was starting to struggle, but was still at the rear of the group as we crossed the start/finish. I dropped back a little whilst taking a fresh bottle, the pace suddenly increased and I lost touch with the group. I was dropped, and in a world of pain! Myself and two other riders chased with everything we had, and we could see the bunch was riding hard, splitting in two for most of that lap. I kept telling myself, they’ll slow down, they’ll slow down, and pushed on as hard as my burning legs would allow, hoping that I’d be able to get back on. It took almost two laps of pain, but I made it, and re-joined soon before the 9th ascent of the hill.
By now my reserves were almost spent, and I had to resign to sitting in the bunch and prepare myself for the inevitable death match on the final climb to the finish. The breakaway had exploded, but one rider still remained with a sizeable advantage over the pack, likely to take the win.
Approaching the finish, a few attacks began, but I followed wheels, content with other riders to chase. I hit the climb amidst the remaining riders and weaved my way around those who went pop, crossing the line in 14th place. My legs were smashed. I had however survived the race, and even finished in the points. Bole Hill has rightly earned some new terror stories !
Thanks for these excellent pictures Ellen Isherwood and for organising a superb race Heather and Fred Bamforth!