Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Manchester Wheelers 2 day Stage Race

The August Bank Holiday weekend meant it was a trip up the M1 and M6 to Ashton Under Lyme for the Manchester Wheelers 2 day stage race. I did this last year and really enjoyed it, so felt it was only right to give it another crack and better my result (13th GC).

It was a 3 stage format over 2 days, a 1km TT Saturday morning, a 35km (ish) Crit in the afternoon and then a hilly 90km Road Race on Sunday (this was the main event really...)

Stage 1 - 1km TT
The circuit was the same as last year, so I knew the course, and knew the time I wanted to beat: 1:19. I've had some good results over the past few weeks, and generally felt "better" than last year. Conditions were broadly the same, perhaps a bit more wind. So was hoping for a good time. That wasn't to be, I messed up a few corners, entering too fast and scrubbing off too much speed meaning I crossed the line with the same time, 1:19. This put me 34/50 and 6 seconds down, wasn't ideal to be honest...

Stage 2 - The Crit Race
Looking through the field I knew there was plenty of tasty riders here, and the TT earlier that day proved that. However I was kind of expecting a similar race to last year, where it stayed together for most of the race, with a few getting away at the end. Well, today, that wasn't to be the case. Almost instantly the pace went pretty bonkers and the race was strung out. After a few laps a break of 15 or so riders managed to get away, and nobody seemed to be that bothered? I bloody well was! So I sat on the front and pretty much emptied myself to try and get across. Probably took me 5 or so laps, but I closed the gap of around 15 seconds. Unfortunately I managed to bring at least 10 riders along with me, so the front group was now probably 20/25 riders, I had a "rest" for a few laps and moved up, making sure I was in the right position. 35 laps in total. 10 to go and there were more attacks, nothing really managing to stay clear, and most of the depleted bunch were still there. 5 to go and I was still in a good position and felt strong, 3 to go, and an attack went up the road, I tried to get across, maybe I was just too far back, but I couldn't quite manage it, and on the bell lap the race was in bits, I didn't have the legs to move up or sprint for the finish, I finished 15th in a group of around 6, which to be honest, I was pretty pleased with. So coming into Stage 3 I was sat at 20th total time of 47:59 and the current leader on 47:41. So only 18 seconds to find...

Stage 3 - The Road Race
Now this I was looking forward to. Such a great circuit, around 90km, 5 laps and 4,000ft of climbing. A course that I should do quite well on, given it's pretty much either up or down, very little flat, as you can see...

A 5k neutralised section brought us onto the circuit a few km after the finish line, so straight onto the rolling hills leading upto the main climb, which was 1.2 miles at 4%, doesn't sound too bad, but the final ramp was 15% leading to some tasty false flat. First time over and the bunch seemed to have thinned down a bit, at maybe 35/40 riders. I knew the place to get away on this circuit would be the hill, or just after on the false flat section, and with that in mind I made sure I was up the front ready to follow any wheels that went... There was a rider from Sheffield Uni up the road, the pace was pretty fruity, with plenty of attacks and counter attacks, but nothing was sticking. I'd eyed up 10 or so riders to watch, some of these were out the back door on lap two, so that made my job slightly easier, second time up the hill and the two lads from Sheff Uni attacked just over the summit of the climb, I went with them, along with Andy Harrison from Finchley RT and 1 other. The Two Sheff lads had a good gap onto the descent though, and Andy decided to join them doing some pretty crazy Froome style top tube action, pretty awesome to watch! I wasn't (couldn't) do that so settled into my best aero tuck. These 3 now had a good gap, and although the reduced bunch could see them, they were pulling away. I was pretty keen for this race to not finish in a bunch sprint like last year, and I was also pretty sure that there was a good selection of riders in the bunch that could lead another attack to bridge across. Also with a chap from Manchester CC and Evans Cycles, I spent the next two laps trying to organise this, driving the pace, shooting off the front, but to no avail and nothing seemed to really work... We crossed the finish line and got the bell, the breakaway of 3 riders now had around 1:50, they were not getting caught, the "bunch" however was now about 12 riders, the rest getting shelled over the past few laps. This was better as far as I was concerned. I was pretty cooked at this point to be honest, heart rate was struggling to get higher than 170 and my legs were hurting. The pace however was pretty slow now, and nobody really wanting to work, myself included... Which made for a great attack from a lad from RP Racing, he managed to get a minute on us and stayed away, looks like a sprint for 5th... Final time up the climb, the reduced bunch still together, and then, as predicted there was an attack on the false flat from a rider from Harry Middleton, I went with him, along with 4/5 others and we had abit of a gap. This attack managed to shell a few others from the group, so we were now at 8. Final few km was a descent and the final 1km was down, following by a sharp left onto a 300m sprint. A few sketchy corners before and some "confident" descending meant I was on the front and seeing gaps appear, 1km to go and I didn't even care I was on the front, i'd just have to go for it, 500m round the bend, and what was this?!!! A bloody car stopped at the junction!! Shite! I went on the inside, through the dirt, other opting for the outside... Full on sprint mode now and the lad from Evans getting past, along with one other from Rhos on sea, the gurn was strong, and I thought I clawed it back from Rhos on sea by a tyre width, results say otherwise. I crossed the line, empty, but in 7th. Absolutely chuffed to bits with that result, in what was a truly solid race.

Final GC results in and I climbed upto 11th overall and 3:48 down on first. Very pleased with that, and glad to see the form is still here, just in time for 3 peaks and the cyclocross season...


Thanks to Manchester Wheelers for organising another great event, the marshals, volunteers NEG and first aid and finally Ellen Isherwood for the photographs, 

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