This Sunday I competed in the AlbaRosa cycling club Road Race. As the only team member riding, it was down to me to pull my finger out and see if I could have some impact on the results!
After last weekends reasonable showing, and the flat out, sprint training session that was the stage 2 criterium of the Manchester Wheelers 2 day road race, I was hoping that some decent form was arriving just in time for my last races of the season to see if I could end the year with a good result.
Traveling down with me was the entire ‘Stephen Feeney fan club’ (AKA Karen) so there was a bit of pressure on me to try and put on some kind of performance in contrast to my usual, lazy tactic of cruising round at the back of the bunch.
The course was based around the quaint Yorkshire village of Saxton, covering 10 laps of a 5 mile circuit, which I had never ridden before.
I had already told Karen that my early race tactics would involve sitting towards the back of the bunch while my old legs warmed up, and to let the keener riders wear themselves out a bit in the early action before I got involved. I didn’t want her to be overly concerned with how rubbish I was when she constantly saw me at the rear end of the race. This also gave me a chance to have a look at the circuit.
The circuit proved to be a testing one. The finish was up a steep hill into a head wind and, after crossing the finish area, the race turned left onto a main road descent and fast flat section to the bottom of the main climb, a main road drag to the back end of the circuit. At the top of the drag it turned left along a flat section followed by a left hander up a short, sharp hill into the exposed head / cross wind section past the headquarters and onto the finish area.
After a few laps it was clear the circuit was already wearing riders down as splits appeared in the bunch on the tougher sections, so I thought I’d better move up a bit and make sure I didn’t get caught out in any splits.
The race was always active and with 4 laps to go some serious splits occurred through the finish area. This was the first time the race had broken up. I was caught in the second group but managed to bridge across to the front bunch on the main road drag. Shortly after the race came back together, except for a small group of 5 or 6 riders, which became the first serious break of the race.
The break away maintained a decent lead with counter attacks nullified until the next time up the main drag. Here Archie Cross, University of Sheffield CC, and Matthew Williams, Feather Cycles Racing, attacked gaining a small gap and the bunch hesitated. A lad from Liverpool century was first to counter attack and, again, the bunch hesitated.
Archie had done well in the Manchester 2 day so I knew he’d be a good rider to get in a break with, I felt like the time to end my attack drought was now and went for it! I caught the Liverpool lad and when I looked over my shoulder I could see we had a gap. We bridged across to Archie and Matthew by the top of the drag and immediately all 4 of us began working together to chase the lead group.
We were soon reduced to a working group of 3 as the Liverpool lad began to suffer, he was dropped shortly after, but we continued as a trio with each man giving their all to catch the leaders.
We inched closer to the break, the more noticeable progress being made on the uphill sections where the breaks numerical advantage counted for less, eventually catching them on the last lap, at the top of the main drag, with just a few miles to go.
As we were catching the group I could see it was breaking up, 1-2 riders seemed to be going backwards and 2 were going up the road. The original break tagged onto us as we passed but rather than getting organised to chase the escapees, only 2 of the newly formed group, Archie and me, seemed willing to do any work.
With so many passengers in our group I wasn’t going to smash myself chasing and although I carried on riding at the front, I was keeping something back for the sprint.
As we arrived at the base of the last climb I realised we weren’t going to catch the 2 leaders and we were sprinting for 3rd. I managed to manoeuvre myself into 2nd place on the run up to the line and with an uphill, headwind finish I was being careful not to start my sprint too early.
As the line approached it appeared that everyone was waiting so as soon as I was confident I could hold a flat out sprint all the way to the line I went for it. Unfortunately, although I sprinted hard all the way to the line, Archie came past me to take 3rd place but I was happy with 4th after a tough race.
However, the day’s excitement had not ended! When I got back to the car Karen was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t panic though, I had noticed on the last lap that she’d moved from her race long vantage point and I hoped she’d been able to get to the finish to see the end of the race. Possibly getting a lift there and that’s why I didn’t see her walking along the road.
As time went by, Karen was still missing. I had ridden between the finish and the HQ many times and not seen her walking. Neither was she in any of the passing cars I had stared into (no doubt unnerving for the occupants).
Unable to use my phone as it was locked in my car that Karen had the key for, I borrowed another rider’s phone. When I got through to Karen she had just got back to the car.
I then discovered that she had been given some shoddy directions to the finish line (not from me, honest!) and had walked 3 miles in the wrong direction! She eventually hitch hiked a lift back to the HQ from a kind local who, fortunately, turned out not to be a serial killer.
As if the day hadn’t been eventful enough, I then found out during the prize presentation that the 2nd placed finisher had been disqualified for repeatedly crossing solid white lines and I’d been promoted to 3rd!
All in all it was an enjoyable race and an eventful day and I would like to thank the organisers AlbaRosa cycling club for their superb organisation and great choice of course.