by the Racing Chance Foundation. Words by John MacKellar.
I’d had this race marked on my calendar for quite a while. After moving back from Barcelona at the end of June, this was only my third road race of the year and the first one in the hills so I wanted to make it count. I wanted hills but maybe I had underestimated how hilly this course was.
The Bole Hill Road Race takes place on a circuit near Dove Holes in the Peak District and as the name and location both suggested there were guaranteed to be hills. The course packs in 270m (880ft) of climbing in to a12.2km (7.5 mile) lap. There were two main climbs on the course, the second climb, steepest at the bottom before flattening out on to a drag over the finish line then continuing on up. We were doing 6 laps that equated to around 2 hours of racing.
In attendance were Jon (Bambam), and Jon Fowles was racing in the E12 event. The weather was somewhere between mist and ultra-fine rain that stuck to lenses in ultra droplets. In the middle of the Peak District, the mist certainly added to the atmosphere.
We rolled out and the flag dropped as we started the first climb. On the open drag across the top of the course, as we went past Buxton Water, the first attack came and had us all lined out. But that was reigned in and resumed at a more sustainable pace. No fewer than 2km further on we hit the second climb, some of the stronger lads pushed the pace and the bunch was exploding.
We were on the steepest part of the climb and I found myself half way between the frontrunners and groups that were getting distanced. I was unsure whether this was another early attack that would get neutralised or if this was the selection. I decided not to risk being left on the wrong side of a split and I chased. Hard. It felt like too hard for this early in the race, I was within touching distance as we went over the finish line and it seemed like the riders ahead were easing up. It spurred me on. I latched on just as we went over the top of the climb. In this group were maybe 15 others. I didn’t look round to see where the rest of the race was, the pace was still sky high.
In our much reduced front group I could see that there were maybe 4 or 5 lads looking strong and rolling through. Every time we hit a climb, Jacques Coates (Team OnForm) looked dangerous and we struggled to contain him. Responding to this tempo on the climbs resulted in the bunch reducing in size with each ascension. I tried my best to anticipate these accelerations and started to feel OK in this group.
As we came up towards the finish line for the 3rd time, 50 minutes in, another attack
was putting a lot of pressure on our group. Head down and pedalling hard, it was too late when I realised I’d been on the wrong wheel. A gap had emerged and riders were pulling away from us. Matt Kelly (Hale Vélo) , was as determined as I was not be distanced. On the rivet, we chased for 10 minutes getting very close but not quite latching on as we started to descend.
Suddenly my chase companion came through too hard and opened up a gap, I was on the limit already and couldn’t catch the front group alone. Miraculously, his place slowed just enough for me to jump onto his wheel and after pedalling through every bend on the descent we got back on to a further reduced group.
At this point, legs were clearly getting tired and the pace dropped off. Slightly. This was probably the first point in the race that I had chance to look around. There were 10 of us left and I couldn’t see any other chasing groups behind us.
More strong attacks came but there were brought back, but more slowly as the race went on. Fatigue was setting in.
By the final lap, our group was down to 8. The attacking resumed and Si Bridge (Manchester BC) looked strong in an early move but nobody was willing to let anyone slip away at this stage. So it would come down to the final climb. As we approached the descent to the foot of the steep climb, I was 3rd wheel and then Jacques moved up.
At the foot of the climb everyone bunched up, waiting for someone to launch their dash for the finish line. After 1500m of climbing, the pace up this final climb was the highest it had been. Gaps emerged. My legs were screaming. I rolled over the line in 8th, and other riders started coming in ones and twos. Bambam rolled inside the top 15 and at the front of his group.
Well done to Tom Knight (TBW Bottechia) on taking the win.
A huge thank you to Fred and Heather Bamforth and The Racing Chance foundation for organising two races simultaneously. Everything went very smoothly on the day and we love racing on these very testing courses.
Also thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the excellent photos.
Link to the race on Strava, check out the course https://www.strava.com/activities/1719989393