I decided it might be a good idea to go recce the course on the Saturday ahead of the race. I don’t have many good ideas but this was one of them. Although I probably ended up recce’ing the course in the wrong direction it gave me some idea of what was to come tomorrow. After the recce my Dad and I drove back to the hotel and ordered a Indian takeaway. As I was hungry I ate it a bit too quick and soon was regretting it. I had the biggest food baby ever. My worst fear was what might come the next morning :/
First thing I had when I woke up was the obligatory bowl of overnight oats with banana and peanut butter.
When I arrived at race HQ in Melton Mowbray I went and got signed on sorted my bike out whilst my Dad disappeared off to find himself a coffee and a bacon sandwich. I started warming up and then headed over to the riders briefing. The whole race then rode in convoy to the start of the race.
We had a minute of silence to remember Joe Guy who sadly died earlier in the week – just reminds you how dangerous our sport can be and how at the end of the day none of us are invincible. R.I.P Joe.
After a 5 second count down we were on our way through the neutralised section and onto possibly one of the most complicated but fantastic national series courses ever.
The race rolled along with no one really making a move for the first 20-25km. When we entered the short loop at the southern end of the course that we would complete three times a few riders tried to jump off the front but no one really got away. Harry Hardcastle got away over the second KOM and stayed in front all the way down the Somerberg sector 2.
I knew I had to be near the front to avoid getting caught behind crashes and also to enable me to pick my own line. The race was lined out as we came out the other side of the Somerber, but as we headed back onto a shorter sector to start the loop for the 2nd time the race was back together again.
This lap was fairly slow with riders blanketing the road so no one was able to move up. As we went through Owston for the last time to start the third and final lap the race started to pick up a bit. The field was lined out as we came out the other side of the Owston, as we hit one of the climbs three riders (Ben Healy, Matt Shaw and Jake Stewart jumped clear) they extended their lead to around 50 seconds at one point but I knew with the Somerberg coming up the race would split and we could bridge across to that leading group.
When we hit the Somerberg, this time going up it the riders on the front on the front of the peloton really pressed on when, so as we came out the other side a group of around 10-12 of us had a decent advantage on the rest of the field.
We started to chaingang and soon we had the three leaders in our sights. Just as we entered the finishing 15km circuit which we would complete one and a half times, a the group bridged over to us making it a much larger group. As we turned onto the main road with Matt Shaw and Ben Healy still up the road (Jake having sat up), I carried my speed into the corner and pressed on out of it. When I looked behind I had a gap with just Will Tidball on my wheel. So we both thought why not, and pressed on hard. After about 3km hard work we got across to the leading two.
As a group of 4 we were working well together and had about 40 seconds as we started our final lap. Four soon became 3 as Matt who had lost both his bottles lost contact just as we entered the Sawgate sector (the final sector). We then had a tail wind all the way along Sawgate, so we pressed on. As we turned left onto the road that linked the back road to the main road Ben unfortunately punctured. This left me and Will with around 9km still to go.
On the main road there were a few kicks up, I knew Will was stronger than me int the sprint so I decided to attack him going over the rises. Unfortunately he came back to me on the downhill on the other side. By this point we still had a 40 seconds gap with 3km to go.
We came into the finishing straight, I laid off the back and rushed the gap and came round Will with about 200m to go. After about 150m Will was beside me and took the win.
Although I missed out on the win I was so happy that Will and I finished in a two man break. After getting soaked by the champagne it was time to head home.
A massive thank you to the organisers of the Junior CiCLE Classic for creating such a good race. It was by far the best course I’ve ridden this year in the UK and was an amazing race. Hopefully be back next year for more.
Photo Credits: Alex Reed (@alexreedcycling).