By Kris Zentek.
Having not learned a thing from last time, I decided again it would be a good idea to ride out to Cotes Heath for my second race on the Swynnerton Army Camp crit. This time, the hosts and organisers were Onimpex Bioracer who sponsor and supply our kit, and they had a very generous prize fund on offer. I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to represent, or to win a few quid!
I got there with plenty of time to spare, and a helpful tailwind in the morning sun saved my legs a bit. On arrival, I could see the signing on sheet was chock full of late entries, and there were a good mix of heavy hitters who were down to race. It would be 60 mins + 5 laps, and the pace was sure to be high.
We rolled out to the camp, and once we were let in we just caught the tail end of the +50’s race. We waited for our turn, and saw Steve Wilkinson from Wheel Guru take the chequered flag. From some of the faces and the heavy breathing it looked like it had been a tough 75 mins for them, and the Strava profiles later on verified it had been really fast.
The first sprint of the day was to the portaloo’s as we had been waiting for a while, and once we had all offloaded, we lined up to start. We were advised there would be two prime laps, the first of which would be lap 1 proper (after the neutralised lap)! So I guess they really wanted this to be aggressive from the off 🙂
After we got the neutral lap done, the car beeped and we were off. Immediately we were strung out into the first corner, and a series of attacks kept the pace high. As we hit the finish straight, a few riders went for the prime. Not keen to let a break form, the bunch stayed just behind – effectively a 40 man dash for the line. With that over, we settled into the pattern for the next few laps – attack, chase, counter-attack, chase.
The big hitters were being marked, but were all keen to try and get away. This kept going for about half the race. I tried to stay near the front, and get in one of the attacks. if I missed it, I would help with the chase down. This got pretty tiring but I felt good so stayed within my limits. Mammoth were the danger of the day as they were heavily represented and their constant attacks put a lot of pressure on the individuals like Ryan Pike, Martin Ford and Chris Quin (sporting his National Crit Champs stripes).
When we hit the next prime lap, we were still mostly together and as we hit the finish straight I saw an opportunity to go for the prize. I went down the left as the front riders were looking right and got a bit of a gap. But I was passed a few yards from the line and I sat up to let the money go. It was not long after this that the decisive move went. Into the back straight Martin Ford attacked, and Alex Simmons was on his wheel. Ryan Pike and Matt Cartlidge managed to bridge across successfully and a few others failed. As the bunch caught those who tried and failed, the four started to build a gap. This was a very strong group who were all in good form…
Those of us who had missed the break were now on the front trying our best to bring it back, but as there was a Mammoth rider up there, and a lot of others sitting on, it was left to just a few of us. The constant disruption resulted at the front of the bunch, and the four in the break working together meant that they increased their lead, and soon they were out of sight. We admitted defeat, and realised we would now be racing for minor places.
When we hit 5 laps to go, the attacks once again started, this time the chasing down being done by the remaining Mammoth riders who so far, had controlled the race perfectly – although it’s frustrating at the time, I really do like to see teams working as teams – it makes for a more tactical race. I put quite a few efforts in on the front and continued to do my fair share of chasing down. My legs were starting to tire, but I could see that my efforts were leaving small gaps behind me, so I thought I would try to get away late on.
as we entered the final lap with the bell ringing in our ears, we could see the break in the distance again. They had slowed up a bit – still beyond our reach, but it gave us hope. We took the tight left turn and I was on the front. I let a couple go past me, dropped a couple of gears and smoothly sped past them again – I was keen not to go too hard and encourage a chase down. I got a bit of a gap and kept going. Out of nowhere Andy Bennett flew past me, urging me to jump on his wheel.
He was going to fast, and was already 10 yards ahead of me, and in that moment I almost let him go, but I got a second wind and managed to get back on his wheel. He let me recover to the next turn, and I went through. From there we worked together each putting 20 second efforts in to stay away. The bunch were distanced, but we could see they were strung out and chasing. We got onto the finish straight, Andy took the front and shortly after I went through. I did a turn and through the last right I flicked my elbow. Andy called for me to keep going. At this point I didn’t know if he was unwilling or unable to come through, but we didn’t have time, and so I kept going, pushing every last bit of energy I had left through the pedals.
I took a quick look behind as we hit the 200m marker, and the sprint had started. They were maybe 100 yards behind. I kept going. I distinctly remember at that point thinking WTF am I doing, I have to ride home again! But I was going for 5th place, and a prize. With one last effort I crossed the line. Andy stuck to my wheel to take 6th, narrowly staying ahead of the bunch sprint.
As we rolled to a stop, we learned that Martin Ford had taken the win, out sprinting Ryan by a good few yards. Alex and Matt rolled in behind with Alex completing the podium. They had done really well to stay away, and in a fast race with constant attacking, had managed to get the decisive move going. Well done to all four.
- 1st – Martin Ford – Planet X (Winner Cat A)
- 2nd – Ryan Pike – High on Bikes (Winner Cat S)
- 3rd – Alex Simmons – Mammoth RT
- 4th – Matt Cartlidge – Kuota Spinergy GSG
- 5th – Kris Zentek – Team Chronomaster
- 6th – Andy Bennett – Onimpex Bioracer RT (Winner Cat B)
- 7th – Paul Lally – Onimpex Bioracer RT (Winner Cat M)
- 8th – Andy Turner – Manchester Wheelers
- 9th – Alan Bradley – KTM Impsport RT
- 10th – Mark Hammersley – Team Wheel Guru (Winner Cat C)
I finished the day in 5th place, and runner up in my category (A). So I was awarded two lots of cash, and a Bioracer cap.
The race today went without a hitch, and everyone made it to the finish in one piece. On the way back to HQ, and as we got changed, a lot of people were ralking about how good today’s race had been, and I agreed. It was really fast, and a really enjoyable technical course – lots of fun!
So thank you to the organisers and sponsers Onimpex for putting on todays race. We all appreciate how much you give back to grass roots racing, and today was a really well run as we have come to expect.
Thanks also to the support staff back at HQ for the tea, coffee and cakes too – that slice of sponge cake got me home!