By Neil Wood
The Two Clubs Two Day stage race is a new event on the BC Calendar and is a jointly promoted race between Kent Valley RC and Lune RCC. It consists of a 55 mile road race on the Old Hutton circuit on the Saturday and a 50 mile road race on the Aughton circuit on the Sunday, which are both on the very scenic, but somewhat hilly South Lakeland district of Cumbria.
Stage 1 Old Hutton
When I read the race manual I was delighted to see that the start time was a very civilised 11:00 on stage 1. This gave me enough time to get up and well fed a good three hours before the start time. The weather was promising at 10 degrees later going up to 15 with blue skies. The perfect day for racing, provided you remember to bring your racing legs with you. I certainly had my legs, but it’s debatable as to whether or not they are racing legs. My winter training was going well up until Christmas, but got struck down and bed ridden for three days with flu. That’s proper flu, not a cough and cold. After fully recovering and getting back into things, I suffered a recurring health problem in March which I will spare details of, but needless to say my training has taken a nose dive. So my racing legs are a bit on the rusty side, and today was going to be a test of how well they were performing.
After a five mile neutralised start, the flag dropped at the bottom of a climb that was pretty much relentless for 1 mile. A couple of small flats and dips, but seemed to go on forever. This strung the bunch out straight away but I remained close to the front. There are six laps and this was the this was the start, so didn’t count as a full lap, meaning this one mile climb had to be done seven times. On lap two going up the hill again, the pace was hard and I slowly slipped to the back as the climbers eased past me, my heart rate was at maximum and my legs were feeling the burn.
When I dropped off the back I found myself in a split bunch of around 20 riders, who pretty much stayed together for the rest of the race, and behind us was a third split bunch that had dropped off on the first lap. Included in this bunch was John Charles who had punctured on lap 1 right in front of me. Rather him than me as I punctured in my last crit race at Preston and also in the last race of 2016 season. He managed to get his wheel changed, then into the third split and led the charge from there.
Looking around my newly found compatriots, I saw a number of the usual suspects that I see at training and races. Guys who I know and whose abilities I know, so I took some comfort in that. Here I saw some of our regular winter training partners, Darran Acton from VC-UK and Paul Beach from Body Torq Racing, some mates from Lancsashire RC, Matt Dohney and Tony Workman, plus some lads know from racing such as Darren Bracewell from Lakes RC and Darren Young from Bill Nickson Racing Team. The last time I saw him was last year when we got into a break at Smithfield Road Race.
Initially our entire bunch worked well to try to get back to the front bunch doing 20 man through and off with everybody taking their turns. This worked so well that we managed to get back on terms and caught the front bunch. However, that big hill came bearing down on us again, and once again, having worked hard to get back on, we all shelled out of the back. The through and off working personnel was whittled down to about 7 or 8 with the remainder sitting in, meaning that we had lost touch of the front bunch for the rest of the race and as we took the bell on the last lap the commissaries shouted out “4 minutes” – the time gap between us and the leading bunch. Our bunch was eventfully stripped down to about 10 men. A final push on the big hill towards the finish line saw me cross the line towards the front of our bunch, but unfortunately for me, way out of contention to get anything for the two day stage race.
Stage 2 – Aughton
I perhaps over compensated on rehydrating myself after a hard day at Old Hutton with plenty of water and tea throughout the evening. However this meant I was up three times in the night and the final time at 4 am I never went back to sleep. My alarm was set for 6 so lost a couple of hours, but nothing a couple of cups of freshly brewed coffee and a decent breakfast couldn’t sort out before making my way up to Aughton from Bolton.
Another glorious and sunny day greeted me in beautiful Cumbria. Despite a tough day at Old Hutton I was feeling fairly good. My legs were hurting but I knew I could deal with that. I took a few turns at the front, then slowly drifted to the back before steadily working my way to the front again so I could keep an eye on the breaks and this carried on for 45 miles.
There were a number of attacks with some early breaks, but nothing was sticking as there were a determined bunch all looking to either take a top spot or make amends for yesterday when the field got scattered over the course.
On the penultimate lap at a 90 degree left hander leading up to the finish line, I had a small disaster in that somebody rode into me and almost forced me off. I stayed on the bike but the bump caused me to stop to avoid going off the road. I unclipped to balance myself but by the time I had got going again I was at the back of the bunch and a gap of 10 to 15 metres between me and the last man. Ordinarily I would have been able to get back in the bunch, but being an uphill, with tired legs I couldn’t manage it. I slowly lost touch. By the time the downhill came I had lost 50 metres which I was never able to regain. One man trying to chase down a 40 man bunch on a fast last lap was never going to work, so I did the last lap on my own which was a very lonely 6 miles.
I met a few stragglers along the way who had dropped off the fast pace, but went straight past them as they had completely blown up and were just dragging themselves back to the HQ.
So there it was, my chances of a respectable result completely blown and slipped down the overall rankings almost off the chart. I have a hilly race in three weeks time. I think a few hill reps may be in order to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Overall though, if it was not for that mishap, I am pleased with my fitness levels given the training issues over the last couple of months.
Stage 1 was won by John Rigby
Stage 2 was won by Tony Greenhalgh who was also the overall winner
Also big thanks to Ellen Isherwood and Dan Connor for the pictures. Without them, these reports would be a lot less interesting. More picture seen on the Ellen’s Facebook page Lancs Racing Scene
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