“The most hilly race in the calendar.” One of the rumours that excited me most about this round! As the course style would likely determine the end result, we thought it would be a good idea to drive the 12 mile route. The climbs were quite short, certainly not Alpine. Less than two minutes.
In previous rounds, as a team we would often try to make the race as hard as possible, as soon as possible, then fire a rider up the road into a break away. This round we decided we were going to wait for other teams to make the first move and then we could control the break aways advantage. Doing this means we could send a rider up the road when it really matters, at the end of the race!
The first 8 miles were steady, with the normal solo attacks stopped before they had even started. We entered the foot of the biggest of the three small climbs, the pace was hard but consistent and I was hanging towards the rear end of the bunch as I wasn’t thinking of showing myself until the latter part of the race. This was a big mistake, as soon as we crested the climb the pace shot up! there was a strong cross wind on a 2-3% descent. Gaps were opening up all over the place in front of me. Imagine the finale of stage 11 in this years tour de France where Sagan attacked with Froome in the cross winds, only I was one of the poor riders who was caught out in the wrong place. I was on the rivet peddling flat-out at 42mph bridging across each gap, thankfully as the break away formed, it slowed down a touch and I was able nestle myself back into the main bunch.
After the panic the break away was able to pull a solid 1:40 advantage on the bunch. Jim Jones, Gareth Turner and I set out to drag the break back close enough for Matt Woods to bridge across, or counter attack if the break was caught.
We were 30 miles into the race, the break was still holding its advantage at around 1:30 when I heard the bad news that Matt had punctured. After spending most of the race on the front I decided there’s no point bringing the break back for some one else in the bunch, so on the third time up the climb I drove it hard, only checking behind as I got to the top. I had a small gap. I carried on pushing down the descent to try to consolidate my lead. The bunch had given up the chase and my gap suddenly grew quickly. I road at threshold for 3/4 of a lap trying to bridge over to the break. I got within 20 seconds.
Looking over my shoulder I saw another small chasing group of 3 behind me. I kept riding at tempo letting the group slowly catch me as I thought I would have a better chance of catching the break with a little help. But even with 4 riders we werent able to close that last 15-20 seconds.
On the final climb to the finish I tried to ride Colin off my wheel, I quickly realised he was too strong for this to work so I eased off again and waited for Colin to make his move. With about 100 meters to go he went, I was able to hold his wheel, with about 20 meters to go I tried to go round him. But I left it too late and he beat me by a wheel! With the 4 riders in the break away meaning I came 6th. Considering the disaster of a race I was pretty happy with the result!