by Stephen Feeney
A late decision by the organising team meant this race, not originally scheduled to take place this year, was back on the calendar. However, rather than being an early season event like last year, the 2018 edition would be a mid summer event.
And what a difference that made!
Last year we experienced non stop heavy rain, freezing temperatures and flooded roads with the added bonus of the standing water being generously diluted by animal excrement. This lead to several riders, including me, contracting conjunctivitis!
This year the race had been preceded by weeks of scorching temperatures and a complete lack of precipitation.
The day had started with some excitement and debate regarding the suitability, or otherwise, of my fork mounted roof rack fittings to carry bikes with carbon drop outs. The conclusion being of some concern but, given the fact that I’d been using them all year without any problems, we decided to keep the faith although this did result in a somewhat uncharacteristic ‘driving Miss Daisy’ style journey. No doubt very pleasant for my passengers Craig and Simon.
Although we were racing on the same circuit as last year, as the race got underway, largely thanks to the marked difference in conditions, I barely recognised the roads and countryside! The tough draggy section I remembered from last was decidedly less challenging in the sunshine and warmth.
With the course being essentially flat, it wasn’t really ideal for Craig. I also prefer a few lumps to make things a bit tougher.
Craig, Simon and I all tried our luck with some early attacks, with varying degrees of success. My attempts, through the finish line on laps 2 and 3, where Si had tried to join me, were quickly neutralised. Craig had escaped and managed to stay clear for a few miles but with an eager bunch keeping the pressure on, he was always going to struggle to keep clear especially by himself!
The next few laps of the 7 lap race saw little action from the Chronomaster boys. I’d decided to wait until the last lap to see whether a tired bunch would be easier to escape. Craig joined me for a few laps loitering around the back of the bunch.
As the last lap approached I started thinking about a plan of attack. Craig was clearly thinking along the same lines and attacked with around a lap and 2miles to go. He was joined by Si in a bunch of 5 and the group quickly got a decent gap and looked like they might stay clear.
I should point out at this time that 2 lads had broken clear after a couple of laps and were doing a great ride to stay away from the bunch and various chase groups.
Unfortunately for Si and Craig, the bunch weren’t quite ready to sit back yet and with a few miles to go their break was reeled in leaving the 2 early escapees as the only riders up the road.
Si slotted in at the front of the group setting himself up for the likely bunch sprint for 3rd. I decided to try my hand in the sprint also and picked the wheel of a rider, that I’d noticed to be strong during the race, to follow.
With around a mile and a half to go I was in about 15th position on the last time up the short, steep climb that was the main challenge on the circuit. I held this position, knowing it was perhaps a little too far back for taking part in a bunch sprint, up until around 500 meters to go when suddenly a lull in the pace meant I moved up to around 5th or 6th position in the bunch, just off Si’s right shoulder.
A rider from GS Metro started his sprint up the inside and, to avoid being swamped by the bunch, I decided I’d better start my sprint too!
Somehow I managed to sprint strongly to the line and even pass our own Peter Sagan (Si) to take the bunch sprint for 3rd, which I was really pleased about!
Si was 4th so it had been a fine sprinting display by the team!
Craig finished further back in the main bunch.
I’d like to Thank Rock to Roll cycles for their continued sterling work in race organisation and our fantastic sponsors!