By Kris Zentek.
Today marks the very end of the season for me. Last road race, before I can take it easy for a bit before the winter slog. The race today was hosted by St Helens CRC, organised by Brian Rigby and penned the “End of Season Points Chaser”. From the many conversations in the car park, this couldn’t be more true. I actually felt pretty good this morning, having a bit of form, and no pressure to get a result. I was in two minds whether to just sit in an enjoy the race, or stick the boot in an make it interesting.
The course is new. Near to the old Bickerstaffe loop, and a regular chain gang loop. Brian and British Cycling have been labouring for 3 years to get this course signed off, and they had done it. A new course in the Northwest, so desperately needed after the legislation by Cheshire Police saw most of Cheshire’s circuits banned. This race was a test, and we were all to be on our best behaviour!
We rolled out, and as the lead car sped off I sank to the back of the group…plan A, sit in. An early break of four made a bid, and got a bit of a gap. No to worry, the main hitters were still in the bunch. A couple of laps went by, and a second small chase group had formed. I was still at the back, and I saw some of the stronger riders start to jump across. I really wasn’t happy to see the race go up the road, and so I changed to plan B…stick the boot in. I moved to the front, and started pulling to bring the second group back. Thankfully I had some help, and soon we were back together. The cat and mouse move had reeled in the first group, and soon we were all back together again.
A rider countered the regrouping and get a decent gap. I was now near the front, and I stuck the boot in to bridge across. I got a bit of a gap, and kept the pace up hoping that a break would form. It did, and soon I was in a group of 12. We Worked hard to put some distance into the rest of the bunch, and soon reeled in the solo leader.
We rode as a group for another lap or two, kind of working, but obviously with a group this big there were people missing turns and causing disruptions in the flow. The group needed to be reduced. There were some obvious stronger riders in the group; Mike Ashurst was coordinating and we worked on a plan. After the finish line there was a section with some technical turns, a sharp right hander and a cross wind. Mike asked me where, and I picked that right hander. For the next couple of miles we rearranged ourselves in the line. Declan Hudson attacked, going for the last of the primes (this was lap 4), and this helped as it would stop anyone else attacking.
As we approached the line, I found myself second wheel about to roll through. I took the left turn, dropped down a couple of gears and started to turn the screw. The line stretched and I put my head down. I could see that it was breaking up. Chris Booth was on my wheel, followed by Mike and James Claydon (chasing his 1st cat license). Chris came through like a rocket, pulling Mike and James with him, and I gave it everything to stay on their wheel after my effort. I looked behind…the elastic had snapped.
Now the hard work started, because soon the remaining 8 would reform and start to chase us down, and we had 4 laps still to go.
The next 3 1/2 laps were just brilliant. We all put turns in, no-one missing out. I don’t think we said a word to each other…we all knew what needed to be done, and we did it without complaint. We got the occasional time gap from the chase car, and we were up to a minute…then 2. As we entered the last lap, we heard that there was a chase group of 2 that were a minute behind, and the rest of the group were 2 1/2 minutes down. At this point we started to ease off a bit, knowing that we wouldn’t be caught.
As we entered the long road to the finish, I could see that the other three were now starting to think about the finish. About a mile out, the turns stopped. Chris was on the front. He was the strongest of the four of us, apparent from the really big efforts he had been delivering to help build our lead. The rest of us sat on his wheel, waiting for the long sprint. He went a couple of times, but we marked each move, and it slowed up again. Each time, we got nearer and nearer to the 200m mark.
About 300m out, Chris made his bid, but after a day putting in big turns it was obvious he was spent. At 200m to go, James (second wheel) went past him, followed by Mike and myself. James took the win convincingly, beating Mike who came in second, myself rolling in third.
- James Claydon – Bill Nickson Cycles RT
- Michael Ashurst – Maxxis 4 Racing Team
- Kristian Zentek – Team Chronomaster
- Christopher Booth – Cadence Cycling Performance
- Daniel Pullen – SunSport Velo
- Declan Hudson – Liverpool Century RC
- Michael Sloanes – Blumilk.com
- Charlie Critchley – High On Bikes
- Sam Fairhurst – Bill Nickson Cycles RT
- Isaac Appleby – Clay Cross Road Team
- Steven Bunting – Rutland CC2
- Joe Charley – Stourbidge CC
- Jack Ford – WHEELBASE CABTECH JUNIOR RT
- George Higgins – Birkenhead North End CC
- Andrew Webster – Element Cycling Team
So finally, I’d like to say thank you (probably from everyone in the top 15!) to Brian Rigby and St Helens CRC for putting on todays race for us. It was a late and welcomed entry to the race calendar, on a new course that was really good. The day went without a hitch, and this is all thanks to the wealth of support from our accredited and volunteer marshals, the ever present NEG outriders, the support vehicles, and the BC commissaries – everyone doing a really good job of keeping us safe on the roads.
Thanks as always to our omnipresent photographer Ellen Isherwood for the awesome photo’s from todays race!
Now it’s time to get fat for a few weeks, before beginning the looooong winter slog. See you at the start line in February 2018.