Today was dry, and at times, a bit sunny... I was feeling good after the TTT yesterday, and as we faffed around in the car park, I think the rest of Phoenix were too. Given this is quite a hilly circuit I was looking forward to test myself of the hills and see where I was compared to the rest of the field. Start of the race, and it was straight onto the climb, which is a gradual ascent over 5.5 miles, average probably around 3%-4%. The bottom section is quite narrow and very twisty, couple this with solid white lines for around 3 miles this made for a pretty sedate climb. Also made moving up the field very difficult, I was probably 40/50 riders from the front at this point. I needed to move up. Thankfully towards the top there is sharp left which then kicks up. I passed quite a few here, moving up through the field. Next section was a fast and wide descent into Crick, around 4 miles in total. It was pretty intense flying down at 45-50mph in the bunch. Out of Crick there was two quite deceptive climbs, one just after the junction which wasn't much of an issue, then a second, slightly longer section of climbing, it kicked at the start, and the bunch slowed down thankfully, but a few attacks off the front meant that pace kept of creeping up, was starting to hurt now, back down towards Chepstow and it was onto the second lap. I was moving up again and there were a few attacks off the front, at which point group of 4 got away (think it was here anyway) with another group of 6 going shortly after. The field was getting thinned out abit now, which meant descending was feeling a bit safer as you had more room to move around. Coming upto the small climbs after Crick and the pace just went mental, not sure what happened, some serious attacks I guess, but that seriously hurt. Still, hanging around in a good position onto the final lap and penultimate time up the climb. This lap was pretty standard, we reeled in the group of 6 that were away, leaving 4 riders out front at around 50 seconds. Final time on the climb, 3 laps done and 4th time up the climb. Legs were still feeling good, heart rate on the climb wasn't that high, average of probably 160bpm, so I had the capacity to push... This proved difficult though given how hard it was to move up... I should have been in a better position coming into the climb. The finish line was around 0.5 miles from the summit (safer section of road) 1km to go sign was passed and the pace was getting up, riders all over the whole road, and yet again, difficult to move forward, I sowed my way through for the sprint which I contested and finished in the top 20. Don't think there was any time gaps for the bunch, so the 4 riders who stayed away will have a nice advantage of around 50 seconds plus yesterday.
Overall pretty pleased. Will be interesting to see where this puts us on the GC table. Things I learnt, MOVE UP. Kind of obvious I guess, but i'll focus on this in tomorrow's stage. RR in the morning with a ITT in the afternoon. Think i'll be cooked tomorrow evening.
As always, thanks to the BC comms, organisers, marshals, NEG riders. The race was very well organised. Thanks to Hugh Fairclough for the photos, seriously quick uploading!