By Neil Wood
It wasn’t the best start to a day ever. I only got to bed at 1 am after one of my daughter’s pet rodents escaped and we spent hours looking for the little critter. Annoyingly, I woke up at 4 am which was over an hour earlier than my alarm was due to go off, so with just three hours sleep I devoured some serious breakfast and strong coffee which seemed to do the job.
I met team mate George Whittaker and made the two hour journey North with plenty of spare time to sign on, pin numbers and make last minute bike checks. There we met team mates, John Myburgh in our race, as well as Adam Baines and Jon Fowles who were in the E/1/2/3 race.
We got off to a rolling start on a beautiful sunny day around 26 degrees, with little wind, in truly stunning countryside on good condition roads which were virtually free of traffic. The course was a rolling one, with a few inclines, the most notable being a 500 metre uphill drag coming out of a sharp left bend up towards the finish line. I knew that whilst it was going to be a decent pace, the uphill drag was going to take every bit of strength at the finish as a full field of 60 riders were going to be sprinting for the finish line up a hill on a wide section of road giving ample room to avoid getting boxed in. So a full on, and all out sprint finish, after a fast 50 mile race which averaged over 25 mph, was to be expected.
After around 5 miles George managed to get himself in a four man break with a rider from Blumilk Racing and John Stephenson from Barrow Central Wheelers who we regularly see at the local crit races along with one other. They got away from the bunch as the team mates of the breakaway slowed it down a bit at the front to give them some distance. This worked for a while but the break got whittled down to two and after a few more miles, there was just one, George making a heroic solo effort. He had some distance at this stage and was virtually out of sight. Nobody was prepared to chase, least of all his team mates.
After a couple more miles, Rock 2 Roll cycles, who had a full team of 8 riders decided that they had had enough and assembled the entire team at the front of the peloton, picked up the pace by a couple of miles an hour and began riding a well drilled through and off in order chase George down. This impetus from Rock 2 Roll attracted about four or five more riders to share the work load and joined the through and off chase. Myself and John were not participating but realised this cooperation at the front now meant George’s number was up, and he was soon brought back in. There were a few more attempted breaks, but nothing stuck.
On the bell lap the pace increased and riders were trying to get good positions to the front of the bunch including myself, John and George. Around 4 miles from the finish, John got to the front and I stuck on his wheel. He stepped up a big gear and pushed it for a couple of miles as I tucked into his wheel. At this stage in a race, when somebody is leading out at a fast pace like this, very few are prepared to get to the front due to the effort it would take so we maintained our positions. John started to tire a little bit and eased off the pace.
Then cue in John Charles from Bella in Sella, known affectionately as JC, took control at the front. Rewind to last Thursday night at a crit race at Preston Arena, myself John and George were racing there as well as JC. John was leading us out on for two laps and on the final lap, JC somehow managed to get in front of me as I took a corner wide, so he stuck to John’s wheel like glue. In the final bend, JC came off his wheel and sprinted to the finish line with a powerful burst of acceleration to take a comfortable win. Today JC returned us the favour and took over lead out duty from John, and absolutely smashed it for well over a mile and led us out to the left had bend taking us into the uphill drag to the finish line, and again, the pace being so robust that nobody was prepared to try to get past him, so he led us to a great position, peeled off and left us to the final sprint.
I was in a good position and was second wheel as somebody came around us on the corner. I didn’t know this rider in front of me, but I could see he was strong and speeding up so stayed on his wheel. Half way up I had a decision to make. I knew I had something left in the tank. So did I come off his wheel to pass him and try to take a win or did I sit tight? I looked up and the finish line was 100 metres away. The bit I had left would have only been good enough for a 20 metre burst so I sat tight until he started to slow. I rode around him, but so did three other riders who came off my wheel and there was a mad 20 metre all out sprint for the line and I managed to hold position to secure myself 4th place.
John was agonisingly close to a top 10 position taking 12th place. George, usually so strong was tired from his breakaway effort finished in the bunch. Thanks John, George and John Charles. Also a big thanks to our sponsors Leisure Lakes Bikes and Specialized Bicycles, and without this bike, it’s unlikely I would have got 4th on a 500 metre uphill sprint
I got home very tired with a total of four hours of driving, two hours of racing and three hours of sleep, but I perked up straight away when I got some lovely surprise father’s day gifts from my 3 beautiful daughters.
Thanks to Robin Clark from Rock 2 Roll Cycles for organising another great race.
Thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the great photos