With yesterday afternoon’s TT on the e2/10 very much still in the legs, I didn’t feel great when the alarm went off at 06.00. But a number of people had said doing a 10 the day before a road race was actually a good idea and, if anything, it should serve as a sharpener or “opener”.
Shower, skinsuit, porridge, coffee, bike in the boot, out the door by 6.45. Banana, Torq bar and a Lucozade half way up the A12. Tactical visit to a service station 5 miles short of Race HQ (have you ever visited the gents in the hour before the start of a road race?) and arrive well in time.
The race went off like a hard crit. It was genuinely tough, with the field strung out pretty much right from the off. The plan was to stay in the top 10 and make sure I didn’t get caught on the wrong side of any big splits. There are always one or two kamikazes who smash off the front of 3/4 races but this was different; everyone was charging hard for a good 5-10 miles. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it was a good thing as it would probably shell a few weaker riders and dampen the legs of others for later in the race. I heard afterwards that 19 were dropped in the first lap…
A couple of small breaks went quite early on, but nothing sizeable or worth chasing. Ian Franklin (PCH) and Jack Hardwicke (Strada-Sport) formed a strong duo and spent a long time off the front, at one point building a lead of about a minute. When that got brought back to about 20 seconds with 15km to go, the bunch eased, but I sensed the pair pushing on and made my move to bridge across. I knew they would be tired but gambled that we might be able to stay away and avoid the lottery of a sprint finish.
Jack and Ian were far from fresh, but we kept enough momentum to keep a gap of about 20-30 seconds over the bunch. With a couple of kms to go, I looked over my shoulder and saw a lone rider (Peter Blenkinsop from Fast Team) bridging to us. With hindsight, it might have been a good time to kick on and make a bid for glory, but that could have ended in disaster and we had a better chance of staying clear with another pair of fresher legs.
Peter made it across and a few quick rotations later it was every man for himself on the final climb up to the finish at Framsden. I couldn’t respond when Peter came past me over the crest of the hill, but held out to take 2nd by a bike length. Ian took 3rd and Jack 4th, with the bunch finishing just 5 seconds or so behind us. Fair play to Ian and Jack in particular; they probably deserved more after spending most of the race in the break working hard to keep a gap.
It’s frustrating to miss out on a win by such a small margin, but I can’t be disappointed with 2nd in what was a competitive race on a windy day. And 12 points takes me almost half way to my 2nd Cat licence with a long season ahead, so all good.
Thanks again to Ipswich BC for putting on a safe and well organised event. I’ll definitely be looking to do this race again. Shout out to the friendly Ipswich guys who navigated me back to HQ, and also to Sam and Mike – looking forward to racing more with you boys this season.