It’s been quite a while since I pinned a race number on amidst scenery as charming as the Forest of Bowland. So far, this season’s racing has mostly consisted of racing at the crit track at Salt Ayre. The Time Trial near Ilkley was a great setting but rolling in to the village of Bolton by Bowland, crossing the River Ribble on stone bridges characteristic of rural Lancashire was a great start to the day.
Also on the start sheet were Jimmy, Tom Bracegirdle and Tom Hanlon. Jimmy had come into this on the back some good results in E12 races and both Toms are suited to racing on rolling courses like this one. However, it seemed that due to living in the independent state of Cheshire that has it’s own time zone, Tom B only arrived as the race was rolling out.
That meant that there was only three of us in the race. Although there nearly wasn’t… a slight mechanical issue saw the rest of the race setting off without me. The thought of not actually racing despite being in full kit on the start line gave me enough of a kick to catch up with the race. After a 5 min chase, I was back on.
The first 5km saw us climb gradually on a narrow, single track road towards the top of the course. We had been informed that the road surface was good with some areas that had been marked up. Nevertheless, when there’s a peloton of 60 in front of you, spotting white paint on the road isn’t easy. Tom was also keen to test everyone’s legs and hit out early on. There was no immediate response and Tom opened up a gap. Surely someone would join him and disappear up the road. We continued and Tom remained out front. A couple of kilometres passed. Still nobody moved. Then a frustrated Tom returned to the peloton to bide his time for an attack later on.
As we hit the first descent, the sound of potholes crunching through rims and the ensuing hiss of pinch flats could be heard and I made a mental note of where not to be next time round.
A 90º left turn on to an exposed road, had the effect of string the peloton out into single file making moving up very difficult.
Jimmy looked good and had been hovering around the front of the bunch. The response to his first attack showed that he was a marked man. The most fun part of the descent was a steep drop down to a bridge with a chicane and then a sharp rise from the other side of the bridge that was a perfect place for a full on sprint to string everyone out again.
As we returned to Bolton by Bowland and flew through the village to start climbing again. Jimmy had put in another attack. Another good move and he wasn’t alone. However, it had been noticed and the bunch flew up the steepest part of the climb with the fastest climbers wanting to close the gap. Jimmy’s group of 4 had all been caught within a kilometre of climbing. Once the group had been absorbed nothing else happened.
On lap 3 we descended in to Bolton by Bowland village and saw Tom sat on the bend. Puncture. Race over. Just me and Jimmy left in now.
The racing continued in this manner for 4 more of the 5 laps, with the pace increasing only to neutralise the attack and then bunch up and look around at each other. This type of racing was frustrating for the riders that didn’t want to get away. The bunch had been reduced but not by as much as we would’ve liked.
Towards the top of the course, 4 riders attacked including Will Lewis (High Peak Cycles RT). A good place to make a move and they opened up a gap quickly. The advantage the break maintained was not huge and as we descended into the village one final time with 2km uphill to the finish, they were within touching distance. I started the climb near the front, with Jimmy somewhere behind. On the steepest part of the climb the sprinting started with a kilometre remaining.
Jimmy past me as we hit the flatter section and we rolled in somewhere in the middle of the bunch. Well done to Will Lewis who was the fastest of the break and took 1st place.
Thanks to Ellen for the great pics.