For the fourth year running the South Cerney road race managed to hold on to the good weather, which in turn brought out the village to spectate and support. Another bonus being that the start/finish line is located between two pubs, with overflowing beer gardens due to it being bank holiday weekend. Bringing an atmosphere no other Cotswold league race really competes with.
The course doesn’t traditionally suite me. Being pan flat and open. It can end up being quite a nervous route. A few large conveniently placed pot holes, a fast and narrow section with no white lines and blind corners to play chicken with as you try to move up the bunch.
I felt good after a solid weeks training. Family and friends had traveled to watch, I thought I should at least try to put on a bit of a show. Even if it ends in me just burning myself out resulting in disaster of a position.
There was a number of small attacks early on in the race. It was on the second lap when a small group had managed to break clear. It contained Grant Baton and Ben Luckwell both 24/7 along with Jim Jones (Velo Vitesse) and a couple other dangerous contenders. Before it got too far up the road I put in a little effort to ride across. It wasn’t to difficult as many of them weren’t really riding. There was negativity in the group, so I decided to ride away from them and see who followed. Ben Luckwell came with me. We road a lap together. I felt he was glass peddling and wasn’t willing to commit to just a two-man brake,so I stopped pulling. We were caught just after starting the third lap. Turning on to the spine road I was within the top three in the peloton. I kicked as we straightened up, initially nobody came with me, so I continued riding at tempo as a brake of 6 riders began coming across.
It was a dangerous break, with almost all teams covered for. Including strong Time trial riders; David James (Veloton) recently taking the Castle Combe 10 mile record with a time of 19:36. Ross Phelps (Bristol Road Club) who proved very strong throughout the race. Also in the break Jimmy Jones (Velo Vitesse),Ben Luckwell (24/7), Cameron Smalley (Cotswold- Cycle Trek).
Ben Luckwell was making riders in the break uncomfortable due to sitting on and not pulling through. I was targeting the prime laps, so was happy to pull through regardless of who was working. Karma came back for Ben when he punctured after about 5 or 6 laps. Once he was out of the picture the brake settled and everyone was pulling through and working well together. The pace of the brake was ruthless and proved to much for Cameron. Once down to just 4 riders the pace was also a bit hot for Jimmy, as he began to sit on the back. This made David, Ross and I quite nervous and frustrated as were all hurting from riding at an average of over 28mph for the last hour and a half.
The Gap came down to just 20 seconds with about 4 laps to go. Ride 24/7 and Radeon were chasing us down in the bunch behind. There must have been a dramatic stall in the chase as when we entered our final lap the support car pulled up to confirm we still had a 50 second advantage. By this point I was truly hanging on. The news caused the other riders in the break to sit up and take it steady, which was an absolute godsend. Jimmy Moved to the front with about a mile to go, repaying the favor for our efforts dragging him round. Ross Phelps dived up the outside just as we were entering the final corner. This worked out perfect for me. If it wasn’t him it was going to be me who went first probably towing someone else to victory. I was able to slowly drag back his advantage, coming round him with about 15 meters to go taking my first win of the season!
As a bonus I was able to hold onto the King of the Sprints prize for the second year running. This was a much needed confidence boost. This time last year I already nearly had 100 BC points compared to my 1 point this year.