By Kris Zentek.
This season so far has been really up and down for me. Mostly down. As we are entering August, the chase for points is now on, and I have a lot of catching up to do. Kicking off the second half of my racing season was the Clieves Hill Road Race hosted by High On Bikes. This is one favourite races of the season, as it is always very well organised, supported and catered, and it’s a rolling course that suits me very well.
I got to HQ pretty early to get a decent warm up on the turbo, and with the weather being dry and bright, I made the most of it. There were plenty of distractions at HQ with riders signing on, the marshalls and outriders planning their strategy, Dan Whelan running over the Chief Commissaire*; the usual sunday morning sights.
* Tom Greep looked in quite a bad way after he was knocked over, and very luckily the medical team were right next to him when it happened. He received immediate care, and in true racing spirit, still managed to lead the race allowing it to happen. We are all really grateful for that! After the race, back at HQ, it looked like Tom may well have suffered a broken ankle. We all hope you recover well Tom, and hope to see you back in the racing scene soon.
We rolled out of the HQ onto the course for 14 laps of the Clieves Hill circuit. The finish is on a short steep climb, but the rest of the course is fast and punchy. We were stopped on the main road for another briefing (probably just an excuse to allow us veterans an opportunity to have a pee), and then we were off.
The first lap was uneventful, the group staying together. I used this as an opportunity to move up to bunch and settled into about 10th wheel, as I wanted to try and get in the break (there is always a break on this course, and it usually sticks). Into lap 2, and as we approached the shallow climb the pace quickened and we were strung out. A few riders, maybe 6, attacked and broke the elastic. At the top of the climb is a sharp left turn and is always a good place to get away, so I pressed on up the climb. Looking behind me I could see a couple of riders had come with me and that the bunch had eased off. I wanted to try and bridge to the breakaway before the descent, because the back part of the course was into a headwind. I just made contact as they turned left into the descent.
The two riders that were with me had fallen back to the bunch, but I could see that others were making their bid to join the break. Soon it had swelled to around 12, and we were away.
With a group so big, it was always going to be hard to get everyone working. There were a few sandbaggers but most of the group were working hard to put some distance into the bunch. It didn’t take us long to get the gap up to around a minute, and for the rest of the race the gap bounced between 45 and 90 seconds. For the most part, the rest of the day was pretty uneventful. The group stayed away, but it was hard work trying to keep everyone working as a unit.
There were two prime laps on lap 5 (for a £20 High on Bikes voucher) and lap 10 (for a free massage), and this was really the only bit of action we saw prior to the finale. The sandbaggers suddenly sprung into life as they bid for the prizes – they really must have wanted that massage! – before falling back to the back of the group. As the laps ticked by, so did the energy levels, and eventually more riders (including myself) started missing turns, trying to save energy to cover any late surges…and for the climb to the finish.
Lap 11…Tom Knight and Louis Szymanski launched an attack as we crossed the line for lap 11. They built a decent lead quite quickly and kept a 10 second gap going into the descent. The group weren’t really working to pull them in, and so at the bottom of the hill into the headwind, I made a bid to join them. I seemed to be stuck in no-mans land – slowly closing the gap, but I could see the group were chasing me too. I didn’t want to burn too many matches incase a counter went, so I eased up and let the group pull Tom and Louis back in. At the top of the climb, we were all back together.
Lap13…Tom and Louis attacked again – same place, but this time with a lot more intent. By the time we got to the decent they were well out of sight. Again, the group were not working to catch them and this time, they were allowed to escape. We didn’t see them again until after the finish.
After the bell, inevitably we started attacking each other, but nothing was allowed to stick. We rolled into the left turn up Clieves Hill to the finish line. By this point I had nothing left in the legs, and was quickly passed by most of the group. I rolled in 10th place. Brian Rigby was clearly stronger than the rest of us, and took the last podium spot with a clear gap.
Not long after Si Dep rolled in at 18th place, and I learned about the day he and Craig had had, disrupting the bunch to allow me to get away, and allowing our group to build up a decisive lead. They chased down every attempt for a chase group to form, and for just two riders to do that all day, would have taken a lot of hard work! Craig had retired early, not surprising as he is nearing the end of his very successful season, and traditionally wraps things up in August. I’m really grateful for that support and I hope I can return the favour in another race! Cheers boys…
- Tom Knight – VC Londres
- Louis Szymanski – ABC Centreville
- Brian Rigby VCUK VELOCHAMPION
- Tom Lowe
- Dan Whelan – Onimpex Bio Racer RT
- Jamie Fletcher – Ellan Vannin CC/Appleby
- Christopher Booth – Cadence Cycling Performance
- Declan Hudson – Clay Cross Road Team
- John Rigby – VCUK VELOCHAMPION Racing Team
- Kristian Zentek – Team Chronomaster
- Joseph Hanlon – Harry Middleton Cycling Club
- Richard Taylor – Harry Middleton Cycling Club
- Alexander Simmons – Pro Vision Race Team
- Darran Acton – VCUK VELOCHAMPION Racing Team
- Steven Fidler – Crewe Clarion Wheelers
Although my result was not great, this was a good race for me. I’ve been struggling for the first half of the season, and today marked a bit of a turning point. My form is improving, and I hope I can carry this into the rest of the season and get some decent results.
I’d like to finish off by thanking the team at High On Bikes for putting on yet another high quality and very successful race – the Clieves Hill Road Race is definitely a highlight, and you didn’t disappoint this year! I’d like to thank all of the marshalls and motorbike outriders for a superb job keeping us all safe on the road. I’d also like to thank the volunteer caterers back at HQ for an amazing spread when we got back!
Lastly, I’d like to thank you to local photographers Alex Reed, and friend of the team Ellen Isherwood (for choosing our race to try out her new camera). Your photo’s did a fantastic job at capturing the essence of the race, and everyone appreciates it for the memories it brings!