Unfortunately 7 of the team had been REJECTED from the Maxxis 4 Racing Clieves Hill just two weeks before the race so John Bamford and me were very lucky to get a ride in this event. To be honest I should have entered this one first anyway, I rode it last year finishing 3rd and really enjoyed the circuit, the race was well marshalled, great weather (same again this year!) and the post race buffet was superb!
Last year I used the race as a training race as although I like the circuit it’s not really hilly enough for me, last year it was one week before a big target of mine – the NW Division Champs, I made sure I had a really hard race and did a fair hard session the previous day, that with all the other training paid off as I managed 5th in the Divs. Unfortunately the Divs are in August this year, historically not a time of year when I go well, hopefully this year will be different.
So John and me started at the front of the bunch and rolled out, after about half a mile, a little way up the main climb on the circuit last years winner, Jamie Sharpe (Feather Cycles) attacked but was brought back immediately, nobody reacted to his third or fourth attack and he gained a few hundred meters. I jumped and bridged up to him, we had 55 and a bit miles to go at this point.
Jamie and me started working together straight away, the main climb was into a headwind and we weren’t gaining much ground over the bunch, as we turned at the top the wind was now on our backs and really started motoring!
Although I’d told John before the start I planed to have a hard race I didn’t think it would be as tough as what followed for the next two and a half hours…
After half a lap we were out of sight, no time checks but at the end of every long straight I’d check back and the lead car for the bunch wasn’t in sight – happy days! As far as race action there’s not a great deal to report, we continued through and off for around 2 hours, FULL GAS. The headwind up the climb was just awful, by the time we hit the false flat at the top the wind was head on and there was no shelter, as the laps passed this became more and more painful, even thinking about it for the rest of the lap became painful, it was grim.
After 3 or 4 laps of this it was clear Jamie had the edge on me, no excuses, he was just stronger. Anyone who’s ever been in this situation will recognise the problem I was up against – with no time checks we had to keep drilling it, with every turn Jamie was killing me, then I had to go through and do a turn. It really wasn’t a pleasant place to be and was getting more un-pleasant with every turn. I started to shout at marshals to get time checks, they started at 1:20, I don’t think Jamie was happy with that because we started going quicker..
2:30 was the next check, finally when it reached 4 minutes and we were still going full gas I cracked and shouted to him, “FFS we don’t need to be going this hard, they’re never getting us back!” he mumbled something about the Nationals in two weeks and hit the front at warp speed again…
With a lap and a half to go it all went tits up, inevitable really! The headwind at the top of the climb was destroying me. We parted company and I started to get concerned about being caught, as Jamie had pointed out earlier there were “some hitters behind”, I figured Si Bridge and Andrew Sedgewick would be chasing and after seeing the result I wasn’t wrong. It turned out Si and Andrew had been chasing for a few laps, in Si’s words – “it was 2 v 2 for 5 laps and we weren’t gaining an inch on the two leaders”.
I held on to take 2nd, pleased with that after a tough session the previous day, I got what I wanted – a really hard day’s training and a decent result.
To add to the team’s success John sprinted in at the head of the bunch to take 6th place, he’s won a few bunch gallops recently!
Few lines from John on how his race went:
With Craig up the road I positioned myself towards the front of the bunch for the first couple of laps and followed any attempted moves up the road. The attacks up the climb into the headwind were frequent, with plenty of riders trying their luck and eventually Si Bridge and one other got a good gap and pulled away from the bunch. I then got a time check and Craig had over 2 ½ mins so I knew the likelihood would be that he would now stay away to contest the win.
The race followed a similar pattern each lap with attacks up the climb and then a fast descent with dropped riders eventually making it back on to the bunch. Approaching the bell, I decided to ride hard up the finish straight and then attack up the climb. I got a small gap but it was clear there were riders waiting for the inevitable bunch gallop. I was pulled back….. so took a few moments to recover and then went again…. I looked behind and the bunch was strung out behind me but eventually made it onto my wheel so I eased off again and decided to chance my luck in the sprint having had a few decent results in the Tour of the Abberleys.
As we hit the 1 km to go sign, at speeds of 35mph+ before the final left hand bend… I was third wheel, so well positioned. The turn came quickly and I carried my speed well and kicked out of the corner passing the two riders in front. I’d opened up a sizeable gap but the last 300m seemed to take an age to run down and with the legs burning I crossed the line in 6th place having just been caught on the line by a rider who’d timed his sprint to perfection.
Thanks to Neil Dean and his team for organising another fantastic event again! Also thanks to Darran Moore Photography for the great pics: