The Bole Hill Road Race

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.

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Dropping down through the mist

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.

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Only two of us would rejoin the front group.

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. 

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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. 

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Bambam leading the chasers up the steep climb.

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

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Posted in Blogs

Rock to Roll cycles Castle Carrock Road Race 8th July

by Stephen Feeney

A late decision by the organising team meant this race, not originally scheduled to take place this year, was back on the calendar. However, rather than being an early season event like last year, the 2018 edition would be a mid summer event.

And what a difference that made!

Last year we experienced non stop heavy rain, freezing temperatures and flooded roads with the added bonus of the standing water being generously diluted by animal excrement. This lead to several riders, including me, contracting conjunctivitis!

This year the race had been preceded by weeks of scorching temperatures and a complete lack of precipitation.

The day had started with some excitement and debate regarding the suitability, or otherwise, of my fork mounted roof rack fittings to carry bikes with carbon drop outs. The conclusion being of some concern but, given the fact that I’d been using them all year without any problems, we decided to keep the faith although this did result in a somewhat uncharacteristic ‘driving Miss Daisy’ style journey. No doubt very pleasant for my passengers Craig and Simon.

Although we were racing on the same circuit as last year, as the race got underway, largely thanks to the marked difference in conditions, I barely recognised the roads and countryside! The tough draggy section I remembered from last was decidedly less challenging in the sunshine and warmth.

With the course being essentially flat, it wasn’t really ideal for Craig. I also prefer a few lumps to make things a bit tougher.

Craig, Simon and I all tried our luck with some early attacks, with varying degrees of success. My attempts, through the finish line on laps 2 and 3, where Si had tried to join me, were quickly neutralised. Craig had escaped and managed to stay clear for a few miles but with an eager bunch keeping the pressure on, he was always going to struggle to keep clear especially by himself!

The next few laps of the 7 lap race saw little action from the Chronomaster boys. I’d decided to wait until the last lap to see whether a tired bunch would be easier to escape. Craig joined me for a few laps loitering around the back of the bunch.

As the last lap approached I started thinking about a plan of attack. Craig was clearly thinking along the same lines and attacked with around a lap and 2miles to go. He was joined by Si in a bunch of 5 and the group quickly got a decent gap and looked like they might stay clear.

I should point out at this time that 2 lads had broken clear after a couple of laps and were doing a great ride to stay away from the bunch and various chase groups.

Unfortunately for Si and Craig, the bunch weren’t quite ready to sit back yet and with a few miles to go their break was reeled in leaving the 2 early escapees as the only riders up the road.

Si slotted in at the front of the group setting himself up for the likely bunch sprint for 3rd. I decided to try my hand in the sprint also and picked the wheel of a rider, that I’d noticed to be strong during the race, to follow.

With around a mile and a half to go I was in about 15th position on the last time up the short, steep climb that was the main challenge on the circuit. I held this position, knowing it was perhaps a little too far back for taking part in a bunch sprint, up until around 500 meters to go when suddenly a lull in the pace meant I moved up to around 5th or 6th position in the bunch, just off Si’s right shoulder.

A rider from GS Metro started his sprint up the inside and, to avoid being swamped by the bunch, I decided I’d better start my sprint too!

Somehow I managed to sprint strongly to the line and even pass our own Peter Sagan (Si) to take the bunch sprint for 3rd, which I was really pleased about!

Si was 4th so it had been a fine sprinting display by the team!

Craig finished further back in the main bunch.

I’d like to Thank Rock to Roll cycles for their continued sterling work in race organisation and our fantastic sponsors!

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North Wales round 2- Trawsfynydd Lake

by Jonathan Fowles

Round 2 of the North Wales Road Race took place on Sunday on the stunning Welsh terrain surrounding . The course consisted of three 20 mile laps, with a significant climbing section followed by a long descent, then a sharp rise before a draggy ascent to the finish line (possibly one of the best courses I’ve ridden).

We set off in what was possibly the shortest neutralised section I’ve ever known. The flag dropped (almost immediately after leaving HQ), and as ever the attacks came. It was only a short distance to the start of the climb, so I sat tight.

