By Jon Fowles
This weekend appeared to be the weekend of stage races in the North, with the Dave Hitchen Two Day, North Wales Two Day and Holme Valley Wheelers Two Day all taking place. Having ridden Dave Hitchen before (and severely disliking Pimbo), I opted to ride the Holme Valley Wheelers Two Day, although I was to be the sole representative for Team Chronomaster.
The race commenced with Stage 1 on Friday evening (a bit unconventional), which covered approximately 60km of a hilly circuit. As the stage was so short, and with riders having GC ambitions I knew it was going to be a bit of a smash up. So I took it upon myself to do the smashing, and after we crossed the line for the first time I started attacking.
The first few moves didn’t really work out, but after a few laps the hills had weakened the peleton and I managed to get away in a group of around 10 riders. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Dan Bigham (Brother NRG DriverPlan) managed to bridge across to our group, which meant that their team wouldn’t be chasing behind.
On the last lap someone in the break dropped a wheel, and Dan plus two others slipped off the front of our group, much to my annoyance. Only a few of us were willing to try to bring this back, but we didn’t quite have the firepower to catch the trio before the line. I drilled myself with about 1km to the finish in an attempt to close the gap, but ended up getting swamped in the sprint for my efforts and dropped from 4th on the road to finish in 7th place.
Not too bad, and our break had around 1:30 advantage on most riders in the GC. Dan Bigham took the win, and the GC lead.
Stage 2 was a 10m hilly TT on Saturday morning. It was raining, it was windy and I was not looking forward to this. In theory I should have been able to do a fair time, with most of the course going uphill. However, my legs felt like toast, I couldn’t get any power out and ended up conceding over 3 minutes to the winner. Pretty terrible, and I dropped from 7th in the GC to 16th.
Keen to make up for my losses in the TT, I was ready to go hard in the final stage. This was a 65 mile road race using the hilly TT circuit. On the first (part) lap, after half of the first climb I attacked over a ridge before a small downhill section. I had a string of riders following me, and at first I didn’t think the move had worked because so many were behind, but apparently we had pulled a gap out on the peloton. The group was fairly large, maybe 15 riders large, and many were keen not to do any work. So as best as we could, a small number of us tried to keep the pace up and pull the gap out.
Not long into the next lap, some additional riders bridged across to our group, notably Dan Bigham and Charlie Tanfield (Brother NRG DriverPlan). There was no messing around from here, and they got to the front and worked hard to pull the gap out and cement their top GC positions.
In a moment of deja vu, someone at the front of the group dropped a wheel, and this time Charlie slipped off the front of the group. Fatal error. We never saw him again. Our break was now in the situation where we were towing around the GC leader, and because half of the group weren’t doing any work, I started to lose motivation. I didn’t have any team mates in the break (3 other teams did), and there was almost no point in me helping chase on the front. I tapped through occasionally to keep the momentum up, but I knew there was no way I could stay in this group. A couple of times I attacked up the climbs, but apparently all the sandbaggers had enough beans left to hold back any attacks, and nothing worked.
It came to the final climb to the finish (and after negotiating an ambulance plus the peloton from the women’s race), myself and Joe Clarke (Cycling Sheffield Giant Sheffield) hit off the front with about 1km to go. I gave Joe one turn, but my legs were pretty spent, and it felt like I was slowing him down. I told him to just nail it, and I clung on, happy for him to take second if I could gain some GC time. We crossed the line 2nd and 3rd, and I thanked him for his efforts. Charlie won the stage with a whopping 5 minute advantage, which also sealed the overall win for him.
My efforts on the final stage pushed me up to 9th in the GC. Overall I was fairly happy with 7th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 3 and 9th overall. I just need to improve my time trialling for next time !!!
Many thanks to Holme Valley Wheelers for organising a great stage race.
Credit to PCS Photography for the images.