By Jonathan Fowles.
Often when I turn up to a race there might be the odd domestic pro, they’re pretty fast and often ride off and win the race. Sunday was another step up when World Tour rider from Team Sunweb, Michael Storer, turned up to race the John Gordon Memorial in Scotland along side me.
The Scottish races have amazing courses and this was no exception, with a 10km out leg before 4 large laps of varied terrain, including rolling climbs and tough cross wind sections. The race then retraces the initial 10km to finish up a short but draggy incline.
I managed to get right on the bumper of the lead car as the race rolled out in the neutral zone (alongside Storer), and as the race was de-neutralised we both attacked. I now realise why he’s a world tour rider. His pace was just relentless and he sustained it for a long time. Longer than I could anyway! Despite the peloton being strung out, we were brought back, but he immediately attacked again, and I decided to save my beans. This attacking continued for almost the entire out leg of the race until finally, Michael and 3 other riders managed to break clear.
The pace settled a little after they’d gone, but then the attacks started again. A few initial moves came back and I made my own attacks, but these were also brought back in, and annoyingly on the first lap a group of about 10 riders got away just as I had been brought back. I sat in the peloton and bided my time. As we approached the end of the first lap, I managed to attack out of a corner into an incline and get away from the peloton. Along the way I collected Richard Jones (Ribble Pro Cycling) and another rider, and the 3 of us set about bridging across to the group up the road. I was determined to get across, and ended up doing the longest and hardest turns. We were within about 100m, and I started to vomit in my mouth a little bit (disgusting I know), but with help from the other two, we made it.
Now we had a group of around 12 riders (including Si Wilson of Ribble and Will Corden of Velo Runner who I’m pretty familiar with from racing) , and Storer +3 riders were less than a minute up the road. This should have been an easy catch…unfortunately, it was not. We had more than enough firepower, but besides about 4 of us, nobody wanted to put any work in. This was hugely frustrating!!
For 2 laps this disarray continued, and all the while Storer and his pals sailed off up the road. Every now and then myself, Will, Si or Richard (or some of the other riders in the group) would attack to try and shed the dead weight. Every time the sandbaggers on the back would bring it back together! The entire last lap just consisted of attack after attack, the only benefit of which was to whittle the group down to 7 or so riders (we also went past one of the original escapees, leaving only 3 up the road). Our chances of getting the win had evaporated.
On the return leg, I knew my legs were pretty tired from all the efforts I’d been making, but the finish was an uphill drag and I thought at least I might be able to have a blast at a (long) sprint. I decided to stay near the front and just keep on the wheel of any attacks, but not try to burn any matches. Richard managed to get away, and get a good gap… so I was now racing for 4th. As we hit the final left turn onto the drag I attacked as hard as I could….. I got a pretty decent gap on everyone but my legs started to fade. I saw Si closing in, and I knew I was doomed. A few more riders came past and I sat back down, crossing the line in 8th or 9th (?). Plan failed. Note to self, work out how to end races properly.
Storer won (of course), and I enjoyed the opportunity to see how a World Tour pro can ride. I just hope I don’t bump into him in any more Nat B’s.
Credit to The Press Room for the photos. Thanks.