Cold Dark North Road Race, by Joe Bowers

Cold Dark North – Oakenclough Road Race – AKA Pain and Suffering

Jon and I lined up for the first proper road race of our seasons on Saturday – a 70 mile National B race on the tough, hilly Oakenclough circuit. I can honestly say it was probably one of the toughest and most attritional races I’ve ever done. When I arrived at the HQ Jon was already there and geared up. It was a cold, damp morning with threatening rainclouds, perfect for six and a bit laps of the circuit which featured a significant climb with ramps >15%. The finish was at the top of the climb on the seventh ascent; ideal for a non-climber such as myself. The difficulty with the course was if you were distanced on the climb you only had a short section of false flat with a cross-headwind to chase back on before the descent. If you didn’t get back on before the descent it was race over.

Strava Link to the Oakenclough Climb Segment:

Soon I was in the village hall sat nervously and worrying about various things; have I got enough clothes on? Have I got too many clothes on? Do I have enough food? How are my legs? In the briefing the chief commissaire went through the usual things but emphasised two about the poor state of the course. Apparently there were large potholes on several corners and we were advised not to take the racing line and ride on the other side of the road on a section of the descent to avoid the holes – great.

I rolled out on the wheel of Ian Bibby from JLT Condor and that was pretty much the last I saw of him until the podium presentation after the race! The bunch stayed together comfortably until the first ascent of the climb and then the race just exploded. I found myself pretty much at the back in the second chasing group consisting of about 20 riders. Jon meanwhile was near the head of the race. On the second lap he attacked with James Gullen (JLT) and Jack Pullar (Canyon Eisberg) but this got pulled back. Shortly after the winning move featuring Ian Bibby (JLT) and Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) went on the approach to the main climb. Jon tried to bridge but didn’t make it and was reabsorbed by the peloton (or what was left of it).

Meanwhile I was in the second chasing group which was working reasonably well together. Eventually we made the bridge to the first chasing group featuring Jon on lap 3. The main bunch now was about 25 riders with about 10 riders up the road including most of the main protagonists. After a brief discussion with Jon we summarised that my legs were fudged and I just wanted to get round and finish. Over the next few laps I clung on to the main bunch from which, with every ascent of the climb, people were getting shelled out the back. On the penultimate climb Jon, who was clearly the freshest left in the group, pulled out a gap and decided to ride solo for the last lap in an attempt to get over to the breakaway.

Jon stayed away and picked off a couple of dropped riders from the head of the race and rolled in for 10th place. On the final lap after the descent a rider chipped off the front of my group and I followed him. After an exchange of words we worked together and managed to stay away securing 13th and 14th for me. The last 8km of the race was torture, all uphill, 2-up into a headwind with shattered legs. The final climb to the line was such a grovel, I could barely see and only just kept the pedals turning. Although it doesn’t sound that impressive I was pretty chuffed with 14th place when you consider the nature of the course compared to my riding characteristics.

Congratulations to Ian Bibby on a good win and to be fair well done to all the finishers on what was a very tough day out. Finally thanks to Cold Dark North for organising the race (please move it back to Capernwray next year!) and to Ellen Isherwood for the great photos.

Link to my Strava File for the race:

Ellen Isherwood’s photos:


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