The pace ramped up significantly on the climb; you could see the pain in the faces of riders as they pushed to remain in contact with the bunch. I made my way up to the front, and had a go at setting a hard steady pace on the first climbing section. It was a tricky course, because after every climbing section there was a short fast descent before starting the next climb. This meant that any gaps opened on the ascent were often closed again before the next climb.

Nearing the top of the climb for the first time, a group of 4 riders had managed to break clear. Over the crest of a small lump I put in an attack and made it over to these riders shortly before the long descent. It all came back together on the descent, and there were some pretty exciting moments avoiding collisions with sheep (apparently some riders have a sixth sense for calling “SHEEP” when one is about to massacre a peleton).

On the flat section before the climb, another group of 5 or so riders managed to break clear. I attacked and found myself in no mans land between them and the peleton…. and then the small break decided to all crash into each other (on a straight, flat bit of road!!!!). I had to avoid a pile of bikes and riders by squeezing between a caravan and a stopped NEG motorbike. I was slightly unsure what to do after I was clear, and just carried on riding, but soon realised I was going to get caught by a group who had also managed to negotiate the crash.

On the climb for the second time, I made an effort to ramp up the pace with a few other riders. Not attacking, but just keeping a hard consistent pace. It worked, and a group of us managed to get away. We collected a few additional riders who had escaped earlier on, and together our group of 10 or so worked together to try and maximise our gap.

Another group caught us on the flat section before the final climb. Riders instantly started sitting on the back, and the disruption allowed two riders to chip off the front. We hit the climb, and the disruption continued with riders attacking from this group. I sat on wheels and made my way to the lead group of these. The pace was hard enough to shell off most of the break, and we were left with about 8 riders chasing the 2 up the road. Astonishingly they had gained a minute on us by the top of the climb (and we weren’t hanging about).

Nobody was keen on setting a consistent pace on the descending section, and the disruption allowed another 3 riders to chip off the front. I was getting frustrated; if only we worked together we could catch the front group and contest the win! However, it soon became clear that we were racing for some minor positions.

We hit the last sharp rise, and it was full gas. My legs were cramping but I pushed as hard as I could to get over the rise, knowing I could rest a little on the final drop before the finish. I thought I’d positioned myself well on the second wheel with 400m to go to the line, but 5 riders charged past and I didn’t have any kick left to get on the back of this train. I finished in 10th place. Frustrating.

Overall it was an amazing race on a stunning circuit, and my legs felt good (mostly). I’m now placed 4th overall in the series, so bring on the final round!!

Many thanks to the organisers for putting on this series of excellent races and thanks again to our amazing sponsors.

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Pimbo round 3 Croston Velo RR

by Adam Baines

Well it’s Sunday, again. John McKellar and I are racing, again. It’s Pimbo, again and the sun is shining, again!

Casting back to the Thursday before this race I didn’t think I’d make it to the start line after an ill judged training ride left me over dehydrated and in hospital on a saline drip. School boy error. Keep drinking water in this weather folks, especially if you’re doing 120miles with over 10’000ft of climbing!

Anyway what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so today after a few days recovery I was feeling good and wanted to take advantage of the continued good weather by riding out to today’s Race HQ at the Rainford Scout Hut. After a pleasant ride out I met up with John, pinned my numbers on and rolled out to the circuit. The tactics were going to be the same as last week; sit in and wait for 5 laps to go. If John gets in a break, block any attempts to chase.
The race got underway and to begin with it was a stark contrast to last week. Last week it kicked off straight away and we had a very fast first 5 laps. This week, the peleton were in danger of falling asleep in the first 3 laps. As I was feeling good, I was getting bored already, so with absolutely no intention of it ever achieving anything, I attacked.
This had the necessary effect and woke everyone up and they decided to chase me down. The counter attacks followed and finally the racing had started. I positioned myself a lot closer to the front this week and it felt much better being here than at the back like last week. A few breaks of ones or twos went and came back before a promising looking break of 3 went up the road containing our John! I immediately moved up to second wheel ready to follow any chases.


Over the next 5 laps I became the most hated rider in the peleton and sat on any attempts to bring the break back while John’s move got established. In a mischievous way, I really enjoyed causing trouble and it was rewarding to see John gradually moving up the road. Once they were pretty much out of sight and there wasn’t many riders left to annoy, I took up position a little further back to recover.


It seemed like John had got into the winning move and the next few laps were pretty uneventful. Croston had one strong looking guy who got on the front a few times and put in some big pulls which seemed to eat into the breaks lead. A 1 min gap dropped to 40 seconds and then down to 20 seconds. This seemed to reinvigorate the chase and John’s move was doomed.


They were caught with around 10 laps to go and I knew that if a counter went now with the right lads in it, it could be the move! But it didn’t come. The pace had really dropped off and with 5 laps to go I just attacked. I have no idea where it came from? It was almost a subconscious effort that got me a small gap over the bunch. Once I realised they were still looking at each other I buried myself to increase the gap enough to be out of mind. After a lap the moto Commissaire told me I had 12 seconds and I was still feeling good. But with 4 laps to go I knew it wouldn’t be enough so I had to go harder. I was committed now and if the peleton decided to sit up and wait for the sprint, I would be in a very good chance of taking the win.


However, there were still too many strong legs left behind who weren’t ready to let the win slip away. Chris Spencer from Omnipex bioracer and a Croston rider (sorry don’t know which one!) had attacked the bunch and got a small gap to bridge across to me but in doing so had drastically reduced my advantage. I looked back and decided it would be a waste of energy to keep pushing so I sat up for the bridging group. We pressed on for only a few hundred metres before we got caught with only 2 laps to go. Straight away Chris Quinn and Tom Warren from Croston countered. After my solo efforts there was no way I could follow. I had no idea at this stage how much I would have left for the sprint but I was determined to get something from today so I dug deep to stay near the front and in contention for a minor placing. On the bell lap John came up to the front ready to lead me out. It was a hairy few miles as elbows and shoulders bounced of each other fighting for position. John did a great job keeping the pace high right up until the kick. I’d managed to stay in a good position and held my sprint back after the lessons of last week. But this time, those that went early actually managed to hold on and I couldn’t get past enough of them in time. I held on to my position and came over the line in 8th position, which I’m really pleased with considering I’d just done 3 laps solo and I was nearly 90miles into my
ride by the time the sprint came. It might have been on Pimbo again , but it’s racing and all the complexities, tactics and of course luck make it so much fun.


Congratulations to Tom Warren from Croston velo for taking the home win. A big thank you to Dan Styler from Croston for organising the race and to all the volunteers and marshals who gave up their time to make the racing possible. Thanks to the BC Commissaires and the NEG riders for making the event as safe as ever.

Thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the photos (the only person who can make an industrial estate look interesting!

And finally thank you to all our sponsors for their continued support:
Chronomaster Ltd, Specialized, Leisure Lakes Bikes, OTE sports, Pearson Ferrier Estate Agents

Posted in Blogs

LVRC National Road Race Championships

by Craig Battersby

Saturday lunchtime: whatsapp message from team mate Tony Greenhalgh who had traveled down on Saturday to stay over- “The course is made for you and Feeney”. Happy days-  Ste and me were excited to see the hilly course as we traveled down early on Sunday.

We arrived at the picturesque village of Brailles to be greeted by Si Bridge (Manchester BC), Si isn’t known for his sunny outlook on life so hearing him moan about the course wasn’t too much of a concern. Next up Tony appeared after his race had finished and did a complete U-turn on his prediction from yesterday – “it’s mostly down hill, with no climbs” WTF!!!!???

So our pre-race enthusiasm started to falter, we cracked on in preparation though. I’ve got into the habit of having a red-bull before race starts, unfortunately Bridgey had knocked my open can over (or maybe that wasn’t an accident! 😉 ), no bother Ste had a 6-pack of Aldi Red-Thunder!! (£1.49 for 6 apparently). Just on that note, Ste LOVES a trip to Aldi, he mentioned on the way down he’s replaced all of his branded shopping with Aldi own brand apart from Lenor, he just can’t get the velvetty softness with the budget version. If anyone knows of a cheap but quality alternative, offering the alluring and enduring fragrance please let him know, you’ll make his day. Anyway, Ste took a swig of a Red-Thunder and passed it to me, little did I know he’d added another ingredient. I gulped it down but thought it tasted and smelled a little weird, putting it down to being a cheapo rip-off version at first but when my lips started to burn I had to ask- “Ste, this taste’s a bit menthol???”. He thought for a second then replied “Oh right, that’ll be the Olbas Oil I put up my nose that dripped out into the can”. Oh right, that’s OK then…..

