It’s two years since I last competed in a road race, and this was my first in THR Racing colours.
The team rode an aggressive and consistent two days. Taking second place in an impressive team time trial, then winning both of the following road race stages!
Day 1 – Stage 1 – Team Time Trial
The first day consisted of two stages. A team time trial in the morning and a fifty mile road race in the afternoon.
We had a strong team of five so were looking forward to the time trial. It was a short course at only four miles, featuring two laps of the road race circuit we’d be riding later. The time for the team was taken from when the fourth man crossed the line.
We finished in second place, only eight seconds down from High on Bikes.
I had a good ride. The only incident was early on when I couldn’t find a gear big enough to get on the wheel of the rider in front of me! After what felt like an age of clicks and clunks I decided to get out of the saddle to spin my legs in a mad sprint to catch up. Luckily the chain finally threw itself into the smallest sprocket and I was able to get back on the wheel and settle in to the effort before I blew too hard.
We set out fast, riding aggressively from the start. Everyone took their turns, and despite the adrenaline pumping we rode smoothly and stayed together until the finish. Julian Pearson rode a solid final lap towing us to the finish with a huge pull up the final drag. When I stopped my Garmin we had averaged just shy of 30mph and I had put out around 325w.
Our time was good enough to put Julian in the Elite leaders jersey, and me in the 3rd Cat one.
After the stage (having put my feet up in the back of the car for a bit) I was surprised to be presented with the 3rd Cat leaders jersey. It was a size too big, making me look 6ft 2″ and 80kg but I didn’t mind. I never expected to be wearing it in the first place.
Day 1 – Stage 2 – Pimbo Road Race
During the downtime between stages the heavens opened and the course flooded for the road race. The rain eased off slightly before the start, giving us false hope for a dry ride, but as timely as a starting gun was back in full force as we rolled out on our first lap.
Maybe it was because of the weather? Perhaps there were just some tired legs but the race was much easier than I had anticipated. A short flat course like that I expected to be riding like a crit. Instead the laps ticked by without any real excitement. The most difficult part of the race was actually seeing where I was going with all the spray. While trying not to drink a gallon of dirty wheel water from the lads in front!
On the fifth lap a small group got away, including our own Ste Abbott. They created a good gap, and with a man up the road and good overall times on the GC thanks to a fast TTT, all the rest of our team had to do was make sure nothing else got away.
Matt Holmes put on a big chase, and the one bit of work I had to do was follow his wheel for a while as he pushed on. Matt is super strong and took a good chunk of time out of the leading group on his own.
It wasn’t long after that I noticed things started to feel a little spongy. At first I put it down to riding in the wet. The roads were so full of surface water it did feel like riding on a sponge at times. But no. Unfortunately this time my rear wheel had punctured and the only thing I could do was stick my hand up and let myself get spat out the back of the peloton.
Luckily I stopped right next to where the team had parked their cars. Nev Pearson kindly offered me a wheel, and after a little bit of faffing I was on my way again. My race though was over. I was only riding to start again the next day.
I completed a lap on my own before race organisers said I was okay to start tomorrow and didn’t need to complete the race.
And so with that, my first experience of Pimbo was over. Riding it with a special jersey on my bike felt great. It was a disappointment to lose it down to bad luck but hey, that’s life.
From the side of the road I was able to watch as our man in the break Ste Abbott went long, held on, and took an impressive win! Which also moved him up in to top spot on the General Classification!
The team rode fantastic all day.
Day 2 – Stage 3 – Clieves Hill Road Race
I was pleased to wake up (at 5am, thanks Arlo) with the Sun shining. It was a great morning for racing – dry roads, a comfortable 17c, and a tolerable amount of wind.
The team were well up for it, helped I’m sure by the fact we had so many options available to us tactically. We had Ste leading the General Classification, Aaron in the 3rd cat leaders jersey, Ricky and Julian only a few seconds back on the GC, and me… well, I’d suffered a huge six minute penalty because of my puncture so I was no where near.
The best I could hope for was a stage win. Closely followed by simply working well for the team.
We took it upon ourselves to do a quick recce of the course before sign on. People had been saying it was a tough little circuit, yet from what I could tell the ‘climbs’ were no more than a steep few metre long kicker and a reasonable drag up the back end of the course but not something to trouble the majority. The number of times we needed to complete it, however would likely reveal any tired legs. After fifteen times of riding any route hard you’re going to start feeling it!
The team were confident lining up at the start. We had a solid game plan with many options! A lot of variables we still had no control over, however I think we put many of the other teams on the back foot right from the off.
My day started off hard.
For the first few laps I covered every move, putting out most of my peak power numbers for the entire race. A nice wake-up for the legs! Normalised Power for the first two laps was around 320w. Not bad for a lightweight!
After that Ricky left a few words of wisdom in my ear, told me his plan, then was never seen again!
A bunch of ten riders disappeared off the road and this time I let them. That’s because Ricky, our fast-finishing strong man was the one who lead them off in to the distance. Eventually they would gain as much as three minutes on the rest of us.
For now I was done, and took it easy for a while.
It was only after another four uneventful laps, when Ste suggested the gap was a bit large that I started doing some proper work. For the rest of the race THR was a presence on the front of the peloton, pushing on, then forcing the pace whenever there was a lull.
For the remaining eight or nine times up the main climb I was on the front, leading the group. Occasionally getting passed but more often than not still leading as we crested the ‘summit’ before a tight left-hander. I even put in some big turns on the flatter sections and gradual drags. Ste himself put in some huge efforts especially on the flat when I was starting to lag. Together and with the help of a few others from rival teams (most noticeably John Rigby) we started to close the gap.
Towards the end, I think with about three laps to go when it was clear the break was never close to coming back I stopped covering any and every move that went, and a couple of lads got away up the road.
So close to the end of the race, with the final climb I’m sure on everyone else’s mind I was largely left to have some fun on the front while the group behind battled for a decent position. On a personal level I was pleasantly surprised at how well I rode in a strong field. Especially how quickly I was able to recover on the descents and put in another big turn shortly after. I’m a bit heavier now than I used to be which helped me keep in contact when the road went down. Thankfully I still seem to be light enough to put the pressure on when the road goes up, too!
The stage finalé was a short, punchy rise. Not long enough for the climbers, but a nice challenge for the sprinters or puncheur’s. By the time we took the hard left on to this stretch of road our man Ricky had already won the stage convincingly a few minutes before! Congratulations mate.
My job well and truly done for the day I allowed the guys to swamp me and fight it out for minor places before getting out of the saddle myself and sprinting – legs on fire – with what I had left to the finish line.
What a great day. By far the most enjoyable road race I’ve ever done. I didn’t get the stage win, but I think I achieved my secondary goal of riding well for the team. It was a nice surprise to get a pat on the back from a few lads from other teams too at the finish line for a strong ride!