By Kris Zentek.
I’ll cut to the chase. I won my category – Category A – which, for those of you who don’t know TLI, is the age group 40-44. This was my first road race win in over 4 years, and I am really pleased! I’ve had a rubbish season, and have only recently found my form (far too late). So I’d just glad I can finish on a high.
Team Chronomaster now have three age categorised National Champions for 2017;
- Craig Battersby – LVRC Cat A National Time Trial Champion
- Simon Deplitch – TLI Cat C National Criterium Champion
- Kris Zentek – TLI Cat A National Road Race Champion
There really isn’t that much to talk about in terms of todays race. I attacked from the gun, built a lead of over 4:30 (apparently) on the bunch, and never saw anyone again until after the finish line and half way back to the HQ. So instead I’ll talk a bit about age categorised racing, and about the various stages I went through during my 55 mile “time trial”.
TLI is a road racing organisation ran by cyclists, for cyclists, and unlike British Cycling (which is ability based with classifications based on points earned), it is age categorised. This is good for a number of reasons, but I’ll pick out a few:
- Races are cheap to organise and host, and cheap for cyclists to enter. This means there are a lot more races in the calendar.
- The age categories range from Junior (J) all the way up to Racing can be enjoyed by everyone, from the ages of 16 all the way to 75+ (H). This makes racing accessible to everyone, not just the fittest.
- You race and compete against other people in your category. This makes racing much more of a level playing field, and can make for really interesting dynamics as multiple categories often race together.
Every year there are national championships held in a number of disciplines; Road, track, crit, time trial and cross. There may be others too. And each discipline awards the title of national champ to the winner of each age category. The Road Race champs for the 50+ categories were held a few weeks ago and were on the Holt circuit just across the border in North Wales. Today was the under 50’s, and we were racing on the Siddington circuit in Cheshire, just 10 minutes down the road from where I live.
There would be three races today, kicking off with the under 40’s – categories J (Junior – 16-17), S (Senior – 18-29) and M (Master – 30-39). Following 5 minutes behind would be the A category (40-44), and 5 minutes later the B category (45-49).
The HQ was at Allostock Village Hall, which is a good 8 miles away from the circuit, so other than putting some embrocation on my legs, that would be my warm-up. The Siddington course is about 11 miles long and can be described as flat, but with some grippy rolling bits. The races were organised by Macclesfield Wheelers, and were being hosted in conjunction with the Parkinson Memorial Road Race. Weather today was blustery but it stayed dry.
So onto the actual race report.
Where is the break?
When the lead car beeped the horn, I was at the front and the pace was very gentle – so slow that I expected someone to attack, and I wanted to be in a break. So I decided that I would try to form it. I dropped down a few gears and gave a tentative burst of speed. No-one took the bait. 10 seconds later I had a gap, and so I committed. 30 seconds later the bunch were out of site. This is the phase of the race where I would expect at any minute to either see a couple of riders bridging, or a marauding bunch. half a lap later, neither happened. And so I kept going…
Hung out to dry
A lap or two in, I had no idea what my time gap was, and I had not seen a glimpse of anyone else. All I had to focus on was the lead car in front of me. My plea’s to the marshalls for time gaps were to no avail, but I could see them all clicking stopwatches as I went past, and so I knew that the bunch would be getting them, and would know how far out I was. For all I knew I could be digging myself into a hole and only be 30 seconds up the road – ready to be swallowed up and spat out the back. All I could do was dig deep and make it difficult for them…hoping that there was some guy on the front of the bunch working as hard as I was…
The time gap
As I rolled through the line to lap 3, I shouted for a time gap but I didn’t get one. I had been getting wild estimates from spectators but I wanted something concrete. I was riding at the top of my threshold and I wanted to know if I can drop it a bit. I did another lap not knowing where I was. Rolling through for lap 4, I got a time gap. “Time at the last lap was 4:17”. Great. I’d done a whole lap since then. For all I know it could now be 5:17 or 1:17. I assumed the worst and dug deep. My only focus now was getting to the bell, still with a decent gap, and so I pressed on.