Our pre-race prep continued…

We headed into the HQ for a few glasses of water, the temp outside was high and with no feeders we’d be limited to two bottles each so best to take on board as much as poss beforehand.

Tony (who’d finished an excellent 5th in his race earlier, despite having a cold) was there with his lovely wife Vicky. We got chatting about work and Vicky’s job as a Ambulance Technician. For some reason Vicky started telling us all about one particularly unusual job she attended that involved a ‘bottom’ a ‘hamster’ and a ‘broom handle’. I’m not sure if this was some sort of metaphor for the race to come?

A few pictures from Tony’s race-

 

So we lined up at the start for 4 laps of the 15 mile downhill circuit…

We set off and immediately Steve Dring attacked. I believe this is now written into entry conditions of any race he starts, sometimes it’s simply a race between him and his brother Paul to see who can attack first. Fair play, sometimes it pays off! Slightly more concerning, Ste Calland set off in pursuit. Steve’s an ex GB rider, has ridden the World Championships and won some very big races. I raced in the same team as Steve and rode the 9 day Milk Ras in Ireland with him, he’s a class rider and definitely one to mark. There was a constant stream of attacks and eventually a group of 6 formed off the front and held a gap just over a minute, Bridgey and Steve being the danger men as far as I could tell, Ste and me still stuck in the bunch.

By now we’d done a lap and had a good look at the course, the only ‘climb’ was a little kick before turning left and passing the HQ, it lasted about 45 seconds and was big-ring all the way. I’d watched everyone the first time up the ‘climb’ and felt confident Ste and me could get away, I mentioned this to him so the second time up we went hard. Surprisingly (at the time) Andy Turner (Element RC) passed me going mega quick, thinking about it since it’s no surprise at all. Andy is a current World Masters Champion in the team pursuit so clearly has world class power, especially over the short duration that we were going up. I took over from Andy as we crested the top and that was it, job done. Andy, Ste, myself and Chris Quinn (Onimpex Bioracer) had made the split and were well clear. We pilled on the pressure, Doug Dring (Ste’s dad) gave us a time check – 1:05 to the break. Half a lap later we passed Doug again on the backside of the course, this time having caught the break! We really motored across. According to STRAVA I averaged 29.4mph for the 5 miles we were chasing, including the climb and a few other little bumps.

So now the situation was 10 lads in the break with a gap of over a minute, 30 mile (2 laps) to go, to be honest I figured the bunch had no chance with all of us doing turns. I’ve got to give Bridgey a special mention here, he’s a great lad to have in a break because he always goes out of his way to do far more than his fair share on the front. He’ll happily sit there towing everyone along without any complaints until someone passes.

Into the last lap and Chris Quinn was the first to attack, gaining a decent advantage but nobody in the break seemed over worried- he wasn’t going clear and soon started to come back. By this point I was suffering with cramp massively, damage limitation was my only option. Into the final few miles and there were a few more attacks but none stuck, but with a mile or so before the ‘climb’ Ste Calland went, he quickly caught the guy who’d been hanging out front, dropped him and solo’d to the win. The rest of us arrived at the line as a group with Andy Turner taking Silver and Team Chronomaster’s Ste taking Bronze! I rolled in 6th fairly surprised that I beat the other 4 in a sprint! Great result for Ste and half decent for me, I had a great form at the start of the season and feel like it’s coming back now, highly unusual for me this time of year!

Thanks to Paul Dring for this clip.

The bunch rolled in just behind us so definitely hadn’t cracked- an indication of the strength in depth of the rest of the field.

Thanks to Tony Owen and the team at Stratford CC for putting on two fantastic events!

