by Jimmy Smith
The Phil Ward Memorial is one of the grippiest courses in the local area, with hardly a metre of flat roads, and lots of narrow lanes thrown in too.
I always seem to go well on courses like this, but with it being a 2/3/4, recent weeks have taught me i seem to be marked man in regional races. Nevertheless, myself, Ste, Matt and Kris lined up for the 70 mile race, with the hopes of a decent result in a strong field.
The race started really strangely, with no real neutralised section, one rider attacked the first climb and sat on the back of the lead car, a few others bridged across, and that was the initial break gone (can only assume the lead car was oblivious)
The racing after that took its usual negative pattern, attack, chase, sit up with no ideas.
I had tried to switch my tactics up from recent weeks, as being followed every time you put a dig in can get frustrating! So i decided to save a bit in the first part of the race in the hopes of getting away later on. The fast pace meant we had all but caught the lead group of 4 around half way through, they were literally dangling a few seconds ahead of the bunch when 5 riders rolled across and gave them extra momentum. I noticed the danger and tried to bridge, putting in a dig on a climb, only for the bunch to be lined out behind me. After that, the elastic snapped and the lead grew, with no real chase being organised.
Coming into the penultimate lap, myself and Ste tried a few digs to form a selection but again, the negativity won out. Coming into the bell, I felt frustrated as I knew I was on a good day but would only be racing for a minor place.
Nevertheless, a quick chat with Ste and we both hit the final climb in really good position. He lined it out from a km to go, with the road gently rising up towards the line, looking backwards I knew everyone was suffering. I was still feeling strong so as he finished his effort I hooked onto the first wheel to come by and started the sprint. With 200 to go I was still on the front, and managed to just about hold off the field for 9th.
Although a good result in a hard race, I knew the legs were there for more, not many days you feel that good so its a shame not to capitalise, but I guess that is racing!
A massive thank you as always to all of our sponsors, and the organisers for a top race. Also special mention to Ste for his top leadout!