By Jon Fowles
This Sunday was the Danum Trophy Road Race, near Doncaster. Tommy, Ste and myself represented Team Chronomaster on this fine sunny Sunday morning (quite a change from the previous weekend racing in Scotland).
We rolled out from the headquarters and after the neutralised zone took a left to approach the small climb on this circuit. It only takes about two minutes to crest the steepest part of the climb, but the long drag into the bottom, and the rapid pace make this a defining feature of the race; especially when you have to ride up it 10 times!
Tommy demonstrated his hard man capability by not messing around and heading straight to the front of the race. After hitting over the top of the climb on the first lap he got away in a small group of riders. I stayed amongst the bunch and followed the wheels of the attacking riders to cover any moves, sometimes to their annoyance.
Unfortunately this first break was brought back, but later on lap 2 along the headwind drag to the start/finish line Tommy nailed it again. This time a larger group went with him, and they pulled out a gap of around 40 seconds on the peleton.
Back in the bunch, the attacks were frantic. One group of riders would try to get away on the climb, and then when they were brought back, another group would attack in the wind. This continued for 2 laps, and despite no organised effort to bring back the breakaway, the sheer ferocity of the racing meant they were caught on lap 4.
On lap 5, whilst the peleton descended the fast stretch approaching the climb, a tractor blocked the road. In the confusion, the peleton passed all of the lead cars and a group of riders disconnected from the main bunch. Being responsible racers, we all sat up to regroup, and the race was neutralised for almost the entire lap. At the start/finish line everyone regrouped, and the race was restarted after a short neutralised section. This (annoyingly) gave everyone a bit of a rest. Annoying, because we were just at the moment in the race when riders were letting wheels slip and successful breaks are let go.
The race recommenced, and feeling good, I attacked up the climb. Three riders came with me, and over the top of the climb we worked together to try and get away. However, the main bunch loomed on us as we approached the headwind section, and knowing my limited power would be wasted here, I re-joined the bunch, staying near the front.
Coming back around to the bottom of the climb on the penultimate lap, Tommy put in a bit of an effort to get away with a small group of riders. This move was brought back, and I counter-attacked with all the beans I had left. To my surprise I pulled out quite a big gap, and even more to my surprise, Tom Pidcock, (Cyclo-Cross Junior World Champion), Graham Briggs (JLT-Condor) and Alex Luhrs (Brother NRG) bridged across to me just before the steepest part of the climb. I pushed hard with all the power I had remaining to hang on to Tom, as he powered up the climb. Over the top he continued to push hard, and Alex and I both contributed turns to try and get away. If there was a break that was going to succeed, this was it. So… I was pretty annoyed when the bunch came back to us just before the headwind section. I’d spent most of my remaining beans, and there wasn’t much left for me to do except re-join the bunch. Clearly feeling good, Tom attacked again and took Alex with him. They quickly vanished up the road, never to be seen again.
I resigned to sitting towards the front of the bunch, and follow any wheels I could. We all got round the final lap without much drama, and hit the final few kilometres as a bunch, ready to sprint for third place. Not being much of a sprinter, but knowing where the wind was, and where everyone would get boxed in, I tactfully stayed on the right hand side of the bunch ready to ride around anyone with tiring legs. This seemed to work, and I secured fourth in the bunch sprint and 6th overall. A relatively satisfying result considering the effort I had put in during the race and the savage pace being set.
Tom Pidcock took a great win, with Alex Luhrs coming second and Josh Hunt (One-Pro Cycling) taking the bunch sprint for third.
After his valiant efforts early in the race, Tommy finished in the bunch. Ste, after having almost two weeks off the bike with illness, managed to finish within the bunch too.
Many thanks to Doncaster Wheelers for putting on a great race, I look forward to it next year.