Most of all, thanks to my gorgeous wife Tricia for putting up with me!

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/1659375480

 

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The Racing Chance Foundation 3rd/4th Cat race Sunday 24th June

by Adam Baines

I’ll be honest, my racing season this year has been somewhat Staccato. With races being cancelled and the inevitable rejections from others, I’ve just not had any consistent weekends of racing, which has made it hard to stay focused and even motivated to race. Today was no exception.

As you’ll all be aware Sunday was the first day of the anticipated heat wave and with the ¾ race being an afternoon start I’d already had a lovely morning in the garden with my two boys playing football and having water fights, making it all the harder to tear myself away to do 40miles round an industrial estate in Skelm! So why do we do it? I was asking myself the same question…

I got to the race HQ in glorious sunshine. The new race HQ was the Truck Stop café just off the race route. Now I don’t know if was the weather but this was a great venue. With its beach shack feel, back to back eastern European lorries and sofa clad decking outside, it felt like a bar in Benidorm! They even had the football on a big screen outside! With this happy atmosphere and a few familiar faces (Rick #PDH Taylor and my new team mate John McKellar) my mood was lifting and I was starting to look forward to racing.
My plan was to sit at the back, wait for the last prime and attack. John’s plan did not involve a bunch sprint so he aimed to get in an early break and hopefully make it stick. The first half of the race was fairly uneventful and easy for me. Sitting at the back hinders the view of the attacks and chases that where happening at the front but having the whole peleton protecting you from the wind also meant that the effects of any attacks where relatively innocuous. I could see the occasional escapee or two get a small gap before being chased down by the negative pack behind. And it was this negativity that stopped John getting away. I was just hoping all this foreplay was wearing the stronger lads down enough for me to get away when I’d planned.

About half way through the race and earlier than I’d planned, a promising looking group of 6 lads got away and they seemed to be working well together so I decided I had to get across. I attacked but immediately 2 lads jumped on my wheel. I did a good turn but thought, I’m not dragging you all across without getting a turn out of you, so I flicked him through. I got no response and not even a sniff that anyone was willing to come through so I went again and got a small gap over my remoras.

I bridged across to the break and we still had a small gap over the bunch but more attacks were coming as the group I was now in started to look more threatening to the rest of them. We were doomed and I knew it, so I sat up and took up my position at the back again to recover. Another 10 minutes went by and I’d recovered nicely and in time for my original planned point of attack. The last Prime. I’d noticed that Liverpool Braveheart had 5 riders in the race today and being scouse, they’d been particularly interested in the free cash available from the primes 😉 Sure enough they started to move up for the sprint. I stayed put, anticipating a mass slow down after the spoils had been won and that would be my cue. Liverpool Braveheart’s Peter Bracken took the prime and to his credit the guy carried on with another lad using the small gap they’d gained in the sprint.

I went after them but everyone jumped on my wheel again. I wasn’t willing to burn my sprint matches carrying everyone else so I sat up. A few laps went by and the gap got bigger. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t care if I dragged everyone this time so I got to the front and drilled it. I did a couple of laps occasionally looking for some help only to be met by the Liverpool lads team mates doing a great job blocking the chase. I wasn’t sure how many laps we had left to chase them, until I heard the bell. I’d made good ground on them but it wasn’t enough and I certainly wasn’t going to catch them in one lap. I slowed down and a few lads went past at pace in the build for the final sprint. Not wanting to fade to the back I jumped on the wheels and kept a great position. On the last corner I was 4 th wheel and feeling good.


A strong looking lad from Chester went for it and I jumped on his wheel hoping he would carry me closer to the finish but he faded a lot sooner than I’d hoped leaving me a lot of work to do! I kicked and ended up on the front with the leaders in sight! I had clear road in front of me and kept the power on not looking back, hoping to hang on for 3 rd …. but having started the sprint so soon, with 100m to go I started to fade. 1, 2, 3 and what seemed like 20 riders came past me. I was gutted but at the same time realised that I’d loved the racing and I was pleasantly reminded, that is why we do it.


