by Stephen Feeney
The week before the race I’d been away with the team in the Pyrenees, on our challenge event. In keeping with Chronomaster tradition, this turned out to be a 600 mile, one week smash up through the high mountains from Pau to Barcelona. This could either be superb race preparation or an absolute disaster if my legs couldn’t recover in time!
Alas, poor weather back home (a far cry from the 40 degree heat in France and Spain) and a busy week at work meant I hardly touched the bike in the week leading to the race so at least I was well rested. As race day approached the poor weather showed little sign of improvement. It looked like we might be in for some wet weather! I have seldom produced good performances in poor weather. Indeed, I have even been known to not even take my bike out of the car at the race HQ if the conditions are too inclement! I lasted about 15 miles in the cold and wet at Pimbo Road Race earlier this year so really didn’t fancy the prospect of a wet ‘grim’ race.
My race was taking place on the Sunday, the ‘ youngsters’ (age 30-44) were racing on the Saturday. As images (like the one below ) and stories of the Saturday race started to filter through on social media, the grimness of the conditions likely to face us the following day really started to hit home. A ‘DNS’ and a nice lie in began to look very tempting! However, I decided to give it a whirl, I’d wrap up well and see how it went! Thinking about what to wear and how to manage the many possible changes of weather kept me awake for hours until I got to the point where I realised I couldn’t plan for every eventuality!
On the morning of the race I awoke to find that the wet conditions had persisted. As I changed at race HQ there was a slight brightening in the sky and the rain stopped! At the pre race briefing riders were pressing for a 6/7 lap race, disappointing by the scheduled 5 lap/50 miles. I tried to start a motion for a 2 lap race but this received little backing! The race stuck to the scheduled 5 times up Oakenclough finishing at the top on the 5th ascent. As we headed to the start line the brief interlude in the persistent rain had ceased and we stood beneath another downpour awaiting starters orders. At least it wasn’t too cold!
The race was aggressive right from the off with constant breaks and attacks, none managing to escape the grip of the main group, which was getting smaller as the attritional nature of the race took its toll. I managed to get away a few times, including being in a very promising break with some very strong riders on the final lap, but never managed to stay clear. With a few miles to go, what was left of the bunch was altogether when Martin Ford attacked and there was some hesitation allowing him to open a small gap. He rode strongly all the way to the line and held on for the win. In the bunch it went a bit ‘cagey’ with nobody fully committing to the chase. I managed to take second place in the sprint for the line from what I realised was now a group of cold and tired riders!
Although disappointed not to be the recipient of a lovely national champions jersey I was pleased to take 3rd and the bronze medal in a race with so many strong riders and also bearing in mind my recent performances in anything other than warm, dry weather!
Following the race it has been pointed out to me that my failure to wear my recently favoured eyewear, my RayBan aviators, May have been detrimental to my result! 🤔
I’d like to thank the ‘Cold Dark North’ team, all their helpers and the officials, for organising this event, our sponsors for supporting us and Ellen Isherwood for braving the elements to take more great photos 😘