It was windy today, and the back straight was into a block headwind. I don’t know if the wind was strengthening, or my legs were weakening, but each time I hit it, it hurt a bit more. All I could think was that it was hurting the inevitable chasers behind me. They would have known the time gap and would be working together to catch me. If that happened, I know I would be toast. I was at that point where I could either accept that I would be caught, sit up and recover enough to have another late attack, or keep going and risk being caught too late and have no time to recover. So I kept going. the main focus now was getting back to the main road, the A34, and the tailwind to recover for the last lap.
All or nothing
I got to the bell lap…”gap at the last lap was 3 minutes”. 3 minutes to what? To the whole bunch, to a solo bridger? 3 minutes was a whole lap ago. In the previous lap I had lost 1:17, so in the lap I had just done I calculated the gap was now 1:40, with 11 miles still to go on my own. I was being chased by a working group with fresh legs, and even if we maintained the current pace, I would get to the line with less than 30 seconds. If they saw me up the road, I know it was game over for me. I had gone past the point of no return now, and knew I had to cross the line ahead of them. I would stand no chance in a sprint.
I spent the whole of that last lap looking behind me. There was a sportive on in the area so I was passing lots of cyclists, which made it really difficult to spot anyone in my race. I was now really suffering, and trying to find the best opportunities to stretch out my cramping legs. 2 laps previous, I dropped a full water bottle when trying to swap them over…
At last I got onto the main road, and I knew I stood a chance. I turned, and was expecting the marshalls to hold the traffic because the race was coming through behind me. But they didn’t. They lets the cars go. This was the first time now that I believed I could do it. It meant there was no-one else coming. It also meant that if they closed me, there was 20 or so cars in-between!
With a mile to go, I started to think about my celebration. First win in 4 years, I wanted to celebrate it a bit, but I was a bit conscious of the guy from last week 🙂
I rolled up to the finish line, and tentatively raised my hands in the air. Stopped the Garmin, and carried on rolling down the road. Race over. I’d won. I later discovered that I’d built up my comfortable lead pretty early, and it had never really come down. All of that anxiety for nothing! But in not knowing really did help to motivate me, and it’s the hardest 2 hour workout I had in quite some time…
Here are the results from all of the races today, and congratulations to all of the new National Road Race champions for 2017…
- 1st – Huw Owen, Energy Cycling Club
- 2nd – Harry Cain, Equiom IOM Junior Cycling Team
- 3rd – Sam Beeston, Pro Vision Race Team
- 1st – Will Corden, Mammoth Lifestyle Racing Team
- 2nd – Tom Mazzone, Manx Road Club
- 3rd – Sean Boswell, LJMU Cycling Team
- 1st – Steve Fidler, Crewe Clarion Wheelers
- 2nd – Chris Siepen, Seamons Cycling Club
- 3rd – Daniel Glyn Roberts, Ynys Mon Racing Team
- 1st – Kris Zentek, Team Chronomaster
- 2nd – Tony Greenhalgh, Onimpex Bioracer Racing Team
- 3rd – Andy Martin, VCUK Champion System Racing Team
- 1st – Andrew Turner, Element Cycling Team
- 2nd – John Fiddles, Team Lusso
- 3rd – Chris Spencer, Onimpex Bioracer Racing Team
I’d like to finish off as always by thanking the race organisers Macclesfield Wheelers for an excellent days racing. I can only imagine what must go into organising a race like this. Thanks to all of the marshalls and Motorcycle support riders for a brilliant job today – I felt safe all of the time, and had confidence at all of the junctions. Lastly, thank you to all of the support staff back at HQ for the lovely coffee, cake and sandwiches.
Finally, thank you to Larry Hickmott from Velouk.net for the coverage of today’s races, and for capturing some great photo’s. I dropped a few photo’s in this blog, along with some other photo’s I found online (I hope you don’t mind David Higham!) For the full results, follow the link below: