This weekend’s race took place in Denbigh, North Wales. The town had already promoted a warm up race earlier in the week, when it hosted the start of stage 4 of the Tour of Britain on Tuesday, but today it was the big one, the fifth and final round of the North Wales Road Race series!
On the start line for the team was John Bamford (now back to John following a brief flirtation with the name ‘Jim’), Adam Baines, eager to get a good result to help him towards achieving his 2nd category road licence and me, fresh from a couple of decent results and eager to try for more.
Paul Beech was also down to ride but after I’d offered to give him a lift, meaning the prospect of spending 4 hours with me in the car listening to my music selection, he quickly made his excuses and was a DNS!
The race was to cover 6 laps (neutralised for 1 mile of the first lap) of the 10 mile ‘Denbigh’ circuit. A well known, local course on quiet roads, which is rolling enough to make it tough, especially towards the end. Today it was made tougher by a challenging wind. For the finish, the race left the circuit to finish up a drag, in keeping with the usual format.
The race started in glorious conditions, another sunny day to end a week of fine weather, and we rolled out rom the HQ, straight onto the circuit for the short neutralised section. I took up my usual position at the back of the race having decided to wait for a few laps to pass before becoming involved in the action, if possible. Adam and John were mid pack and their race tactics mirrored mine.
The race was lively from the off but most of the attacks were nullified. A few laps in a break went and, suddenly, the bunch seemed uninterested. They quickly got a big gap and I began rueing a missed opportunity. It felt like the break would disappear into the horizon, never to be seen again. I thought I’d better move up to the front and see if the situation could be improved!
As I moved up the outside of the bunch, up the draggy section on the back of the circuit, the bunch was getting active. I could see a small group trying to get clear and decided to try and get across to it. I could see Darran Acton from VCUK in the group, a friend of ours and former Chronomaster rider who regularly trains with us, so I knew if we could get clear he’d be a good man to have in the break.
I got across to the group and we pushed hard to try and establish a gap but the bunch was on us. A flurry of activity and attacks followed over the next few miles, including some attempts from Adam, and the increase in speed was enough to bring us back to the break I thought had gone for good!
As the junction was made, another break went, this time with 3 riders getting clear. Before they went out of sight, 3 riders attacked to give chase, I was near the front at this time so jumped across to them. Mat Lythgoe, of The Nab racing team, also joined us so we had a 5 man chase group and, more importantly, we had a gap!
The 5 pressed hard into the headwind and quickly became 4 but we were catching the break and putting distance into the bunch. With a lap and a half remaining we caught them to make a lead group of 7. As the junction was made we didn’t sit up and roll onto the back but pushed hard, straight past the trio who, rather than sit on the back, were eager to work with us to try and keep clear.
A strong wind and tiring legs seemed to discourage any attacks and the break stayed together for the next lap or so with most of the riders doing their turns. I, for one, didn’t feel that a lone break stood any chance against such a committed group. Coming into the last few miles we had over a minute on the bunch but there was a group of chasers closing in as the ‘cat and mouse’ tactics began.
First to make a move on the final kick before the run in was Gareth McGuiness of the Energy Cycles team. This split the break temporarily but it regrouped and I tried to get everyone rolling through again, not wanting to get caught so close to the finish. However, unwilling to be the one to tow the break to the line, I slipped back with a mile or so to go and decided to prepare for what looked like being a 7 man sprint finish.
I couldn’t decide whose wheel to follow for the sprint. Gareth McGuiness had looked strong on the run in and seemed a good choice. Kieran Wynne-Cattanach of Rhos on Sea cycling club had beaten me in a small group sprint a couple of weeks ago and was also on the short list. Mat Lythgoe is a good sprinter and I knew he would be right in the mix so I opted to follow him. The other riders’ finishing abilities were somewhat unknown to me.
John Charles of Bella in Sella racing team took the front for the last half mile or so, I think he was running on empty by this time and had resigned himself to finishing at the back of the group!
Coming round the last corner, with just 200-300 uphill meters of the race to go Mat was on the front, Rhodri Owen from Ynys Mon cycling club was in 2nd and I was 3rd. Mat kicked early, too early for a finish like this was my first thought, but Rhodri responded and attacked past Mat so I had to follow.
I kept up with Rhodri as he powered to the finish and, as the line approached, I felt good. I knew I could take the sprint right to the line. Unaware as to where the other riders were or whether I myself would be passed, I took the lead with 50 meters or so remaining and managed to hang on for the win!
Adam finished in the chasing group for 15th position and John finished in the bunch.
Back at the headquarters we received a pleasant surprise. Team Chronomaster had won the overall team prize for the North Wales Road Race series and received a fine looking, engraved glass trophy and £125 prize (now in the kitty for our end of season knees up!)
This gave Adam and I a chance to stand on top of the podium.
Looking back perhaps it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise. Nick Pilling, Craig Battersby, Adam and I all scored high positions in various individual races and all the team members who took part finished well In their events adding to the team’s final points tally.
I had also managed to sneak up to 5th in the individual standings and received a nice cash prize for this, which has already been spent and will not be finding its way into the kitty. Sorry chaps!
It was a great end to the inaugural North Wales Road Race series for us and we would like to thank the organisers for running one of the most enjoyable road race series’ for many years. This opinion was shared by everyone we spoke to at the HQ.
I think the great organisation, fantastic new courses and aggressive, sometimes brutal, racing were appreciated by all and I know many riders will already have this series entered into next years diary!