Team Chronomaster / Specialized Concept Store Chester 2 day stage race
by Ste, Kris and Tom
It was finally here! The race we’d wanted to organise as a club since we organised our first race a few years back. A stage race with 2 of our favourite circuits and a decent team time trial! With three races in one weekend to be co-ordinated, the task of organiser was going to be a challenging one. Our Tom Hanlon bravely stepped into the role and did a great job, ably assisted by his family (girlfriend Naomi and his mum), members and friends from other clubs that helped with advice from their own experience of stage race organising!
The week leading up to the event had been hectic for poor Tom. I’d helped where possible but he must have had some sleepless nights as he tried to tackle the forever growing ‘to do’ list! Fortunately, it all came together for the weekend. Marshals were gathered, British Cycling’s Regional coordinator provided great help with supplying advice, commissaries, accredited marshals and even turned up on the day to help out!
The results coordinating team of Posh Pete and Joe was assembled and did a great job albeit Pete has now developed a hatred of spreadsheets!
We also had a full field, comprising of teams of 4 riders from around the country. Of course, we were also going to have a team in this the best event of the year and by far the most important stage race starting that weekend. Luckily, I’d blagged a place on the team along with Tom Bracegirdle, Kris Zentek and Ronnie Coleman. We’d also supplied our own Junior rider Alex Drobrowolski as a ‘ringer’ in the talented, combined junior squad of ‘ Team SB Hub/ Chronomaster’.
The first stage, at 9.30 am on Saturday morning, was a 44 mile, 4 lap race help on the Bolton by Bowland circuit. A great, hilly course in a beautiful setting in the Trough of Bowland. Oddly, despite the circuit having been in use for many decades, I had never raced it despite the fact I have been racing for almost a hundred years!
It was a tad shorter than normal race distance but would be a good leg loosener for the team time trial that was to follow just a couple of hours after the finish!
The race started fast with riders keen to go on the attack from the gun, the prospect of the
afternoon team time trial seemingly being of no concern!
After just a few miles, there was a crash taking down several riders. Kris was caught behind this and, although he managed a soft landing on the grass verge, he was distanced from the bunch and faced a tough chase back.
The decisive move came on lap 2 and it received some assistance from an unlikely ally! A tractor managed to get between the break and the main bunch and with it being too wide to enable the bunch to pass safely on the narrow lane, we were forced to wait behind it for what seemed like an age.
Finally it turned off but the break of 3 riders was well out of sight.
The pace in the bunch was on and off, Tom had tried getting away to form a chase group a few times and I tried my hand also but we had no success. We then missed a move of around 10 riders breaking clear to form a decent chase group.
On the 3rd lap, a flurry of attacks forced the pace up the finishing climb and saw Ronnie lose contact with what was left of the main bunch.
The original break stayed clear all the way to the line and Ben Baugh of Wold Top RT out-sprinted Prologue RT’s Matthew Taylor and Bury Clarion’s Francis Woodcock for the victory. The chase group was just 20 seconds or so behind, on the line but Tom and I finished in the main bunch some 2 and a half minutes after the leaders.
Ronnie and Kris finished a few minutes later having completed the course on their own.
Now we had a couple of hours to recover before the afternoon’s team time trial and we weren’t sure what to expect. Kris had knocked his knee during his fall and wasn’t sure if he would be able to ride. It had been a tough race and there were sure to be tired legs all round.
We had a 2-3 hour gap before the time trial started at 2pm, and so we kicked back for a while, and reflected on the first stage. Kris and Ronnie were distanced on GC, but Ste and Tom were still in the fight, and so the TTT was an important stage for us. But Team Chronomaster have a chequered history with this type of event, so we were keen to get this right and hope that the gods were on our side!
We were one of the last groups on the road at 2:25pm, and the course was an additional lap of the circuit – just a touch over 10 miles. As we were lining up, teams were already rolling back into the village at the end of their ride, so we knew we were looking at a short 20 minute time.
We set off, having overcome the first perilous task of clipping in, and headed to the climb. Soon we had we got into a steady rhythm going up, the plan being to get to the stage 1 finish line together before engaging the next gear. But as we reached the summit, we were met head on with a MASSIVE tractor – more like a harvester, taking the entire road. We were already motoring, and as we tried to squeeze past it, all four of us fell of the edge of the tarmac onto the verge – very nearly causing a crash!
We got back on the tarmac, regathered our composure, and got going again. We had already lost a bunch of time here, and Ronnie struggled to find his rhythm again. He lost touch with the group, and ordered us to press on. We were down to three. It is probably worth noting that Ste and Tom were on their LoPro’s, but Kris had elected to ride his road bike.
Ste, being in fine form, really set a hard pace trying to offset the tractor incident and spent the majority of the rest of the race at the front. Tom put in some great turns to share the load, and Kris hung on to the back on his road bike and dodgy knee from the crash in stage 1. The rest of the stage was pretty uneventful, and as we turned the last corner to the finish we were still together. We sprinted for the line, clocking a 24:44, which meant that although we had lost more time on the GC leader (who managed a 24:04), we had managed 4th place. Not bad.
But it meant that there was still a lot of work to do in stage 3…
The 3rd stage of the Chronomaster 2-day was as tough as expected, with the race covering 5 laps of the undulating Bashall Eaves big circuit.
A break of 6 riders established itself early on and pushed their advantage out to around a minute. The gap remained the same for the majority of the race until the peloton split to pieces with a lap and a half to go. Stephen Feeney made it into a select group that managed to catch the break away on the final lap. A strong sprint saw Ste come around a number of riders and finish in 4th place on the day.
Thanks to our sponsors, without you we wouldn’t be able to put on the event! Also huge thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the great pictures making us all look good!