By Adam Baines.
Today was the official start of the road race season for Tom and me. It was the Cull Cup & Duncan Sparrow Memorial. After my unsuccessful attempt at racing last week, my main aim was to stay upright!
For those of you not familiar with Pimbo, today’s race was 50 miles consisting of 22 laps of a flat 2.2mile circuit with one prime at 15 laps to go. So, as well as staying upright, my plan was to sit in and shelter from the strong wind blowing down the finishing straight until at least 11 laps to go.
For those first few laps I sat in, mid-pack, while attacks came and went from lots of strong looking riders, all being brought back by a fit and hungry peloton. Even when the real strong looking breaks were attacking I resisted the urge to follow, relying heavily on the anticipated chase which inevitably came.
The prime came and went with no real shake up of the group. A few soft attacks came straight afterwards but there was never any real danger. But with 14 laps to go, just as the peloton sat up, a black missile came screaming past us with a perfectly timed and ferocious attack. I only had time to notice the red Specialized lid and the fluorescent yellow of his Pearson Ferrier socks! It was our Tom.
He hit the group that hard, he soon had a decent gap and with everyone looking around thinking ‘there’s no way I can follow that!’ 5 seconds turned to 10 and 10 turned to 20. Unfortunately for Tom though, no one followed and he was soon faced with the realisation he was on his own with 13.5 laps to go.
This did me a massive favour though (thanks Tom) because I was then able to move up towards the front and follow any chases with a perfect reason not to do any work in any of the chases. A few tried to get across but failed when they realised there wasn’t much support. Tom had over a minute on us and I started to think the beast was going to do it!
Unfortunately, there were too many strong lads left behind and Tom was brought back. But with fresh legs and having passed the half way mark, now was the time to let myself get involved in the fun and games. I tried two or three times to get away, I even bridged across to a promising looking break of two, dragging two more riders with me. But the group we were in obviously looked too dangerous. A few more who’d tried to get across dragged the peloton that bit closer, but we still had a gap. Tired from our efforts of getting away, we struggled to get any cohesion and increase our lead so no sooner had we got away, it was all back together.
I then decided to sit in and wait for what I thought would be a bunch gallop. With about 5 laps to go and what seemed like a last ditched effort, 2 lads got away. Again I left the chasing to others and concentrated on saving my legs for the sprint. With 2 laps to go Tom made his way to the front looking to help me out. His power and pace meant that everyone else was happy to let him do the pulling so he ended up on the front, not where I wanted to be just yet so I stayed put. Last lap and the pace lifted.
My race plan had saved my legs and I was confident I had the strength and the energy to stay near the front. The strong wind blowing straight down the finishing straight made me think I didn’t want to put my nose out in it until about 200 metres to go.
We rounded the last corner and I was about 7th wheel. The sprint hadn’t opened up proper but I stayed put. Then a few lads came flying past from behind and it was on! I knew they’d gone too soon so I got out the saddle and continued to follow the lad in front. With about 200 to go, as the first few lads faded, I pulled out and went for it. I passed 1, 2 ,3 riders but couldn’t quite catch up to the few who’d managed to hold on and I crossed the line in 7th place overall.
As my main aim was to stay upright and keep my wheels in one piece, I’m more than happy with a top 10 in the first road race of the season. Well done to the 2 lads who stayed away and Tom Cornwell who put in a massive final effort and took the win.
A massive thank you to the Marshals and Commissaires for giving up their time and of course Brian Rigby and his team for organising.
Photo credits once again to Ellen x