by Jonathan Fowles
Round 2 of the North Wales Road Race took place on Sunday on the stunning Welsh terrain surrounding . The course consisted of three 20 mile laps, with a significant climbing section followed by a long descent, then a sharp rise before a draggy ascent to the finish line (possibly one of the best courses I’ve ridden).
We set off in what was possibly the shortest neutralised section I’ve ever known. The flag dropped (almost immediately after leaving HQ), and as ever the attacks came. It was only a short distance to the start of the climb, so I sat tight.
The pace ramped up significantly on the climb; you could see the pain in the faces of riders as they pushed to remain in contact with the bunch. I made my way up to the front, and had a go at setting a hard steady pace on the first climbing section. It was a tricky course, because after every climbing section there was a short fast descent before starting the next climb. This meant that any gaps opened on the ascent were often closed again before the next climb.
Nearing the top of the climb for the first time, a group of 4 riders had managed to break clear. Over the crest of a small lump I put in an attack and made it over to these riders shortly before the long descent. It all came back together on the descent, and there were some pretty exciting moments avoiding collisions with sheep (apparently some riders have a sixth sense for calling “SHEEP” when one is about to massacre a peleton).
On the flat section before the climb, another group of 5 or so riders managed to break clear. I attacked and found myself in no mans land between them and the peleton…. and then the small break decided to all crash into each other (on a straight, flat bit of road!!!!). I had to avoid a pile of bikes and riders by squeezing between a caravan and a stopped NEG motorbike. I was slightly unsure what to do after I was clear, and just carried on riding, but soon realised I was going to get caught by a group who had also managed to negotiate the crash.
On the climb for the second time, I made an effort to ramp up the pace with a few other riders. Not attacking, but just keeping a hard consistent pace. It worked, and a group of us managed to get away. We collected a few additional riders who had escaped earlier on, and together our group of 10 or so worked together to try and maximise our gap.
Another group caught us on the flat section before the final climb. Riders instantly started sitting on the back, and the disruption allowed two riders to chip off the front. We hit the climb, and the disruption continued with riders attacking from this group. I sat on wheels and made my way to the lead group of these. The pace was hard enough to shell off most of the break, and we were left with about 8 riders chasing the 2 up the road. Astonishingly they had gained a minute on us by the top of the climb (and we weren’t hanging about).
Nobody was keen on setting a consistent pace on the descending section, and the disruption allowed another 3 riders to chip off the front. I was getting frustrated; if only we worked together we could catch the front group and contest the win! However, it soon became clear that we were racing for some minor positions.
We hit the last sharp rise, and it was full gas. My legs were cramping but I pushed as hard as I could to get over the rise, knowing I could rest a little on the final drop before the finish. I thought I’d positioned myself well on the second wheel with 400m to go to the line, but 5 riders charged past and I didn’t have any kick left to get on the back of this train. I finished in 10th place. Frustrating.
Overall it was an amazing race on a stunning circuit, and my legs felt good (mostly). I’m now placed 4th overall in the series, so bring on the final round!!
Many thanks to the organisers for putting on this series of excellent races and thanks again to our amazing sponsors.