by Craig Battersby
Saturday lunchtime: whatsapp message from team mate Tony Greenhalgh who had traveled down on Saturday to stay over- “The course is made for you and Feeney”. Happy days- Ste and me were excited to see the hilly course as we traveled down early on Sunday.
We arrived at the picturesque village of Brailles to be greeted by Si Bridge (Manchester BC), Si isn’t known for his sunny outlook on life so hearing him moan about the course wasn’t too much of a concern. Next up Tony appeared after his race had finished and did a complete U-turn on his prediction from yesterday – “it’s mostly down hill, with no climbs” WTF!!!!???
So our pre-race enthusiasm started to falter, we cracked on in preparation though. I’ve got into the habit of having a red-bull before race starts, unfortunately Bridgey had knocked my open can over (or maybe that wasn’t an accident! 😉 ), no bother Ste had a 6-pack of Aldi Red-Thunder!! (£1.49 for 6 apparently). Just on that note, Ste LOVES a trip to Aldi, he mentioned on the way down he’s replaced all of his branded shopping with Aldi own brand apart from Lenor, he just can’t get the velvetty softness with the budget version. If anyone knows of a cheap but quality alternative, offering the alluring and enduring fragrance please let him know, you’ll make his day. Anyway, Ste took a swig of a Red-Thunder and passed it to me, little did I know he’d added another ingredient. I gulped it down but thought it tasted and smelled a little weird, putting it down to being a cheapo rip-off version at first but when my lips started to burn I had to ask- “Ste, this taste’s a bit menthol???”. He thought for a second then replied “Oh right, that’ll be the Olbas Oil I put up my nose that dripped out into the can”. Oh right, that’s OK then…..
Our pre-race prep continued…
We headed into the HQ for a few glasses of water, the temp outside was high and with no feeders we’d be limited to two bottles each so best to take on board as much as poss beforehand.
Tony (who’d finished an excellent 5th in his race earlier, despite having a cold) was there with his lovely wife Vicky. We got chatting about work and Vicky’s job as a Ambulance Technician. For some reason Vicky started telling us all about one particularly unusual job she attended that involved a ‘bottom’ a ‘hamster’ and a ‘broom handle’. I’m not sure if this was some sort of metaphor for the race to come?
A few pictures from Tony’s race-
So we lined up at the start for 4 laps of the 15 mile downhill circuit…
We set off and immediately Steve Dring attacked. I believe this is now written into entry conditions of any race he starts, sometimes it’s simply a race between him and his brother Paul to see who can attack first. Fair play, sometimes it pays off! Slightly more concerning, Ste Calland set off in pursuit. Steve’s an ex GB rider, has ridden the World Championships and won some very big races. I raced in the same team as Steve and rode the 9 day Milk Ras in Ireland with him, he’s a class rider and definitely one to mark. There was a constant stream of attacks and eventually a group of 6 formed off the front and held a gap just over a minute, Bridgey and Steve being the danger men as far as I could tell, Ste and me still stuck in the bunch.
By now we’d done a lap and had a good look at the course, the only ‘climb’ was a little kick before turning left and passing the HQ, it lasted about 45 seconds and was big-ring all the way. I’d watched everyone the first time up the ‘climb’ and felt confident Ste and me could get away, I mentioned this to him so the second time up we went hard. Surprisingly (at the time) Andy Turner (Element RC) passed me going mega quick, thinking about it since it’s no surprise at all. Andy is a current World Masters Champion in the team pursuit so clearly has world class power, especially over the short duration that we were going up. I took over from Andy as we crested the top and that was it, job done. Andy, Ste, myself and Chris Quinn (Onimpex Bioracer) had made the split and were well clear. We pilled on the pressure, Doug Dring (Ste’s dad) gave us a time check – 1:05 to the break. Half a lap later we passed Doug again on the backside of the course, this time having caught the break! We really motored across. According to STRAVA I averaged 29.4mph for the 5 miles we were chasing, including the climb and a few other little bumps.
So now the situation was 10 lads in the break with a gap of over a minute, 30 mile (2 laps) to go, to be honest I figured the bunch had no chance with all of us doing turns. I’ve got to give Bridgey a special mention here, he’s a great lad to have in a break because he always goes out of his way to do far more than his fair share on the front. He’ll happily sit there towing everyone along without any complaints until someone passes.
Into the last lap and Chris Quinn was the first to attack, gaining a decent advantage but nobody in the break seemed over worried- he wasn’t going clear and soon started to come back. By this point I was suffering with cramp massively, damage limitation was my only option. Into the final few miles and there were a few more attacks but none stuck, but with a mile or so before the ‘climb’ Ste Calland went, he quickly caught the guy who’d been hanging out front, dropped him and solo’d to the win. The rest of us arrived at the line as a group with Andy Turner taking Silver and Team Chronomaster’s Ste taking Bronze! I rolled in 6th fairly surprised that I beat the other 4 in a sprint! Great result for Ste and half decent for me, I had a great form at the start of the season and feel like it’s coming back now, highly unusual for me this time of year!
Thanks to Paul Dring for this clip.
The bunch rolled in just behind us so definitely hadn’t cracked- an indication of the strength in depth of the rest of the field.
Thanks to Tony Owen and the team at Stratford CC for putting on two fantastic events!
Most of all, thanks to my gorgeous wife Tricia for putting up with me!