Not the best result for the team but a great rehearsal to do it all over again in the same place next week! Well done to Peter Bracken and Nigel Modlinsky, who timed the break to perfection and worked really well to stay away and of course, special mention to Peter for taking the win.

Thank you to all the marshals NEG riders and Commissaires who all work really hard to make these events safe and enjoyable. Thank you to Fred and Heather Bamforth for organising a full day of racing for everyone and choosing the new ‘holiday HQ’. Also thanks to Fred Chiltern for the Pictures!
Finally, thanks to our sponsors for their continued support: Chronomaster Ltd, Leisure Lakes Bikes, Specialized, OTE Sports, Pearson Ferrier

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Dave Hitchen Two Day Stage Race

By Kris Zentek.

Three stages over two day of a beautifully sunny June weekend. This is my second time at the event, and we put up a strong team for the 2018 edition. Representing TC were Si Deplitch, Tony Greenhalgh, Joe Bowers, Warren Gell and myself.

The format has changed a bit from a couple of years ago; this time we would be starting off Saturday morning with a 60 mile road race on the Town Green circuit (used in the Masters RR Tony won earlier in the year), then in the afternoon we would be smashing two laps of Pimbo in the TTT; finishing off on Sunday morning with another 60 mile road race on the Cobbs Brow circuit.

Stage 1 – Town Green Road Race

stage 1

https://www.strava.com/activities/1626729480

I’ve written about this circuit in previous posts, but if you don’t know it already, it’s fast, flat and exposed to the wind. It’s a great circuit for heavier riders, and ripe for a sprint finish.

There were plenty of attacks early on, but nothing was sticking.  As this was a team event and everyone was fresh, any dangerous moves were being brought back by teams not in the move. That is, until the pace went up and splits started. A decent group was disappearing up the road; Si and I were near the front of the back split, and I heard Si say that there were three Saints in it. He didn’t need to say any more, we jumped across and joined the break while Joe, Tony and Warren managed the bunch to let us get away. A short while later three more joined including another saint. This was now a big group – maybe 20+ in size, and save for some lapped riders.

As we neared the finish, the saints tried to get a smaller move going. Si and I struggled to get in any of the moves, and as a result were leant on to close them, which we did. After I pulled back on of them, maybe 3 laps to go, another went and I had no matches left…This was to be the one that stayed away.

In the remaining laps, other splits happened. Si and I kept trying to close them, but on the last lap the group completely fragmented. I rolled in at the back of the original break, 1:32 down on the stage winner Aidan Quinn. Si had the best team position, 1:25 down on GC.

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The team gathered back at HQ, and discussed our tactic to claw back some time. The TTT was critical now, but two of us were completely spent…

Stage 1 results & GC

stage1

Stage 2 – Pimbo Team Time Trial

stage 2

https://www.strava.com/activities/1627163909

After a quick feed and replenishing our fluids, we drove over to Pimbo. We were 6th team off, at 1:12pm. It was now 12:15pm, and so we had to start our prep.

Rollers and turbos out, I tried to get my legs moving but they just refused to play game. They hurt, and I had no energy – I had no motivation to stay on the turbo and gave up after 15 minutes. I thought riding some laps might get the energy levels back up. But after completing a lap at what I would consider tempo, my heart rate was high and I was out of breath. Not good! So I spent the last 20 minutes just relaxing.

Team order for the TTT…Tony, Joe, Warren, Si, Kris.

Tony’s role was to get us up to speed as fast as possible, and that he did. I expected him to ease off after a few pedal strokes, but just kept going! It wasn’t until we got to the back descent that he settled into position. At this point my legs were already screaming and I had to give it everything just to stay on the wheel! But as I rolled through for my 30 rev turn, I started to feel a bit of life in my legs again.

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By lap 2 we had lost Warren and were down to 4. Joe and Tony were pulling monster turns and kept us going strong. By the last straight Si started to fade and as we made the turn to the finish line we were down to three. I was on the front and emptied the tank. We all crossed the line together in a time of 8:48. Last year a time of 9 minutes something had won it, so we felt good. We knew that Bioracer had done an 8:47, so we knew we were not first.

