by Ste Feeney
After missing last week’s Bashall Eaves event ( the West Pennine RC road race) because of a lingering cough, I was back in action this week for the latest Bashall Eaves offering, this time on the ‘long’ circuit. There had been much speculation through the preceding week about whether the ‘long’ course would be used. Social media was awash with rumours * concerning roadworks and the deteriorating condition of the roads.
If the intended course was considered dangerous then the race would most likely switch to the short circuit. Not as spectacular or challenging as the long course but still tough! However, the rumours proved without merit and we would have the pleasure of 5 full laps of the 11 mile ‘Bashall Long’ course.
We were treated with glorious weather conditions but the prospect of a hard race in hot and sunny conditions worried Team Chronomaster’s serial cramp sufferer Craig Battersby. He’d brought along a bottle of salty drink to consume pre race and some special recipe ‘salty malt bread’, which quite frankly looked as awful as it sounds” along with a selection of salted goods. He’d even put extra salt on the salt he’d used to prepare his delicacies!!
Also riding for the team were Tom Hanlon, Adam Baines and Warren Gell. There were 2 events on Bashall ‘long’. Last year and they produced very different races! The first, the East Lancashire RC event in May, had ended up with a mass bunch sprint despite being a tough race. The second, which Team Chronomaster had organised, turned out to be a complete smash up with riders strewn all over the course and a small group contesting the win! I wondered whether this race would mirror one of these previous editions and it didn’t take long for me to realise it would. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the ‘smash up’ variety witnessed in our event! As soon as the race began the Team Crimson boys got to the front and set a fast pace. Craig and I suddenly realised why they’d been warming up on rollers an hour before the race started!
All their riders seemed to be getting stuck in to the pace setting, and undoubtedly tiring themselves in the process, and I did struggle to work out their precise tactic here. They did succeed in reducing the bunch to a front group of some 20 or so riders after just one lap but, with a lot of strong riders still in the group, I didn’t think they’d reduce it by many more. Adam, Tom and Craig were still in the front group and looked strong. I was also there and felt pretty good too.
As we started the 2nd lap there was a crash in the front group. A couple of riders seemed to get tangled up and went down. I was one of a couple of riders that were unable to take evasive action to avoid them and also got mixed up in the crash. Fortunately for me, I didn’t fall heavily and my bike was OK so I just grabbed it, got back on and went after the front group, they were still just in sight! For a moment I hoped they would realise what had happened and, in a moment of gentlemanly sporting conduct, slow down and let those held up by the crash catch up. Unfortunately, this did not happen so I had to dig deep and hope the group eased off.
As I chased I could see the group wasn’t slowing down, when I got near I could see attacks going off the front of the group and hoped this wouldn’t be terminal to my pursuit. Fortunately, it wasn’t and after a few miles I was back in the group. Having burnt a few matches in the chase I thought I’d sit in and have a ‘rest’ before reviewing my race tactics.
Indeed, with the Crimson boys still marking every move, attacking seemed a little futile anyway at this point. Just after catching the bunch I heard and felt a large crunching noise. We’d had this all race as we’d crashed through the pot hole ridden tarmac but this one was different. My seat post had dropped down, by some 2 inches I later measured, and my seat was now too low! Not ‘comedy’ low with my knees round my ears when I pedalled but low enough to notice! My seat post had been fine for 2 months so I wondered why it slipped now. Could it be the terrible roads? For a moment I even questioned my own mechanical skills but soon realised that this obviously couldn’t be the cause. One simply doesn’t see the words ‘mechanical failure due to shoddy work’ and ‘Stephen Feeney’ in the same sentence!! I decided the seat expander bung had been jolted by the crash and caused the issue (reputation for top class bicycle maintenance preserved 😊)
As the laps passed by, attacks were neutralised. That is until with a lap or so remaining, Hayden Allan of THRE Datawolves got clear and stayed clear to take a fine sole win.
On the last lap Tom put in a big shift up the draggy Bashall climb, this further reduced the front group but didn’t bring back the leader. Craig tried to break things up on the final climb and piled on the pressure (despite cramping up the previous lap) but couldn’t get clear. So, what was left of the bunch, 21 riders, contested the sprint for 2nd. I managed to finish 4th in the sprint for 5th overall, Tom was just behind me in 7th. Craig also finished in the group.
After getting back home I checked my bike for damage and was delighted to note that it was completely unscathed! The excellent direct mount brakes had wiped off sufficient speed to make it a low speed crash (even lower than my normal speed!) and the bike may have had a soft landing (on a fallen rider 😬) On a serious note, I hope the riders involved in the crash are ok and make a quick recovery.
I’d like to thank the organiser, Dave Trippier, and his East Lancashire Road club helpers, and all other helpers , officials, marshals, etc…for putting on a great event (again)
I’d also like to thank Ellen Isherwood for more fantastic race photos! After recently racing away from the North West and being disappointed by the lack of race photos, it reminded me just how lucky we are to have Ellen attend our events and give so freely of her time and talents! Thanks Ellen 😘.