By Jon Fowles
On Sunday Adam, Tommy and I made the journey to the Lake District to represent Team Chronomaster in the E/1/2/3 Cockermouth Road Race, organised by Rock to Roll Cycles.
After a 6 mile neutralised ride to the start/finish line, the race would complete 7 laps of an undulating 10 mile circuit. Although there were no distinct climbs, the road never remained flat, and the combination of this terrain, the wind and the rough potholed surface made for a tough course.
On the first lap all three of us were straight at the front and taking it in turns to attack the race. It crossed my mind that this might be a bit silly with such a long race and on unfamiliar roads, but nonetheless I joined the fun and covered any chasing moves when Tommy was up the road. With fresh legs in the peleton, none of these attacks were successful.
Approaching the start/finish to complete the first lap, Tommy stuck it in the left hand gutter, piling on the pain with the wind coming from the right. I was about 10 riders back at this point, and when Tommy pulled to the right to slow down I took an opportune moment to surprise everyone down the inside. I even surprised myself, because next thing I knew I had a decent gap and was gaining on two escapees further up the road.
I joined the duo, hit the front and pushed up the pace. My legs hurt, but I knew we had to hammer it to make the most of this moment, when the peleton couldn’t quite see us. We worked hard for a lap, and part way round the third lap a support car told us we had a minute on the peleton. A fair gap, but still not big enough, so we gritted our teeth and ploughed on.
Towards the start of the fourth lap we caught sight of a sizeable group of riders bridging across to us, and hoping this would be the move to take us to the finish, we lifted off the pace and joined them. With ten or so riders together, it would be hard for the peleton to bring us back without a serious and concerted effort. Maybe this was the reason that about half of the riders in the break thought it was okay to sit on the back and not help with the pacesetting. That, or their legs were already toast.
For two laps we continued working together in a semi-organised way, which got on my nerves. I knew there were better sprinters than me, and I knew that some were getting an easy ride on the back, and then there was the small matter of having James Gullen of JLT Condor amongst us. So on the penultimate lap I decided to try and escape this group, and attacked on the rolling windy section of the circuit. I suddenly realised that I’d pulled the pin slightly too soon, as some of the fresher legs, and James started attacking too. I pushed on, hard, really hard, to stick with these attacks and was actually glad when it came back together. The pace settled as we crossed the finish line to start the final lap, but at least now we had the measure of one another.
James wasn’t keen to give anyone a ride to the finish, and on the last lap took a flying attack over one of the rises. Two others and myself tried to jump on the back of this, but merely succeeded in distancing ourselves from the rest of the breakaway. This was no bad thing, as we now had a rabbit up ahead and a stick behind, so we pushed on. I kept telling myself that we could catch James, and behind would be anarchy trying to bring us back, this fuelled my burning legs. Unfortunately James was well on his way to winning the race, and soon we couldn’t even see him.
On the incline leading to the finish line I tried to conserve my energy, I missed a few turns, but eventually found myself soft-pedalling at the front of our trio with less than 500m to go. I didn’t want to get jumped from behind, so decided to just nail it and catch the other two by surprise. It worked, and I pulled away from them to cross the line in second place. I was pretty pleased!
Adam and Tommy both put in strong rides to cover the countering attacks from the peleton, and finished the race in the bunch.
Thanks to Rock to Roll cycles, VCC and to all who helped, for putting on a spectacular race.