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But after we had all left for home, we checked the results. 6th overall and Dooleys had done an 8:29!

Stage 2 results

stage 2

We had all moved up the GC, and we had two riders in the top 15, but we had lost more time to the yellow jersey that was now 1:48 ahead of Si…

Stage 2 GC

stage 2 GC

Stage 3 – Cobbs Brow Road Race

stage 3

https://www.strava.com/activities/1629076493

Sunday, the race started at 8:45. After a hard day yesterday we were all feeling the effects, and the warmup we did was minimal to say the least. But it was another warm, sunny day and that made everyone feel a bit better.

Cobbs Brow is a little different to yesterday. It was a much more rolling course, with the finish line near the top of a long, straight, 5% incline. We would be going up there 9 times to round off the 60 mile course.

The commissaire gave his opening briefing, and told us that there were ‘potholes everywhere’ – and boy, was that an understatement! We weren’t talking about the odd pothole, but whole stretches of road littered with them! The neutral start took us down the worst of it, so at least we got a taste, but it made for a very nervous bunch in the first couple of laps. What certainly didn’t help with the nerves was the crash that happened a mile or so after the start, where confusion over a left turn resulted in crossed wheels and a dozen or more get downs. Many of the GC contenders were included, and so we were neutralised again allowing them to get up, dust themselves off, and re-join the race.

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The jersey was being protected by Dooleys as expected, and the GC teams were attacking, as expected. Every move was being brought back, which allowed Chronomaster to sit in and attack ourselves. While Si and myself stuck with the Jersey, Tony, Joe and Warren bid to force a break and go for the stage win. But as GC riders bridged across, other GC teams closed them down.

About midway through, a small group of riders escaped up the road and it stuck. Dooleys and the race leader were clearly tiring, and this allowed other riders to clip off in small groups up the road. Soon the lead group started to swell, and contained GC contenders. There was a new virtual leader in the lead group, and the gap was increasing. I moved up the front, and as a couple more riders clipped off the front, I attacked and joined them, pulling another couple of riders with me. We were a group of 5 and started to build a gap.

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We didn’t expect to see the front group, but we worked hard and within 1/2 lap we had bridged across. We were passing riders who had been dropped from the lead group, so we weren’t sure how many remained. As we made contact, it wasn’t clear if this was the front or not, as the lead car was not in sight. We later learned there was a solo rider ahead, Mike Ashurst, who had taken advantage of everyone else leaning on the virtual leader Ben Joughin, and had clipped away on his own.

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We entered the last lap as a group of 9 or 10 riders, and as we approached the finish the attacks started, but we stayed together for a group sprint to the finish. Mike had taken the win with a 40 second gap, and Cameron Jeffers took the bunch sprint. I rolled in mid-pack, just behind Ben Joughin who had taken the yellow jersey.

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Matt Langworthy, who had attacked the remaining bunch a lap or two earlier, rolled in solo, showing the signs of someone who had closed a 1:30 gap down to just 30 seconds. He managed to take the last step on the podium. Tony came in next in a group of three, Joe and Si arrived with the bunch with Joe taking the bunch sprint.

Final Results

stage 3 GC

That late move put me in 8th place overall, and Si kept his place in the top 15 overall. Aidan, who started the race in yellow, had lost over 2 minutes to the winner Ben Joughin. The podium was taken by all of the riders who made the split on day one at the Town Green circuit, and on any other day we would have been there too. Disappointing, but that it road racing for you – there’s much more to it that being strong – you need to be tactical, and you need an element of luck being on he right wheel at the right time…

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Summary

I’ll finish by saying a massive thank you to the race organisers for putting on such a fantastic weekend of racing. We don’t get the opportunity to race that often in stage events, and we really do appreciate when people like Brian Rigby host them. We can only imagine how much planning must go into these events!

I’d like to pay tribute to Dave Hitchen, who we were racing to commemorate, and to thank his friends and family for being part of this great weekend. All of us riders hope that we honoured him well with an exciting race!

Finally, thank you to Ellen Isherwood who gave up her entire weekend to capture the race as it unfolded over the three stages, and for allowing me to share those moments in this report.

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