This weekend saw the return of the North Wales Road Race series, this year to be held over 3 rounds and also going by the name of the ‘King of the Mountains’ series. Ominous indeed!
However, with the team title to defend, we turned up en masse at the HQ at Cerrigydrudion eager to get off to a good start!
With an 80 man field (which may have swelled further following a few late entries on the line) there was room for 5 of us Chronomaster boys in the start line up. Craig, on great form after his win last weekend, John Bamford (can’t just say ‘John’ in our team!) unbelievably doing his first race of the year, Adam, looking forward to testing his legs after riding the course last year and finding it to his liking, Boss Neil, joining us for a change and meaning we had to be on our best behaviour, and me, trying to find some early season form but knowing deep down that, these days, I only seem to get going in August / September!
The race was 100 km long over 3 laps of a very hilly circuit in the wonderful Denbighshire hills, looking particularly stunning today in glorious sunshine! The finish was on top of a testing 2km climb and the route was littered with long drags, steep climbs, fast descents and, at the end of the race, riders!
After a brief team discussion at the HQ, the consensus on early race tactics was to look out for any splits and make sure we were on the right side of them. Albeit the main focus of the discussion, obviously, was shoe and helmet colour choice. The fine weather meant I would be able to select my white ensemble with some of the lads sporting fluorescent yellow accessories.
As we rolled out of the HQ my old legs were thankful that the first 2 miles of the ride, all uphill, would be neutralised. The racing started in earnest after around 7 miles as we hit the draggy, headwind middle section. Here the attacking started and the field was getting stretched. I could see Craig and Adam getting involved in the action up at the front as the splits started appearing in the group. This resulted in something of a frenetic race for around 10 miles until we reached the bottom of a fast descent and joined the A5 to head back towards Cerrigydrudion.
Second time through the finish and the bunch had slimmed down considerably and it would continue to do so over the next lap which seemed to follow the same pattern as the previous lap. Unfortunately Neil and John got on the wrong side of a split on the tough draggy section and couldn’t get back to the front group! Adam, Craig and I were still in the front chase group though with a group of 5 trying to break clear.
After around 40 miles Craig, who had looked comfortable, suddenly pulled up with cramp and it meant the end of his race.
Now down to 2, the Chronomaster boys hit the finish climb for the second to last time. This time the pressure was applied to reel in the breakaway. This meant that by the top the bunch was down to about 25 riders, with Adam being one of the casualties.
The race went hard after the climb as breaks went clear and were chased down. With around 5 miles to go Paul Elcock attacked and did a great ride to stay clear and win alone. Behind him what was left of the bunch got ready to sprint for 2nd. I was well positioned on the approach to the finish but could only manage 14th. Hopefully I’ll be a bit stronger in the next event and ready to challenge!
Adam came in just behind the front group. Neil also finished a bit further back.
So, the North Wales Road Race series has very much started as it finished last year. Tough racing, spectacular routes and scenery, and great organisation. Hopefully Team Chronomaster will have more to celebrate after the next instalment!